Posted on

The King

This the largest quilt I’ve done so far.  Nine feet by nine feet. Eight-one square feet of hand-dyed Indonesian batiks and colorful Hawaiian prints (162 square feet if you count the back).  I pieced together strips to create the beach landscape, moving from sunset sky colors down to ocean colors and finally the sand.  I love the way the long horizontal strips create a feeling of vastness and make you feel like you’re just catching a glimpse of one small part of a much broader picture. The border is mixture of more of the batiks and Hawaiian prints and gives it a finished look without harshly cutting off the beach scene.

After stretching the background out onto the frame, I free-formed the designs on top of the beach scene, cutting each piece out of paper first to make sure proportions were correct.  Once I had everything laid out correctly, I cut the pieces out of fabric.  Each appliqué has the edges turned under and ironed down, making it a very useable, washable art piece.  It is a king-sized quilt, however that isn’t completely why I called it
“The King”.  One of the Hawaiian prints shows a King Kamehameha style character surfing in an old helmet. There are old structures and lush foliage that hint at ancient Hawaii. He’s not a prominent part of the quilt, but he seems to be there watching over it.  It’s one of the many little subtle details you will find as you explore all the images in the batiks and prints.

After I lay out all the fabrics and get the design just right, then it’s time to take the entire piece off the frame and add the finishing detail work with lots of freehand quilting.  I always compare it to drawing, except I am moving the paper instead of the pen.  All the thread work is my own design and is created as I go along.  No computerized stitches, no pre-programmed patterns and I don’t draw patterns out ahead of time onto the fabric.  It’s just me moving the quilt around under the needle, drawing with the thread.  Not only does it add beautiful lines and textures, but it is another layer of subtle details to be explored.

The backs of my quilts are always a favorite part.  The front has all the variety of colors, but the back is just the thread work on one large batik.  That allows for a graphic line drawing version of what’s on the front.  It makes it visually beautiful from both sides, which is important for a quilt that will be used and scene from both sides. In this case, it is a dark blue batik with a multi-colored tropical foliage. I used a variegated thread for the back that is the same tones as the batik design.

My quilting business started with a surfboard quilt very similar to this one.  It was a twin-size quilt that I made for my son eight years ago.  But, despite the fact that I’ve been making these surfboard quilts ever since, no two are ever exactly alike. Or even too close.  I don’t reuse patterns, and although the theme of the surfboards in the sand recurs quite frequently, the sizes, shapes, colors and fabrics are never the same.  Each piece I create is always a complete original. This quilt represents about 70 hours of work from conceptualization to construction and all the finishing touches.  Stop by and visit Studio 19 to see it in person.  It’s too big to hang on the wall for display, but that means it will be on my table and you can touch it and inspect it close up.

“The King” is for sale for $2900.

This little crab might be my favorite thing on this quilt.
Although I do love this sandcastle as well.
The photo doesn’t capture the sparkle of the stitching. I used a satin yellow thread and a gold metallic thread to add some shine.
I stitched wispy cloud-like lines and swirls into the sky to give it a different texture than the ocean.
I really love the batiks on this sailboat. That seagull batik is one of my all-time favorites, and the leaf one has the exact same color palette but compliments it with the larger scale print.
What ocean sky is complete without seagulls?
I absolutely love the surfboard prints in this quilt. And they were a second choice when I couldn’t find the one that I thought I wanted. Love those happy accidents.
I stitched the border in a lavender thread. I wanted to add some fun details like more tropical foliage and ocean waves, but I wanted the center of the quilt to be the star. There is a lot of detail in the border, but the color is subtle.
The back! I absolutely love quilt backs when done right.
The border.
I just love how the designs look pared down to just the stitching.

The sandcastle.
Laid out for photographing.

 

Posted on

Hope.

19’x5′ quilted banner

“There is hope at the bottom of the biggest waterfall.”  -Patrick Ness

I always love a good challenge, and my scenic artist heart still loves to do very large scale art.  This project provided opportunities for both, and to also contemplate deeper meanings, not just in the symbolism but in our lives.  Our lives are filled with contrast.  Contrast and conflict within ourselves to do what is right but also do what we want and not feel constrained by rules and social norms.  They are certainly filled with the contrast of the good and bad things we face daily, and all the grey areas in between.  Ironically, my father passed away during the making of this banner, so the symbolism runs even deeper for me.  The highs and lows of my relationship with him, his death coming right after the Christmas season with my two young sons, the joy and sadness of being with all of my siblings at the funeral, and so many other emotions I have yet to explore.  It was a blessing and a curse to have this project to finish when I returned home.  Life rolls on…it flows, like the water depicted in this quilt.

If you know anything of Christianity, then you probably recognize the nod to the body of Christ on the cross in this waterfall image.  And, since it was commissioned by a church, you can be sure all of the design elements were deliberate. The design is mine, although the pastor did say he wanted a waterfall image with red and purple flowers and he wanted the construction technique to be similar to a different piece I had created a few months ago.  From there, I designed a piece that would not only be beautiful, but also thought provoking. And since you’re supposed to have your thoughts provoked, I hate to spoon feed you all the answers!  But, since this blog is about process, I’m going to do that anyway.  At least I’ll give you my thoughts and hope that yours are further inspired on your own.

Of course, the basis for the entire imagery is that Christ is often compared to life-giving water. So, like the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross, the water on the quilt spills in from both directions and flows down to earth, curving and turning like the shape of His body.  Where his head would be, there
is a rising sun.  Or, perhaps, this is a rising Son.  A Son who’s life is being sacrificed in that very moment in a type of setting sun, but one that will rise again soon.  The image captures both the rising and the setting.  There is green all around, symbolizing the Earth and newness and life that is nourished by the water…life that wouldn’t even exist without this water.  The purple and red flowers scattered along the banks are also only in existence because of this living water.  Purple is one of the colors of Lent.  It was the color worn by kings and was the color of the robe draped on Christ to mock his proclaimed role as a king and savior.  Because of these connections, it can symbolize both mourning and joy.  The bubbles, though perhaps not really Biblical, are a continuation of the water.  I love to capture motion in my work because it makes a static thing like a piece of art feel alive and exciting.  When I look at these bubbles, I see water in motion, that flowing heavily and crashing with enough power to cause bubbles to rise back into the air.  It is life moving forward.  It is the downward movement of the waterfall, the rising of the sun, the flowers growing and popping up daily along the banks and the bubbles rising up.  Everything is in motion. And that is part of the message here. It’s not only the crucifixion and the resurrection, but the beauty and joy and active life that this water brings to everyone and every thing.  He is the biggest waterfall, and there is definitely hope there.  That is the message in this piece.

line drawing
Color Rendering

As for the construction of this beast….well, let’s just say there was a giant
19’x5′ pattern I printed out and went piece by piece, curve by curve, point by point…you get the idea!  I assembled as I went along to lessen the chance for confusion, though there still was some until I started labeling everything more particularly.  There were TONS of Indonesian batiks, lots of bold beautiful patterns meticulously stitched together to create a beautiful flow and smooth transitions that feel like silky ribbons of water twisting and turning on their way down.  There were lots of flowers and bubbles appliquéd on top and lots of sewing.  I stitched the sun in metallic gold, the flowers in purple and the rest in a vibrant teal blue.  LOTS of fabric through my little Juki!  Many, many hours but with a truly amazing result.  I’m to typically one to make patterns and do finite piecing, so I’m very proud of how it turned out. It was a wonderful, difficult, learning experience in many ways and gave me hope for new ventures and many, many new ideas to realize.

A few process photos:

Reprographics is your friend for printing out inexpensive large scale patterns.

 

Patterns this large are printed in sections, so I taped them all together and then cut along lines to create sections. It was just too big to tackle it all at once.
And then….piece by piece, I put it together, matching curves and points to make sure the lines flowed smoothly.
Terrible lighting in the studio, but it was starting to come together.
It felt like miles and miles of fabric!
Posted on

The Strong Will Remain

This year.  Ooooo boy. There have been some incredible highs and
lows.  I have become fascinated with what it means to be strong. I don’t think I’m alone in that fascination, because I’ve noticed that my biggest sellers are often images of strength.  The phoenix rising from the ashes, square-jawed mermaids with hair flowing in the water or withstanding a furious wind, tough women, wolves, bears, tigers and especially lions.  Lots of lions. Most of these pieces have lasted a day or two in the shop before they sold.  Some were sold while I was still working on them.  Why is that?  Why do these strong images resonate with all kinds of people? Is it because we are strong? Or because we want to be strong? Or both? Maybe we are strong already but need to be reminded.  Maybe we need to surround ourselves with these images so that on those days when we feel weak and wonder how we’re going to pay for car repairs or help our child with a learning disability or fight that ongoing battle with weight loss or rejection or abandonment, we can feel inspired. Strengthened. Emboldened. These images send us out into the world in the morning and are there for us when we return at night seeking refuge from the day, battered by life’s challenges, ready again to look at that reminder that we ourselves picked out and placed in our own home.  We secretly believe in ourselves enough to feel the connection with the tiger or the phoenix or the lion, but we also know ourselves well enough to understand that we still need their inspiration in these moments.  We understand, but also welcome the reminder that  “The weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!”  — Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

More images of Strength.

“Mermaid Dreams”

 

“I Am Both”

 

“Lionhearted”

 

“Queen”

 

O tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide!” -William Shakespeare

 

“Aloha”

 

“Peace”

 

“Mama Bear”

 

“She-Wolf”

 

“Lion for a Day”

 

Posted on

“The Best Way Out is Always Through.” –Robert Frost

Layered batiks on cotton batting.

You know, I’ve had better weeks.  As I was packing some things up to work on at the studio today, I found this piece that I started a couple of months ago. Sometimes I create happy sea stars and fun octopuses.  And then sometimes, I am inspired by life and how it changes.  How it pushes and pulls you in these different directions, forcing you to either change with it or hold steady and fight it.  And the best solution isn’t always the same choice. Sometimes it’s about the happy things that inspire us–cute animals, beautiful scenery, vibrant colors or a great new piece of fabric.  And sometimes, it’s the not-so-happy things and in those moments of pain and struggle, I often visualize images that seem to parallel what I’m going through.

My rendering for “The Mouth of Hell” for “La Pastorela” at The Adobe Chapel in Old Town, San Diego.

One of those moments reminded me of this painting I had created years ago for a primitive styled production of La Pastorela.  In this little Christmas play, there is a very literal mouth of hell.  For this production, the director just wanted a very simple, fantastical design and this was my rendering for that backdrop.  I don’t know why I thought about it all these years later, but I pulled it out of my stash of paintings and decided I would turn it in to a textile piece.  It seemed symbolic of where my life was and I wanted to create something a little less happy-beach-day and a little more true to what I was experiencing.  That said, I am an optimist and I always like to feel there is hope.  I’ve been contemplating a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel piece for quite some time, and thought it might be cool to combine those two ideas and have the tunnel be this demonic mouth of hell, as that’s what it felt like I was faced with at the time.  I came across this Robert Frost quote that I felt fit so perfectly:  “The best way out is always through.”  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the difficulties of my life these past few years, it’s that.  There are no short cuts.  There are no easy paths that will allow me to circumvent the pain and stress and sorrow that my situation brings me.  It is only in walking through the fire that I will be able to pass my demons and step out of the darkness, over those sharp teeth and into the sunshine that awaits.  I don’t know how long it will take to feel that fresh air again.  Sometimes I feel the breeze and the warmth of the sunshine and know it is getting closer.  Sometimes it seems to take forever.  But, through it all, I know there’s only one way to go, and that’s to face it head on and walk straight through.

The finished piece. 19″x19″. Indonesian batiks, lots of free motion stitching, including red and gold metallic threads. The eyes and the sun are embellished with Swarovski crystals.
Love this little sun clearly bold and visible through the mouth. Lots of thread and a handful of Swarovski crystals make it shine and draw your eyes through the mouth on to something better.
Lots of free hand stitching and a beautiful red and black binding.
One more view.

SaveSave

Posted on

Liturgical Art. Such a Great Phrase.


Here’s my second piece of “liturgical art”. I love that phrase.  If feels so classy and righteous. But seriously, I really love making these pastor’s stoles.  There’s something about the odd size and the fact that it’s a wearable that make these quite interesting.  There
are two sides that need to sort of go together but don’t actually touch each other, and each side is only about 4″ wide and super long.  It’s not a proportion I’ve ever used in painting or textile work and it presents and interesting challenge.  The goal is to make it a piece of art in some way, but that can be tricky with such a long skinny surface area to work with.  Well, two long skinny surface areas, that really make up one picture, but split in half, so not exactly.  I feel
like I’m in a Dr. Seuss world.

My friend gave me a quick sketch of what he wanted.  This is to be a special baptism stole and he wanted abstracted water swirling. He had been inspired by a design I had created for my mother’s piece (coming soon). So, I shopped for an interesting assortment of blue batiks and got to work creating this little work of art.  I used a lighter batik with less pattern for the background so the river would contrast more and be the focal point.  I picked one that had a little pink and yellow in it as well, to add to the contrast, since all my water batiks only had blues in them.  Then it was just a matter of cutting out and layering all the swirls.  That’s probably simplified just a touch, but that’s really all
I did.  Layered wavy lines until it looked right. 🙂 The cool way of describing that process is to call it “organic”.  Which sounds much better than “lacking a plan”.  I love building designs from scratch as I go, though.  There are times for patterning and there are times to just roll with it and see where the batiks take you.  This was the time for that.  When it was finished, it needed a few bubbles to break it up and to tie the background together with the waves.  The stitching helps with that, too, but I like adding the circular shapes against the wavy lines.  Five thread colors for the free motion quilting and this beautiful little river was finished!  I also love the back.  I’ve been using darker batiks on the backs of my quilts lately so the stitching is very noticeable and I just love how it looks. Very happy with the way it turned out.

 

A few more closeups:

Love the back!   

 

SaveSave

Posted on

Selective Randomness

You know that song “You Are My Sunshine”? Well, I hate it. Eleven years ago, after going through more than a decade of fertility treatments and so many difficult things, we were finally placed with a sweet baby boy with the hopes of adopting him.  It was the best.  Such a special time for me.  But for some reason, all these years of waiting and preparing for a baby, and the only song I could think of to sing to him for months was “You Are My Sunshine”.  I mean have you ever listened to all the lyrics?  It’s a super depressing song but I think everything thinks it’s happy because it says the word “sunshine” except it’s not about sunshine at all. It’s about loss.  And it turned out to be prophetic.  Five months later, we had to give that sweet baby back to his father, and I haven’t sang it since.  I have this idea in my head that if I sing it, I will lose one of my boys, and I can’t risk that again.  I know it’s not rational, but it’s how I feel. Well, this week, it was featured in my son’s elementary school music program, and it brought me to tears very quickly and unexpectedly. I’ve been thinking about how often I use the sun motif in my work, because it does still represent joy and peace and warmth and beautiful Southern California days.  I just can’t sing that song.

This sun textile art is still a favorite.  I created each piece completely separately because I didn’t want anything to line up perfectly at all.  I wanted each piece to be a quadrant, but I didn’t want them to look like they went together.  I often refer to my process (and I used this term as a scenic artist also) as selective randomness. I need it to look random but if I really threw caution to the wind and didn’t check anything, then there is a big chance some parts would line up way too perfectly or the colors would match too well, and I don’t want that.  So, how do I coordinate but clash?  Well, clashing takes a little more skill than you might think.

I started by choosing four background fabrics that were very different from each other.  I chose two warm colors and two cool colors. From there, I picked up one of those squares and added all the fabrics and stitching.  The first one was kind of easy. But, from then on, I had to make sure things didn’t line up, and I didn’t use the same exact shapes.  It may sound easy to not match, but it’s surprising how repetitive our brains can be, and how they like to go back to their go-to shapes and colors and suddenly you wind up with four very similar pieces.  I often ask myself when I’m laying out fabrics “what does NOT go with this?” and then I choose that fabric. It’s a way of pushing me to step away from a routine or a tendency and instead pay attention to an instinct.  It requires intention, though.  It isn’t something you craft while you’re chatting with a friend.  I find in those times, we often revert back to habit.  It takes a conscious effort (at least for me) to push a boundary and to make a different choice.

Once I pieced all four quadrants, then I had to shift them around until I found the grouping I liked the best.  Next, I photographed it from all four sides to decide what direction I liked best, and that determined how I stitched the pieces together.  The individual quadrants were stitched to canvas before all the free motion quilting, to give the cotton batik fabrics some stability and to protect it when I stretched it over the frame.  Lots of free motion stitching, including several gold metallics.  It’s bold and abstract and full of life and so many colors.  Much better than that stupid song. 🙂

 

SaveSave

Posted on

What Brings Me Joy.

I’m tired tonight.  The kind of tired that has me eating cold spaghetti and hot cocoa at midnight. It’s the kind of tired that comes from sadness and loss and taking care of two amazing and active young boys, and thousands of ideas swirling in my brain every day, ALL day long, and making plans for bucket list items and taking up rollerblading at forty-seven and facing rejection and success, which oddly enough, can almost be just as stressful as rejection. As I snuggled into a big blanket on the sofa tonight and almost dozed off immediately, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted to write a little first.

I’ve been archiving and cleaning up all my photos on my computer, and that’s allowing me to take a fresh look at my work.  I was trying to decide which piece to write about tonight, and since I don’t have a design of a black hole or a mental institution, I chose a favorite recent piece. Something a little more hopeful.

The finished banner. Read the fully story in my blog post “…and there was light”

I chose this one because when the client, who happens to be an old college friend, asked me to make this religious stole, he put his full trust in me to just make something beautiful and full of joy.  He had commissioned a large banner for his church (read about it here) and asked if I would use some of the leftover batiks to make a stole for him that was abstract and joyful. Those are always his words.  When he cut me loose to do my thing on the banner with only moderate direction he said:

“I really do trust you wholeheartedly. Do what brings you joy…truly. Do what brings this to life for you and I know it will be the right choice.”

You know, as an artist, there is nothing better than that.  To be given such trust and freedom.

So, tonight, this is what I want to share.  I love how the stole turned out.  I looked at the leftover banner fabrics and though the color palette isn’t exact, I immediately thought of a couple of Klimt paintings. The Kiss and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. I loved the overall gold look of the pieces and all of the abstract shapes and how he put them together. There is life there. I kept both of these paintings in view as I built the background for the stole.  The left side is tiny squares and rectangles all pieced together. I appliquéd more squares and rectangles on top to add depth and detail.  I liked the idea of the two sides coordinating and flowing together, but also being individual designs. Instead of just making two differing sides, I wrapped the squares and rectangles up around the neck and back down a little bit onto the right side, so even though there is a hard line separating it from the circles, it helps it to blend and look like one cohesive art piece.  And that’s truly how I see this stole…as and art piece. I kept the stitching simpler so it would just tie everything together and not distract. I love the colors and shapes and how it all came together, and did not want to take away from that at all.

The back of the stole.

The stole is only about 4 1/2″ wide so all the pieces are very small, which made for a lot of work! I truly did “do what brings you (me) joy” and I think it’s tangible. I backed it with a bold orange batik so that if it ever flips up, you catch another fun burst of color. I always think about the backs of my pieces.  Looking at the stitching from the back is a favorite thing. It’s not forgotten.  It may be hidden and only be seen by a few people who take the time to look, but those people always appreciate that extra detail. And it makes me smile knowing I’ve sent a little hidden gem out into the universe. I guess that’s the artist in me.

 

More Photos/Process

Let the layering begin!
So many tiny squares and rectangles.
I used a softer circular yellow sun batik for the background on the right side. I love the contrast of the circles and squares together.
All laid out, before the stitching began.

So much color and life and movement.
I used to sew clothes more often, so this gave me an odd sense of satisfaction, to not only create art, but to make a meticulously finished off wearable piece.

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Posted on

She-wolf.

This girl. I struggled creating this one. Not because I wasn’t inspired or into it, but because I wanted to do her justice. The last few years I’ve really been exploring accepting all aspects of my personality and that led to the creation of a couple of art pieces inspired by the Rumi quote on the piece. This is the second textile piece I’ve made with this concept as the inspiration. I love strong animal images and knew I wanted to use a wolf to represent the “wild” part of this girl. Wild can mean so many things and I think all of those different meanings would be correct. As I thought about how to capture this duality of peaceful and wild and how we aren’t one or the other, but a combination of the two, I thought about this inner beast we all have.  In her case, this she-wolf.  Fierce and fearless, protective and brave, loyal and strong. I wanted this wolf to be as much a part of her as the sweet, loving, gentle, tame side. I drew a couple of sketches.  The first is on the left and showed her engulfed in the wolf, eyes peeking out from under the wolf’s defiant snarl. As much as I liked the sketch, I felt like I’d seen similar ideas and I wanted her to mesh into the wolf more seamlessly without such a defined line.  I redrew it, split more down the vertical center, and then shifted a few things so that it flowed into the girl instead of having a hard divide.  It’s hard to visualize a completed piece with a sketch that is so void of all the bold colors and patterns of the batiks, but I am a very visual person and can solidify (at least in my mind) to a large degree, how it will look with  the right layout and the crazy colors.

The original sketch
The final sketch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first step was to lay out the background.  I wanted to keep a vertical feel to the background so I laid out strips and rectangles 0f batiks to create that long, tall feel.  I felt the darker night sky colors would give her a more strong, bold look. Once the background was in place, I could start piecing together the she-wolf.  I wanted her to have long flowing hair and feminine features in juxtaposition to the choppiness of the smaller fur pieces and the fierceness of the snarling wolf image. The contrast enhances the concept of the quote.

I kept her simple, with bold lips and hair.
I added some colorful, almost cubist-style shapes to her face for color and interest and to portray more strength.

I also thought she needed the second ear, not present in the sketch. Something about the way the image flowed called for that ear to be there.

After the fabric pieces were in place, it was time for lots and lots of stitching! Here’s where I struggled a little bit.  Faces are always tough because you’re trying to capture a personality–a soul–not just a face or lips or a nose. All my stitching is freehanded so I was nervous to just jump in a start drawing not only one face, but two faces that were part of the same person but had different types of features. Wolf facial features are very different from that of a human girl, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t confuse them at all. Plus, I wanted to capture the defiant snarl versus the calm, peaceful acceptance and that proved to be a little tricky.  But doable.

These last photos are of the finished work, complete with Swarovski crystals spilling through her hair.  I wanted the human girl to have the bling and the wolf to be the more natural creature, like she’s headed to a rock concert and the she-wolf is defending her cubs. Except, of course, for the one large red Swarovski crystal lighting up the wolf’s eye.  I felt like that tied the two parts of her together in such a simple but powerful way.

This piece was amazing and intimating and bold and powerful.  Just the way I wanted it. Just the way that I want to be.

I really, really love the way the wolf-face turned out!
Close-up of the hair and lettering.
Peaceful and wild. Always two sides of the coin.
Lots and lots of crystals!
Love the cubist-inspired shapes on her face.
Ready for lettering!

 

 

 

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Posted on

“…and there was Light”

This amazing project has been one of my very favorites. A friend of mine from my theatre days at Texas Woman’s University is now the pastor at Broadway Presbyterian Church (BPC) in New York City.  He contacted me a couple of months ago and wanted to commission a very large banner to be unveiled on Easter morning. I was thrilled and a little scared at the prospect of doing something so large that would be such a focal point on such a special day.  Easter is one of the most attended Sundays at churches all over the country and this was supposed to be a special part of that day.  The main challenge was the sheer size. Everything becomes more complicated.  The patterning (especially since my design involved long lines, large pieces and lots of curves), the piecing, and mostly the quilting.  I decided to eliminate any batting because it would not really make a difference in the look and it would add a lot of cost and weight. This was already going to be a heavy banner, so adding more weight for no added benefit wasn’t necessary.  I started with a design.  The idea came from my pastor friend, Chris.  He liked the idea of a big sunburst but he wanted it to be fun and more abstract and joyful.  He didn’t want the heaviness and seriousness of something overly realistic. I worked up a sketch and added color in Photoshop.

The Photoshopped design for “…and there was Light”

The hard thing with design sketches that others have to approve, is that I can envision it in textile form, but not everyone can.  The blocky colors of the computer design wouldn’t show all the batik patterns and the color variations and the stitching.  But, luckily Chris trusted my instincts based on seeing my body of work and wanted me to just have fun with it and make it joyful.  And I really did that.

We played around with the center of the sun a little bit.  The logo for BPC is a trefoil to represent the trinity.  He wanted a nod to it without it being overly obvious. So I played with the center of the sun until we settled on an abstract version of the trefoil.  I turned it off center just a little so it was less obvious and also added a rounded off look to the sun.  

Once everything was approved, I printed the image out full scale just in black and white at a reprographics.
Because it was so large and every single piece was different, I decided for my own sanity, I should cut each piece out and stitch it together as I went along. I know myself…cutting all the pieces out and trying to organize and label them and then sew would have been complete disaster! So, one night, in my tiny studio condo, I unrolled the first 8 feet or so and started in.

It actually worked surprising well to do it this way! Once I had the first section sewn together, then I just rolled it up to the next section and kept going.  Each paper section was cut out and used as a pattern piece.  I didn’t want to cut the circles out so I wrote the size and color on each one and then photographed them so I would know what fabric to use and how big they were and how to place them when I was ready to cut them out.  Again, it worked perfectly.  My years as a scenic artist creating large pieces in the theatre paid off!

Once the whole thing was pieced, it was time to take it in to be quilted.  That was the scariest part!  I do all of my free motion quilting on a regular machine. In preparation for this project, I had taken a class on the large quilting machines and then rented the machine specifically to quilt this project.  It paid off because I was able to do the large scale quilting on this piece in a fraction of the time it would have taken me on my machine.  I backed this banner with duck cloth to give it a sturdiness and crispness I would never have achieved with regular fabric.  Not at such a large scale.  Plus, I had fun learning to use one of these larger machines.

It’s hard to photograph a 19′ banner! I hung it off the second floor of the building so you could at least see the whole thing.

I quilted the background and got it all in place and locked down.  I used a different pattern on each piece and kept it large and loose since the stitching wouldn’t be too noticeable from such a distance.  But I hoped it would break up some of the fabrics and add a little texture.  Once the background was in place, I added all the circles.  Lots and lots of circles… Soooo many circles.  These were backed with an adhesive so I could iron them in place.  Everything is so much more complicated on a large scale piece! Every time you want to do even one some thing, you have to lay the whole heavy banner out.  I decided to just do the quilting on my machine instead of rent the other machine again, and though it was tricky maneuvering that giant stiff banner under my machine, it worked just fine.  I gave each circle it’s own design. I used about 5 colors of thread on this banner to add little extra contrast and texture.

Finally, it was finished!  I turned the outside edge under and stitched it down.  On a quilt I would normally add a binding.  But, I didn’t want that border on this banner.  I didn’t want it to feel like grandma’s quilt.  I wanted it to feel like an art piece, so I let the design run all the way to the edge and I love the way it turned out. I think the binding would have made the rays look like they’d been chopped off and framed.  This allows the eye to imagine them continuing on and on.

I finished it and shipped it off to NYC and I’m so proud of how it turned out!  Chris wrote a description for the reveal and I thought it was beautiful.  Here’s what he wrote:

Chris sent me this photo a couple of weeks later of the banner hanging during a special dinner. I love it!

“Today marks the unveiling of a new banner here at Broadway. Textile artist Susan Baker Scharpf has created a 5’ x 19’ explosion of light and color from a glorious array of Indonesian batiks.  The banner, entitled, “…and there was Light,” explores the playfulness and creativity of God as Light bursts through chaos and a universe of marvelous diversity springs into being. As new worlds are born, God dances – notice the glimpse of the Trinity-knot at the radiant center of the piece.

Susan Baker Scharpf holds a Master of Fine Arts in Scenic Design from San Diego State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Drama from Texas Woman’s University.  She has worked extensively as a designer and scenic artist in theatre and in television. She is a proud adoptive parent of two – and can frequently be found quilting original works inspired by the seaside beauty of San Diego.  Find her on Facebook or Instagram @crystalpiertextilearts.”
And a few more close-up photos of the banner.  This was an amazing project to work on and I hope to do more large scale art pieces like this.  Thank you for the opportunity and the trust in my vision, Chris!

 

 

SaveSave

Posted on

Poppies!

I’ve always loved working with textiles. I’m a painter by trade and worked as a scenic artist in the theatre for many years. But, when I got back to working with fabric, I found my love. Part of what I love is that the way I create detail with the prints and colors that someone else designed keeps me loose and free in a way that holding a paintbrush and zoning in on small details inhibits. Not that you can’t be loose and free with painting, and in fact, painting scenery requires it. But fabric—it’s a whole new world.  I love that I layer tons of different prints to create a field or a sky or in this case, that line where they both mesh together. Where a close up view of tall grass breaks the straight horizon line you might see from a distance and the blues and greens blend together. I love all the fun prints that make that happen. So, when it came to these poppies, I decided they needed to be more solid in color.  A bold pop of brilliant red with no print to help make them blend. I wanted them to stand out. To stand strong against the meshing of the field and sky. Blocky stems and large, rounded, more abstract flower shapes make them the focal point of this piece. I used orange thread on the poppies to add a touch of highlight to the two red fabrics. The background was stitched in lighter weight blues and greens to add a hint of the sky and grass textures. Heavier weight dark blue and dark green threads finished it off, sketching in stem outlines and a horizontal bold skyline to offset the horizontal stitching of the grass and stems. A little abstract but fully recognizable.

 

  

SaveSave