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. 🙂