The phoenix image is just one that keeps coming back to me. A few months ago, I sold the phoenix quilt I made last year and felt I was in a different place in my life and wouldn’t use that image again. I thought about how I felt stronger and how maybe I was ready for imagery about power and already being strong, not still rising from the ashes. And then, I was hit hard by a few things in my personal life. Really hard. I realized that this idea of rising is recurrent. We don’t rise just once. It is a constant journey. A constant battle to leave behind the things, and sometimes the people, that pull us down and make us feel like we have no where to go, and that rising is not within our capabilities. Some people make us feel that way deliberately. Others do it in much more subtle ways. One of my biggest battles this year has been fighting the fear of insignificance.
We all want to matter. I want to matter. I want to feel like I’m worth a phone call, a kind word, a quick message to ask how I am or if I’d like to grab lunch and catch up. Something. Anything. And, don’t lecture me on how a healthy self-esteem would cure me of needing that reassurance from others and how I need to just know I am valuable deep within. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all of that. Sometimes, though….sometimes I want to FEEL it from another person. And that made me realize that I am still in the process of rising. Of peeling off whatever it is that holds my spirit down. I am still that phoenix looking up and lifting my wings and flying while part of me is still dripping flames and ash and all the things I’m trying to leave behind.
And that led me to this latest phoenix design using a very different technique. My first phoenix quilt, entitled “My Unconquerable Soul”, pictured on the left, was built entirely as appliqués. Every piece was cut and the edges were turned under and stitched down on top of a base batik. In my newest design, the background is a piecing extravaganza! (which is code for nightmare…) There is no way to cut out a bunch of one shape because the same shapes and sizes rarely exist in this piece. Once I piece together the background, I will build the phoenix as I did before, through a series of appliquéd feathers and layers that make up her body. And then the whole thing will be stitched, and most likely I won’t be able to resist adding lots and lots of Swarovski Crystals, though I’m not exactly sure where they will be placed just yet. She’ll let me know, though. When she’s good and ready.
I often get asked how I got started as an working artist or how long I’ve been making quilts. There’s a story behind that, as there often is. Artists always having a story.
We adopted our first son almost nine years ago. When we got him, I really wanted him to have a surf-inspired room. Our house is in Pacific Beach and his name actually means “son of the sea”. But, when I looked around at bedding and/or decor, everything was either super traditional quilting, all pastel or very cartoony. None of which was really up my alley. I wanted something bold and colorful, but classy and cool. I really wanted surfboards on his quilt but not just surfboard quilt blocks. After searching around, I decided I knew what I wanted and I could make it myself. I’ve been sewing since I was ten and though I hadn’t quilted before, I knew I had enough sewing and reupholstering skills to pull it off. Maybe not like a seasoned quilter, but we were the only ones who were going to see it, so it really didn’t matter, right?? So, I bought a bunch of cool Hawaiian prints and some beautiful Indonesian batiks and designed and created the quilt above. It took a while…I wasn’t used to any of the proper techniques and I made things up as I went along. But, I truly loved the way it turned out! It was different from anything else that I had seen out there. In the process, I learned to do what would become a signature technique for me–free-motion quilting. That coupled with my wild color combinations and fun designs, I began to solidify my style and brand. And that led to an idea.
I decided I could make and sell crib quilt versions of this surfboard quilt, and even crib skirts and bumper
pads. I couldn’t find anything like it out there, so I made a boy’s crib quilt and a girl’s version. I love my girl designs to be just as bold and strong as the boy’s designs, so I made them essentially the same but with more fuchsia. They were a hit and I started to get orders. I started getting orders faster than I could really handle
them, and at the time just wasn’t charging enough. And then, we got our second little miracle. We were given the surprise chance to adopt another baby boy. I put the quilting on hold for several years while I took care of my two sweet boys.
About two years ago, I started looking at the possibility of starting my business back up and getting studio
space in The Spanish Village Arts Center in Balboa Park. I submitted my work for the jury process and was accepted for my quilts and textiles! From there, I created more surf-inspired quilts and pillows and began to branch out to ocean-themed pieces, wall art and lots of other subject matter. Though I have branched out to other designs and motifs, I still often create surf quilts and textiles using batiks and Hawaiian prints. My boys are still young and time is still a limited resource, but I’m making it work.
My mother loves to travel and collect cards from local artists. It’s her way of getting a little piece of their work when she can’t buy a larger original. The inspiration for these came from her and I’m so glad I finally listened to her and created them. Each card is a unique mini version of my quilts with a fun design cut from bold, colorful fabrics and finished with free motion stitching. Each finished textile is then stitched to a 5”x7” notecard and is signed. I feel every single one has its own unique personality, and even when I make multiples of the same design, I never duplicate the same fabrics and it’s impossible for me to free motion stitch them exactly the same, so you can be sure you have an original. I make dozens of these a month, but here are just a few examples of some of my favorites.
A couple of years ago I came across this Rumi quote and it really affected me. I’ve been going through a period of rediscovery and have been trying to define who I was. Sometimes we want to put everything and everyone, including ourselves, into a category. But, we are so often many contrasting things at the same time. I love that we can be peaceful and wild, and so many other opposing things all at the same time. There are perfect times for all parts of us and we don’t have to choose just one thing to be.
I layered the batiks for the background and then built up the design until I had her just right. Lots and lots of free motion quilting in many different colors of thread came next. The final touch was to add all the bling. Fifteen hours worth of hand beading, rivets and Swarovski crystals. The photos don’t do justice to the way that it sparkles. All those ideas and thoughts and dreams and emotions either bursting out of her head, or being poured in. You decide. Or maybe it’s both.