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Always Rising.

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.

“My Unconquerable Soul”

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.


This is the line drawing I had printed full size for the pattern. I will work pieced by piece, cutting it out of vibrant patterned batiks and stitching as I go along. As tedious as that gets, I find it the least confusing way to approach the design.
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“My Unconquerable Soul”, 48″x68″

This quilt is immensely personal.  It was conceived, constructed and stitched during a year that was perhaps the most difficult of my life. The imagery was inspired by the William Ernest Henley poem, “Invictus” which brought to my mind the phoenix rising from the ashes.


Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.


I think most of us are familiar with the last line, but a few of the other phrases are what struck me the most. “Out of the night that covers me”, “my unconquerable soul”, “unbowed”, “unafraid”.  I wanted to mesh the image of the phoenix with a very recognizable human female form. She is rising out of the ashes and flames and she is looking upwards, unbowed and unconquered and unafraid. I used bold warm colors for the sun and flames and cool blues and greens for the phoenix.  I wanted the contrast of the warm and cool colors so she would stand out and be a strong image, but I also sprinkled in a few warm colored feathers to represent the fire, especially in her heart. She is beautiful and strong, bold and colorful. I stitched her in orange thread to bring a little of the warmth to her body.  The sun is stitched in gold metallic thread and the flames have regular red thread and also red metallic thread. Lots and lots of details in the free motion quilting give her added depth and spark.  The quilt is finished with about 1000 Swarovski crystals in the sun and two larger ones in her eyes.  She is definitely an autobiographical statement that I hope inspires others to also rise up from whatever it is that is holding them down and be what they want to be.

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I added two crystals to her eyes and they sparkle so much as she looks upwards as she rises.
Each feather has been stitched with such fine detail, giving beautiful life to her wings.
A thousand Swarovski crystals make the sun behind her wings just shine. I love the feminine touch of the pick hibiscus flower around the outside of the sun.
The tail feathers are the last to pull out of the flames and ashes. Each made of a different bold print. The last trailing splash of color as she rises.
This pieces is just so bold and beautiful! I’m so happy with out it turned out.
I wish you could see just how much the sun sparkles! Nothing shines like the Swarovski crystals and there are around 1000 on this quilt.