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!