I’m taking my boys home to Texas this summer for a couple of weeks. I’ve been incredibly homesick and ready for them to have a taste of where I came from. These two California boys need to experience rural living, dogs, fields, southern accents, neighbors separated by more than a wall, real barbecue, stifling heat and humidity and some lake life. I love San Diego, but Texas will always hold a special place in my soul.
So, when an old high school friend asked me if I would make a quilt for her, I jumped at the chance. Aside from being flattered that she would want something of mine, I loved the idea of designing something inspired by this beautiful lake where I spent many days swimming and boating and even having a few waterskiing adventures. That said, when I was spending those days at Lake Texoma, paddleboarding wasn’t a thing there. So when my friend told me it was her passion and she wanted a quilt of her paddleboarding on the lake, I loved that it combined a hint of the California lifestyle themes that I often do with my Texas home. And since it was another quilt that involved a water theme, I knew I had to pay attention to the differences between my tropical style and the more earthy, woodsy feel of the landscape in that area. My quilts may often have simpler layouts, but my MFA in set design doesn’t allow me to make sweeping generalizations–water isn’t just water. There are California beaches, Florida beaches and Texas lake beaches and they are not the same thing.
I will share other aspects of the design process for this quilt in other posts, but for today, I want to share the things I did to make this particular quilt read Lake Texoma and not sunny San Diego.
I’m including these three quilts, side by side to illustrate my points. I know they are often subtle things, and maybe to some people, it doesn’t make a difference. But it does to me.
- Color Palette: All three of these quilts are strip quilts and have similar water and sunset colors. Strip quilting is a technique I use frequently to build the background. I like how it allows me to use lots of different fabrics and also creates the feel of a horizontal landscape. The colors in these quilts are similar, but I made a few adjustments to each one. I used thin strips to create the octopus quilt, which, coupled with the gradated colors (light at the horizon line and darkening as it gets to the deeper water), creates more depth. I picture this scene way out in the vast ocean somewhere, far away from land. In contrast, the manatee quilt in the middle is the brighter, clearer shallow waters in Florida where the manatees live. I also used larger blocks of fabrics which makes it feel closer, but still kept the horizontal lines. Contrast both of those with the lake quilt. The water in Lake Texoma is much darker, and though I didn’t want to go too dark and murky, I wanted to show that it’s more green than tropical turquoise. My ratio of greens to blues was much higher in this quilt, and even the prints were not quite as fantastical, which gave it a little more of a realistic look.
- The trees and grasses: These details are what solidify a more specific location. The octopus is out in the deep ocean, so I gave no hints of land being anywhere nearby. The manatee quilt got some land and a few palm trees flanking the sunset, plus the grasses that are a part of that natural environment. This, coupled with the larger blocks of color, gave it a more close-up, intimate feeling. The lake quilt needed Texas trees. Very different from palm trees. I added a couple of those large oak trees and also grounded them in some land because there is never anywhere you are on that lake where you can’t see land. I also added a few grasses which would be a part of the environment there, but kept them more natural looking.
- The animals. I mean of course these have to be different. But, I try to be consciously different. Fish live in all waters, but I didn’t just want to throw in any old fish. The octopus quilt has a fantastical feel to it. The octopus is sending up the sea stars which, when they cross the horizon line, turn into the night time stars. The mermaid is pushing the moon into the sky and the sun is setting, giving the whole thing a magical feeling with everything in motion. So, I stuck to more magical looking creatures–the amazing diamond print octopus, all the stars and the mythical mermaid. For some reason, fish just seemed out of place and too banal. No offense to fish! 😉 The manatee quilt was supposed to be fun, sweet scene with these beautiful peaceful creatures going about their daily life. Of course it needed little fish! It’s like the manatee and the sea turtle needed their little friends nearby to create this perfect Disney-esque setting. I researched the type of fish that would be found in those areas and that’s the style I created. Cute and colorful and several different sizes. Lake Texoma has lots of different fish, but in order to really drive home the fact that it was this particular lake and certainly not any kind of ocean, I added one of the more recognizable fish–the fun, visually interesting catfish. Ain’t nobody from Texas that doesn’t recognize a catfish! I also added a rainbow trout and some other little fish and a duck. All things very common to this area and all things that say “lake” and not ocean. (Not that there aren’t trout in the ocean….but it has more of a lake feel to it.)
So many things are interchangeable and I don’t have to always make such specific decisions on every piece that I do. But, I feel like I need to have a clean thought process through my work or else it just gets diluted and everything starts to look the same. Muddy, like the bottom of that lake.
To read more about the quilts pictured above, click on these links: