Spring represents rebirth and the start of something new. In these troubling days, a project that represents this idea is all important to me. Last spring I photographed a magnolia in our little town of Fenwick. I had the photo printed on fabric as well as a second version that was printed a little larger, with the intent of adding a foreground dimension to the work.

I am using the larger overall image as background and started here by outlining and working some of the foreground flowers. Turning the quilt over, you are able to see the trapunto technique which employs stuffing to add dimension. Tiny slits are made in the batting underlay (I am trying bamboo for the first time) and polyester stuffed into the pockets.

The second printed version is now started. Sections are roughly cut out, backed with a stabilizer, then backed with polyester backing which I use to provide more puffiness and dimension. The sections are then trimmed back closer to the stitching line, polyester trimmed back to the stitching, then seam allowance pressed. Below is the start of the quilting detail.

The mid ground employs some of the combined flower imagery. I backed these sections with a thinner cotton quilt backing. All has been stitched around and trimmed back. The detailing employs my side to side “smocking” technique that provides texture to these more distant images.

I am now at the point of playing with the add-ons. It’s really just working on the composition to provide balance and lines for the eye to travel through the composition.

The visible background areas will be the next to work on.

In previous works of this applique series, I have researched the medicinal and other interesting information about each species. I may incorporate a textual component to the perimeter of the quilt. I’m undecided on colour as well.

Since my last update I have been working on the quilt as a daily “indulgence.” My mind becomes so consumed with the repetitive tranquillity of the process that the outside reality of our present day world is shut out. I have been working up the texture and dimension of the background and foreground. Stems are worked with stitches side to side to raise the tube-like fore. Appliqued petals are stitched strategically in some spots to create raised forms and tunnels where underlying images can be seen in darkened shadows.

I have now reached a point where the border is necessary to continue. I had just enough blue from my Turbulence quilt to add a border on 3 sides. I don’t think the bottom requires a border so this quilt will actually reverse what I had bordered for Turbulence. I want to extend the imagery over the edging to create the feeling of the sky extending infinitely. But until this step has been completed, I won’t know exactly what I will need.

Once I had the border stitched down I began the methodical and decisive process of selecting imagery from the remaining fabric remnants that would extend the magnolia into the infinity of sky. Mid-ground imagery was backed with iron on fusaline to prevent fraying but as I got towards the smallest petals at the top, I simply cut the pieces out. There was enough size in the fabric to keep the pieces intact. I used the finest needle that I could thread the quilting cotton through to stitch these delicate pieces down. Last of all I went around all edges with wallpaper size to strengthen and prevent fraying. Any fibres that did not flatten were trimmed away.

Below I have added the quilt as it presently stands. It’s interesting to analyse the composition from a photograph. I think the bottom right edge needs something to add “weight” and “balance.” I had originally wondered about adding words, but now I think the quilt will stand on its own, or could that be something to add to the bottom? Time to reflect again.

Magnolia on Canboro, last step is to finish with backing. Do I need to add weight to the right, bottom third edge?

For many years I have picked up and admired the “lace leaves” that tiny insects create – you’ve seen them, the leaves that lie on the ground with the most delicate and beautiful of structures left behind after insect feasting and devastation. Here is a paradox worth considering!

I have knitted 2 of these sculptures now, each measuring approximately 48 inches long by 18 inches across. They can be made smaller or larger and that all depends on the size branch that I use as an armature support. Here’s how I make them for those wonderful people who love them and want to discuss the process with their friends.

I start with a branch that is freshly cut and which offers a pleasing symmetry – I am, after all, turning a branch into a leaf with life-supporting veins. After searching my garden trees I decided that the Linden tree on our boulevard offered just the right structure, and the branches that would have needed pruning, were not being cut unnecessarily.

From the selection of images above you can see the first stages from finding a real “lace leaf”, selecting a symmetrical branch, pruning it off the tree, removing the leaves, squashing flat on a large sheet of paper, tracing the outline that will provide the pattern for each individual section of knitted lace to flattening the branch under plywood while I am working on the actual knitted structure. I estimate 3-4 weeks on each leaf as I reserve this work as a portable project to work on when I’m waiting somewhere or in the evenings when I’m too tired for my studio.

So now you can see the sections being filled with knitted lace blocks, each shaped to fit exactly. My lace stitch is “free-form” meaning that there is no pattern and that is intentional. Do insects follow a pattern? Highly unlikely, so that’s my rational. If a pattern looks as if it’s emerging, then I intentionally take the pattern in another direction – a little harder to do than it might seem. I knit in sections partly to keep the lace confined and to create a “vein” between the blocks, which will eventually be dyed with walnut dye – of my own making from partly decomposed walnuts, thanks to my squirrel helpers. I use a very fine cotton slub-linen blend that have have had for some time, which I obtained from the Cambridge Mills in Cambridge Ontario. I wish I could find a similar yarn as this cob has almost run out. I intend to call the mills to see if they might have something to replace this precious resource.

Work on the leaf is progressing. Meantime, new ideas are evolving. I am always amazed at how unlikely objects have elements that relate: texture, colour form and sensibility. Here I am showing a new photo taken of my summer “Tomato Fields” in Fenwick, only this one is the first snowfall of our 2019 winter, early November. I can see this as a fairly large piece worked up using my needle felting with silk technique. I am also working on a new sculpture that I’m presently calling “Carrara Marble in Silk.” It stands about 4 feet tall and 18 inches wide x deep. Over the initial armature of wood and wire I am layering paper maché paper, then will build up quilt underlay before the final silk fusion of various types/tones of white silk. I can’t wait until I get to this point.

Hopefully, they will be completed for installation at the Jordan Art Gallery by early December.

Just to show where I’m up to with the leaf. About 4 more sections to complete the main structure, then the centre stem is knitted separately. The two sides are stitched to the centre stem and all stitched to the wood frame – still being pressed.

Here are the last stages of completion:

The centre stem of the leaf is knitted in stocking stitch to create a solid fabric. The piece starts off wider and tapers towards the tip of the leaf. Once the long centre section is completed, the two side sections must be aligned correctly with the side “veins.” When all is pinned in place, the stem is sewn down to the sides.

Once the centre stem is attached the completed surface of the leaf is loosely tied in place then stitched securely. Although I do not have an image, there is a step in which the entire under surface is coated with my clear cellulose paste to shrink and stiffen the fabric. When dry, the leaf is flipped over and using walnut dye which I make myself by boiling ripe walnuts, I stain the centre and side ribs of the leaf. I like to start with a diluted solution and repeat the process several times to build up the intensity of darkness. This enables a more controllable and natural result as in the actual leaf, the centre and thicker part of the stem is darker, lightening towards the tips.

My leaf is just about done. The ends of the branch are trimmed back then I coat these ends and stitches on the back of the branch with white glue which adheres to the edges of knitting and seals the stitches in place.

I am excited to see the end result:

Carefully transported to the Jordan Art Gallery, it is now suspended below my newly installed Christmas selection. The leaf can be hung vertically, horizontally against a wall or suspended in a space to create a light partition.

Hope you enjoyed watching the evolution of my “lace leaf.”

I responded to a SAQA call for entry using this Ontario Government document as my lead in.

We received this letter last year which referenced the property in Pelham which we had lived on for 10 years, and the same township that we presently still live. I had often seen this white aster, but was not aware of its significance as an Threatened species. I was to learn more.

An update: My work has been accepted for SAQA’s Global exhibition which opens at the Sonora Desert Museum in Arizona on October 5, 2019. Here’s how it all happened:

SAQA’s (Studio Art Quilt Associates) call for entry “Connecting our Natural Worlds” had specific reference to endangered species, flora or fauna: what was the cause of its endangerment and how one might propose its preservation. In Pelham’s protected Carolinian wetland area, the white wood aster has been enabled a chance for survival due to it and its cohabiting species not being disturbed significantly. However, a nearby housing development has eliminated a large portion of the former 75 acres surrounding the wetland itself. Human and animal presence in the area, therefore leaves more vulnerability for this endangered species to be trampled, sprayed with noxious weed chemicals, invasion of domestic and non native species and for the plants to dry up during extremely hot and dry summers, which we are experiencing more frequently.

I was able to photograph at the woodland property in the late summer just at the height of the Wood Aster’s flowering cycle. In my mind, the series of wind turbines that I had photographed in our area earlier in the year, seemed to enter my mind; their propellers mimicking nature to scoop and disperse air. Furthermore, we had just had a conservative government elected in Ontario and the issue of environmental preservation coupled with discussions on developing more of the Southern Ontario Greenbelt, was now in question.

For both White Wood Aster and Wind Turbine, a symbiotic relationship formed a “storyline” in my mind. How would it play out if one assisted the other to disperse seed heads far and wide? I prepared some uploads for printing with the thought in mind that I would be piecing this composition. The exact process would evolve as I problem solved each step. This series of wind turbine photos is actually one turbine taken lying on the ground from front and back of the structure. I liked the positive vs negative element to my choice. Problem one was that the sky is either lit from front or back, and my composition needed a consistent sky. I formatted the turbines separately to the background and visual components, each on a yard of quilting cotton. The designs were sent to DesignYourFabric.ca for printing. I was thrilled with the results.

Some months lapsed between ordering and starting the project. This was the incubation period where my methods were still being mulled over. I began shortly after Christmas when all was cleared and my mind able to grasp the project. In the above images, I have stitched around and cut away the turbines leaving a small selvage. I decided they would need a backing of their own. Quilt backing was cut to the stitch line and fabric glue used to secure each piece to its back. I tested the fabric first to ensure that the glue did not seep through.
I played with the composition of the three turbines to get the illusion of distance and a background for the wood asters.

I realized I had forgotten something important. I hadn’t backed my main piece with cotton quilt backing. Fortunately, not too late. I secured that with pins and would leave the tacking until later – and started in to the turbines. It worked.

Once satisfied (can that ever be a “for sure” decision) that I had placed the turbines correctly, I began the appliqué stitching – this is actually the part that’s least like work for me, as there’s no real decision making. It’s purely mechanical. I had to think through the tiny points of the turbines and decided to try stitching the selvage together first before the
appliqué process itself. I will come back to cover some of the stitches later on with various pigmentation – if they bother me. I know stitching is part of the process and some like to see it, but that’s part of this decision making process as well. I want the turbines to float off the surface.

I was now ready to tackle the white wood aster – both exciting and daunting! I fused a stabilizer cotton interfacing and added a quilt backing with another layer of interfacing to prevent the machine from ripping up the quilt backing – which had happened when I created the lichens for the Beausoleil Saracen project in 2016. This time it was easy using my sewing machine to create a cutting outline around the various components of the woodland flora. I used every piece possible!

In the final composition, I wanted to show not only the aster itself, but other plants growing symbiotically along with it. I found even the tiny yellow chains of what might be goldenrod, and the leaflets of the the Virginia creeper. I know all grew in our Carolinian backyard. My task was now to connect the turbine structures to the florets through the air turbulence that their propellers might create. There was a degree of thought behind the placement; however, the end result looked somewhat contrived and simplistic. Although simplicity is something that an artist strives for, there is also a degree of depth as well – this was now my next step. At this point I also decided to give the white tower a more metalic glow with oil pastel which was then “fixed” with a layer of water. This process dissolves to some extent, the pigment, which allows it to penetrate the fibres.

I wanted to solve this problem of preservation. Yes, the wetlands themselves needed protection, but the dispersal of seed offered yet another solution. What if the turbines could scoop up the flower heads along with their seeds and scatter them far and wide? SILK! This was my go to solution.
Not only do I have natural silk in a variety of shades, but I have dyed silk noil in yellow and pink – colours that the photography had picked up. I added more to represent the pollen and seed being dispersed by the wind turbine currents. Each section was held in place with tiny French knots. I also took my white aquarelle pencil to the borders of the more distant plants to fade them out into the distance. Although somewhat satisfied that the work was moving ahead – albeit very slow – in the right direction, it wasn’t producing enough of the effect that I imagined.

I decided to card some silk mix with cultivated (straight fibre) and noil (nubbly stuff) and just apply to the surface to see what the result would look like. Yes, much more effective. Now, it had to stick there. I mixed a weak solution of wallpaper size and sprayed it over the surface and let dry. Okay result but much too flat. More French knots which anchored the fibres so that I could fluff them up in the wind direction – two days worth in fact, but still not enough. It needed more silk! In a hurry to get this layer to “stick” I took my multi-headed (five needles) needle felting tool and decided to give it a try. Voila! It was like magic. Because I have an underlayer (actually 2 now as I have stabilized the towers) of cotton batting, the silk had something to grab and cling to. It still needed something to really hold this layer permanently and to strengthen that feeling of wind currents.

I had worked up some sample images of the wind turbines months ago when I first started this series. I used some basic stitches – large – to emulate the wind currents. I had been thinking about doing this again, only on a large scale to cover the background and foreground of this piece; currents divided and influenced by the three large structures, dispersing the seeds. The propellers of each worked together in a symbiotic relationship. Okay then, this was what I needed to do to make this piece more cohesive. It would be quite an undertaking though.

Before I could start however, I had to neaten the edges of the work, which I did using leftover pieces that I had cut away from the original wind turbine prints. I sketched out a small version of the currents for a rough guide, found some of my vintage embroidery floss that would pick up on the sky variation and allow a “background” and “foreground” to the wind currents. I didn’t even want to guess at how much time this would take, but all the same, I was excited to know that I was going in a better direction.

A few lines multiplied into many until I was looking at what belonged in front of and behind the propellers and turbine columns themselves. I worked 10 or more hours some days and that didn’t come without the occupational hazard of punctured fingers. I use a thimble, even one of the new silicone inventions, when I have to push though a thick layer, but cannot sew continuously with them. Thank goodness that my months of physiotherapy manipulation and strengthening to help with neck and shoulder pain have helped. I may not have been able to continue with this type of work if not. I have only to overcome my allergy to raw silk fibre! It’s a love – hate relationship, more love than the other thank goodness.

At the same time I broke this laborious although mesmerising task by embellishing the florets with French knot seed-heads and also decided to embroider with satin stitch the name of the White Wood Aster and its Latin name, Eurybia divaricate. Interestingly, my Ontario Wildflower guide features a species called the Large Leaved Aster (Eurybia macrophylla) also found in woodlands and forests of Southern Ontario, but is likely a slightly different genus. I used greens which I hoped would tie the foreground plants to the top of the work – I think it worked but had to tone down and enhance the colours a little to work.

On the home stretch now with entry details to get in place. The moment actually did arrive when I knew I had placed my last stitch. I photographed on the 28th of January and put my statement and other entry details together. I always like to do this ahead to allow time for it to sit, and time to reread and revise – can’t stress this process enough. I also found my title. See this information below and scroll right to the end to see the submission images of the finished quilt and details.

Turbulence:  White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricate)

In 2018, both Federal and Ontario Govt.’s requested input on the Threatened White Wood Aster growing in the Carolinian, wetland forests of Pelham, Niagara. Together with our backyard wind turbines, both formed a symbiosis especially critical in light of the newly elected, Ontario Conservative Government jeopardizing the environmental preservation measures of the Niagara greenbelt.

In our wetlands, the White Wood Aster survives with cohabiting species. However, a housing development has recently assumed a large portion of the 75 acre wetland. The activity of human and domestic animals exposes this threatened species to trampling, herbicides, invasion of non-native species and with decreasing habitat, to insufficient moisture during increasingly dry summers – all the basis of a call to action.  For both Aster and Turbine, a symbiotic relationship formed a creative “storyline.”  What if the propellers of each dispersed seeds far and wide?  ghildebrandartstudio.com blogspot tells the story.

Materials:  Quilting cotton top with cotton stabilizer and quilt backing, embroidery floss, cultivated silk and silk noil fibre, aquarelle pencil

Techniques:  Digital photography, machine stitched edges, hand appliqued, needle felted silk fibre, Kantha hand-stitched wind patterns, embroidered seed heads and species names, aquarelle.

Today’s update: After the thrilling news that my work was chosen as only one of two Canadian entries for the Global exhibition (around 40 in all) at the Sonora Desert Museum in Arizona, I have read through the instructions to complete the backing to SAQA’s requirements, packed the work to their specifications and am ready mail it.

I want to include here the travelling exhibition that resulted from Fibre Content.  See my home page for details.

I did not blog as I worked on this piece, thinking at the time it was a worthy statement.  The printing was too dark and the composition not impressive.  However, with some chopping, rearranging, highlighting and inclusion of research into the hydrangea, I ended up with this result.

What does it say?  It is a jumble of research and personal information – as life is!

Hydrangeas connect my past and present; brought to Europe in seventeen thirty six, sailed over water; Asias, N. America; like porous soil; Japanese macrophylla; leaves roots flowers, antimalerial, diruretic, antitussive cough; antihaemorrhagic; peegee contain rutin; leaves of lacecaps are sweet, water to drink, hydor; pink, red, white, blue; flower power, paniculata; angos means vessel; alkaline for pink and red; sweet leaves; Annabelle from Americas; Hydrangeaeae; hydor, acqua vita, drink; morning sun; afternoon shade; absorb aluminum; acid soil for blue

My title, Clouded Heads, is both literal and metaphoric.  For me the piece represents a group of people, huddled and protective.  In my sequel to this work, I will tell you the endearing story of the Annabelle hydrangea.

I had a sample of my original Oak and Birch photograph printed some time ago.  While I waited for the large piece to arrive, I decided to start working it up.  The colours are just what we need at this rather dull time of year.

I will take photographs tomorrow of the dynamic piece that arrived today!

Meantime, here is the original photograph.

The second piece in the Decew Series is a little different in perspective.  It is a view straight on looking through the fall trees onto the back view of the old Morningstar Mill and waterfall.  When out taking these shots, this view reminded me of Tom Thomson’s hypnotic work from 1914-15 titled Northern River.  It has always held a spell-binding hypnosis for me and something quite spiritual.

When I received the printed version I found it to be a fair bit darker than the original photograph.  However, the challenge will be to bring up what is important and leave other areas in a silhouette.  Aquarelle’s have been invaluable for this purpose.  Darker areas can be enhanced with charcoal to create even more depth.  These photos taken with my cell phone for the purpose of blogging, are overexposed.  I will try different lighting to bring out the richer tones of the actual piece.

The piece itself is quite fiddly.  However, once I begin a section I do find it quite mesmerising to work on and am actually well into the piece now.  I must think about the overall effect and how each of these smaller sections will eventually be part of the whole.

November 1, 2017

Although I have now completed the quilting of the this quilt, I will post more of the work  and the finishing steps.  There was a great deal of detail in this quilt that I had not realised/admitted to myself before starting into the work.  However, it became very compelling and beckoned me each day.  We call this “mapping” when venturing into something there is more to discover at each turn.

I am now at the point where the tree trunks must be backed to hold their vertical form.  I found heavy felt that I’m hoping will provide this support. Select leaves also require filling to add more dimension.  The final photograph in this series shows how the pull in tension, especially in the fine work of the background, has created an unevenness – not something that is uncommon.

The top was now complete and had to be corrected in size.  The stabilizing cotton that I use for the backing was measured and a rectangle to the exact finished dimension drawn on its surface.  The quilt was pinned down and carefully stitched to the drawn line.  The work required a fair amount of stabilizing to hold the surface without rippling.  I was pleased with the end result.

A few things were still bothering me about the darkness of the foliage, especially on the left side.  I used “bleach,” yes, that drastic stuff, to lighten some of the bottom leaves.  It went a little too light in a couple of areas, which meant using my aquarelle pencils to add colour back.  After some time, I finally found what I was looking for and was glad I had made this correction.

The quilt now waits for its finishing border.  I have two shades of gold that I will stitch together to create a fairly narrow border that will complement the golds and help lighten the overall effect.



Last fall I took a journey into the Decew Falls conservation area, close to my home in Pelham.  My objective was to capture suitable imagery for my new-found passion for sculptural quilting.  Line, shape, colour, texture, light and ultimately form served as inspiration in this piece.  I have for the last year been searching for a printing company who could accurately render my photographs on quilting fabric with no limit to size and at a reasonable cost.  This spring I found such a company “Design Your Fabric” located in Mississauga that I cannot speak more highly of.  I would recommend them to anyone interested in this pursuit.

I worked up a small 8 x 8 inch sample of one image to see how the end result would look and was pleased enough to go BIG – 80 x 110 inches.


I was excited by the prospects of beginning work on this image, although slightly overwhelmed by the size and time it would take – still, no longer than some of my former projects.  I estimate around 50 hours to complete.

As with other quilting projects, the subject necessarily dictates the technique.   The photo itself is ambiguous to read.  It is heavy with shadows and light, thus creating projections of shapes and colours.  This is what I particularly liked about this photo.

My aim is to project to the viewer the texture and dimension of the image. I began here with the sumac leaves aiming to create the feel of the slightly jagged edges. At times a straight running stitch for outlining is all that the image requires.  Working up the branches, especially the heavier ones requires some form of trapunto (back stuffing) technique – whether without stuffing or with some degree of rigidity.  My earlier attempts at giving these branches a rigid form were not satisfactory which sent me to my reserve of fabrics.  I found a piece of old ironing board underlay which did the trick – never throw anything away!  Deciding what to leave unquilted for a distant background effect was also an aspect of the decision making.  I am presently working on my first sumac bud.  I always find this type of texturing a lot of fun.  I call it my free-form smocking technique.

I am now just over 3 weeks into the project and thinking ahead to the next quilt and further pieces.  My aim is to complete 20 quilts.  My thinking is evolving as I see this dynamic of colour and form in nature and perhaps the way in which we see it juxtaposed against a human made landscape.  This part I will keep hidden for a while yet.

The process of creating a raised surface continues from one area to another, dictating the technique that will provide the texture and profile that I feel will most compliment the photograph.  I don’t know why I feel this necessity to take the illusion of 3-D into the ream of the “real.”  I have challenged this concept before asking the question “what is real?”  I am moreover mesmerised by the process and am completely transported when engaged, this despite the neck cramps and worse.  I try to get up and move periodically and try not to work more than 5-6 hours a day at the same task.

The final stage involves cutting and pinning the surface area, which is now fairly warped, to a background which is exactly rectangular to the narrowest measurement horizontally and vertically.  The extra surface area is pinned down to create more dimension.  Areas such as the feature sumac are back padded to add the amount of height/dimension that looks right.  There is a lot of perspective correction and decision involved here until all comes together in a way that looks natural and pleases the eye.  The completed surface is now sewn down by hand in just enough places to hold firmly.  The perimeter is sewn down exactly along a drawn line.  I must admit that I am quite fussy about the exactness of measurements and angles of the corners.  I expect the viewer to appreciate the work itself and not be distracted by skewed borders.

At this point I am leaving the work for a while to start my next project, but have purchased a lovely heritage blue that works with the sky to create a fairly narrow border that extends the sky background of the quilt.  I will post when that is completed.


The same call for entry allowed up to 3 submissions.  I had much earlier begun to make a conch shell as part of my Cuban exploration.  More and more I felt this piece way sympathetic to Costa Verde and should also be submitted.  I had a little more to complete and had photographed the process from its start.  My submission statement  read:


Along the north-eastern coast of Cuba “fossilized” conches litter the fine white, crushed shell beaches.  Bleached, battered and pitted by both natural forces and acid rain, conch remains can be found in all sizes.  I have cradled, admired and studied these forms, but at the same time must ponder the question of rising sea temperatures, their changing chemical composition and the premature death of these fascinating mollusks.  Medium:  Tussah and noil silk fibre fused using wallpaper paste, wire support framework, cotton quilt batting, seed beads, and fibre fill.  Technique: Sculpted clay maquette, hand formed silk sections stitched together and “repaired” with silk fibre, quilted and beaded.

I was inspired by one of my shell collection examples and began by sculpting a clay version of the piece.  I have found that the self-hardening clay available a our Dollarama stores is excellent for this purpose.  The clay holds its form well, is not overly messy and dries within a day or two if needed.  This series also shows that the sculpture is about 4 times the size of the shell itself.  Some of the conches that we have seen are actually this large, or even larger.

Once completed and allowed to dry overnight, I took a small piece of rough coral and hammered the surface to texturize the clay, emulating the acid pitting of the shell itself.

To prevent the clay from discolouring the silk fibre used to create the fused sculptural form, I have found thin plastic wrap a useful material for covering the wet or dry clay.  Applying the film to this form was very difficult, and in some tighter areas I gave up trying to get the plastic to stay in place.  I ended up removing the plastic layers and applied the silk fibres directly to the clay in the tighter areas of the inner spiral.  This resulted in clay adhering to the silk back which had to be wiped off, as best as possible.  A coating of shellac over the dried surface might be a better and easier option – for next time.

When I first envisioned this project during the summer, I had pictured a series of conches, arranged in a large spiral installation.  Because of the work involved in just this one sculpture, I have not yet repeated the process.

Once the outer layer of tussah and noil were formed, they were allowed to dry – only a matter of a few days.  This “skin” was spliced to allow for removal.  Before all sections were joined, I decided that the larger areas required reinforcing.  I had some fine florists wire which worked.  The wire was stitched to the quilt backing. Silk fibres were used to cover the seams and to add more texture.

I should have marked the sections and their joining points before removing, as putting the puzzle back together was a lot more of a mind teaser than I had expected.

Still, the silk form was eventually stitched back to its original shape.  The shell itself had fine particles of sand embedded in the etched surface.  I felt that some beaded enhancement might add to the sculpture.  Talking this idea over with my artist friend Barbara, confirmed my feelings.  Beading with a selection of clear, white and copper seed beads provided the illusion of fine grains of sand. I continued beyond the inner spiral to the outer surface as well, following the inspiration of the conch itself.

While beading, I attended to finer details of the form itself, enhancing the tight curl of the spiral point and shaping the bottom of the shell, as well at the outer flap.  I also added quilting stitches to further enhance the acidic pitting of the conch.  However, despite the wire support, the shell did not hold its form as well as I would have liked.  I decided to open a small section and to fill the inside with fibre fill.  Once this was completed and the seam repaired, the sculpture’s form was much improved.

This work is very much a matter of composition, just as much as any sculpture or artwork for that matter.  Balance of form, colour, line and texture, as well as light and shadow, are all integral and important.  It takes time from start to finish, to find that point of satisfaction.  Still, next time could always be better!








The prospectus for SAQA’s call for entry read

Show Concept:
Water – it’s everywhere! The majority of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and more than half of the human body consists of water. But water also plays an essential role in our survival.
Cultures have thrived based on their proximity to water, and crops survive or fail, based on rain or the lack thereof. Every living thing depends on water to survive, and life hangs in the balance when shortages persist.
An overabundance of water in its varied states of rain, snow, and hail may bring death and destruction in the form of tsunamis, hurricanes, or blizzards.
Religious ceremonies, such as baptism, ceremonial baths, and cleansings, have elevated water as a key component in many of mankind’s most sacred rituals.
We are also drawn to sources of water for recreation and relaxation. Vacations at the beach compete with the thrill of watching glaciers calving. As one of our most precious commodities, water also serves as a source of power.
This exhibition encourages the artist to interpret one of the most vital, desired, powerful, sacred, and enjoyed resources on earth in their own unique, individual style, whether abstract, graphic, or 2
representational.  Closing date November 30 – I made the deadline!

I had read the prospectus for this exhibition and had that in the back of my mind when I read an article in SAQA’s fall journal.  Six printing companies were compared for the quality of their “direct to garment” printing. I wrote to Dee Dee Davis of Decor Print www.decor-print.com and had a very professional and friendly reply.  The result of my correspondence was this reproduction on cotton broadcloth, which I intended to turn into an art quilt.  I have included here the finished work but will take you on a journey to reveal my process.

I pondered the amazing reproduction for several weeks before starting.  I knew that first I would work on the background.  The Caribbean waters have been a fascination to me in terms of colour (warmth is another that played into this exploration).  The rock itself was deserving of a different treatment, but at this time it was still in the formative stage of my imagination.

I had some shimmering tulle that lent itself to this application so decided to cover the background water and to sculpt around it to show various areas of shadow and the highlights of the wave.

I used my sewing machine to follow the waves lines and to hold the tulle in place. This was a relatively quick section to work up. I began to cut away several areas of the layered tulle, allowing the shadows to take on their depth and bringing forward the water droplets of the “splash.”  This was a more intricate area that was deserving of handwork and took several days to complete.

Although I didn’t actually work all the water at one time, I have grouped the photos to show various aspects of this portion of the process.

The rocks I decided would be all hand quilted.  The various life-forms (dead or alive) and the crevices were extremely exciting discoveries and deserving of a sculpted application.  I was truly amazed that our camera had captured such detail from this distance.

The back of the work, shows a rock form being back stuffed in the trapunto method.  The opening is stitched closed to hold the stuffing in place.  From time to time I will also compact the stuffing by stitching through the bulk to reduce the profile on the front of the work – as needed.

The actual quilting process involved working back and forth between the rocks and the sea, constantly monitoring and controlling the amount of surface area being pulled in.  The end result would have to be perfectly rectangular, although I couldn’t say exactly what the dimensions would be.  I have in the past worked on a project where the end size was critical.  I allowed about 1/3 more cloth and ended up devising a way to take up anything extra (which I have discussed previously, and will again in this blog).  If an area is pulled in too much, it is a simple matter of cutting some non-essential stitches and spreading the compacted surface.

I had an idea that I haven’t used before in my work.  If you can shrink cotton, why not use this method to reduce surface area.  The machined area of the water was less pulled in than the sculpted rock surfaces.  Using a wet sponge I dampened the water surface and pressed the surface that met with the rock edges to “sculpt” the piece more than it already was.  I also use the shrinking technique to minimize the crevices of the rocks which I intentionally left without much quilting to create a darker and deeper illusion.

I also used stitches to pull in the perimeter of the quilt where this was needed – especially in the darker areas and where the sea surface met the edge of the piece.


As with all my previous quilting projects, backing is the essence of finishing the work for presentation.  The stabilizing interface is essential for not only maintaining the intended dimensions, but allows for more 3-dimensional sculpting.  The above images show the process from pinning to stitching down.

I had decided that a plain white border might suit this work, extending the white of the splash around the quilt.  I also decided to do a mitred edge, not that difficult but measuring is very important.  I used the selvage waste from the cotton broadcloth reproduction itself to keep the conformity of the work.  The entire frame/border is sewn together then laid out for stitching to the quilt.  I meticulously measured, pinned and hand sewed the frame to the quilt following my drawn on guidelines.  Still, I had to resew a couple of sections that were not “perfect” enough. A sectioned piece of polyester quilt batting was used to provide a slight dimension to the edge.

I used cotton sheeting to add the final finished backing that would also contain a horizontal pocket for the hanging rod – my usual skirting board substitute.

Each seam was hand stitched and layers of batting and seam allowance stitched down to ensure everything stayed in place.  I finally stitched through all layers around the inner border to hold everything together.  This is the essential last step for vertical hanging/display.  The rod will be inserted and eye screws put in place with a hanging seine twine alternative to wire.

The quilt itself was completed and measured 33” wide x 25” high; however, I was not convinced that it said what I intended as I began the numerous drafts for my statement:

Costa Verde, Cuba (photographed in 2015)

Over time I have photographed the pitted limestone rocks of north-eastern, coastal Cuba.  Eroded by natural coastal factors and acidic rain, their crevices provide habitats for a myriad of sea life-forms, while others are pockets entrapping but skeletal remains.  Together, they cling tenaciously enduring wind, wave and tidal forces. We may gaze and admire; but, overshadowed by the rising temperatures and changing elements of these luring, blue green waters, life hangs precariously in the balance.

There was one element that I felt was needed.  There was one dark crevice in the rock that begged to have something inserted.  I also felt that my work deserved at least one “interpretive” change from the photograph itself.  I decided to make a piece of brain coral using a technique that I have explored in recent works, that of fused silk fibre.  Previous blog postings explain the technique.

I used a previously made brain coral that had been left in it’s unfinished state. The form was opened and flattened and then dampened to enable the ridges to be roughly manipulated by hand.  Once dry, I was able to back with cotton batting and begin the stitching.  Short lengths of cotton yarn were used to hold the ridges while I stitched through the layers – the same technique that is used for piping a corded edge.

I was not satisfied with the look of the brain coral pattern and kept coming back to a small piece that I had which nicely pulled forward a small section in the reproduction just above the crevice that I intended to use as a housing. Once the patterns were completed the edges were pulled back and stitched in place.  A backing was added to finish the piece as a small sculpture.  I needed to secure the silk fibre that had been added along the ridges, and give the coral some detailed definition.  Small stitches with quilt cotton seemed to work nicely.

The piece was placed in the intended crevice.  I had extra surface area here and was able to pull up the cloth around the perimeter and further enhance the surrounding rock formation.  The coral was placed inside where it will be permanently fixed.

Costa Verde, Cuba Quilt
Costa Verde, Cuba Quilt