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.
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: