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

The letter referenced the property which we had lived on for 10 years, and in the same district that we still live. I had often seen this white aster, but was not aware of its significance as an endangered species.

SAQA’s (Studio Art Quilt Associates) call for entry “Connecting our Natural Worlds” had specific reference to endangered species, flora or fauna, and how one might propose its preservation. I was able to photograph at the former woodland property in the late summer just at the height of the Woodland Aster’s flowering cycle.

In my mind, the series of wind turbines that I had photographed in our “backyard” 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 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. Problem one was that the sky is either lit from front or back, and my composition needed a consistent sky. I formatted that on Photoshop and pieced my 56 inch width of quilting cotton to contain as much as my computer would upload. The components were sent to DesignYourFabric.ca for printing. I was thrilled with the results.

Some months intervened between the ordering and starting of 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. I have stitched around and cut away the turbines leaving a small selvage and decided they would need a backing of their own. I cut those to the stitch line and used fabric glue to secure to the 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 – 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.

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. This method worked well.

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.

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.

Over the last few months I have been exploring fibres using the technique of needle felting. Unlike the conventional “wet felting” this method uses a selection of specially designed needles to push various fibres into a soft backing. Once there, they are locked in place and further layers can be added to create various effects in 2 or 3 dimensions.

Here is a quick demo. and look at some recent pieces.

 

I had many of the silk and wool fibres on hand; however I purchased a wider selection from The Fibre Garden in Jordan Village. If you haven’t discovered this wonderful resource, it’s worth checking out for yourself. I also found a wonderful tool made by Clover, that uses 5 replaceable needles set into a handle which has a spring-loaded action. This is what I use for “tacking” the fibres once they are laid on the support surface. Here I have used cotton quilt batting; however, I have more recently been using the wool support which is much looser and specially designed for this purpose. It’s kinder on the needles, and my neck muscles.

From the initial laying in of wool which enables a better felting effect, details are added using silk fibre and remnants of handspun yarns which I just happened to have on hand as well. What an exciting way to use up boxes of supplies which I had from former endeavours as a hand spinner. I use individual needles to delineate and adhere the spun fibres/yarns.

The final work is one of 10 which found their way to RiverBrink Art Museum’s gift shop where they retail for $85. Each measures approximately 6 x 6 inches. There are approximately 3 hours of work involved and each is finished so that it can stand on a flat surface or be can be hung from a small nail or hook.

My new summer series involves winter wheat and hay fields in the Pelham and nearby area. I have incorporated hemp and flax fibres to build up rich textures in the foreground. Stay posted as I work on this large 16-section piece. Each image is approximately 12 x 12 inches.