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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.

 

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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. 🙂

 

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