Diaspora Update

I have lots of great photos to share about the last 4 weeks of my work on the diaspora art quilt project. My camera battery charger disappeared midway through September, causing a delay in photographing my progress. It’s been great to have the time to dedicate to the project. Tomorrow I start a full-time job, less time to quilt, so It’s a good thing I’ve gotten most of it done.

This is what the piece looks like with the silk laminated collage basted onto the cotton sateen hand-stamped with the hurricane-symbol shapes; at this point, I’ve started cutting away at the top using reverse applique to create depth, and at the very top you can see a white hurricane-symbol shape cut out of paper, placed there to see if it would be a good location for reverse applique.

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Here is a reverse applique shape cut out of the 2-layer quilt top; each of the applique shapes features a photo of New Orleans post-Katrina, and this photo features a banner suspended from a building, it reads “until we all come home”:

100315 blog 1Once I cut out 14 reverse appliques like the one above, each one needed to be couched with colored yarn to cover up the seam. Here’s the same applique, now couched with yarn I dyed:

100315 blog 4I used the shapes cut out from the top to create a spiral pattern on the back of the quilt:

100315 blog 5And once the backing was done, I spent 2 arduous days basting the top and the back together with wool batting in the middle; once basted, I started quilting, and this is the result so far: I think you’ll agree that the quilting line really makes the collage “pop” out. I’m really pleased with the results so far!

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Diaspora: A New Art Quilt Project

SAQA is the Studio Art Quilt Associates, a membership organization devoted to promoting and advancing the cause of the art quilt. I’ve been a member for about 3 years. They do a great job of sponsoring art quilt shows around the world.  There’s an October 31 deadline for a show in Washington, D.C, and the theme is diaspora. I’m thinking of entering a piece.

Diaspora is not the most uplifting theme, admittedly, but if you’ve read any of my recent posts and noticed the dearth of posts due to my dad’s death, well, you wouldn’t have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to figure I haven’t been in the most upbeat of moods lately. Add prolonged unemployment to the list of woes and perhaps it’s understandable how the theme might be attractive to me at this time.

When I think of Diaspora I think of the excellent and moving eponymous recording by Natacha Atlas. I’ve been listening to that recording while looking through images  I can use in an art quilt that expresses the themes of displacement and loss that inevitably occur to people who are forced or stolen from their homes, because without a home you are vulnerable to, among other things, violence, brutality, exploitation and death: as you can imagine, this is not an upbeat topic!

I have a photo of the end of the rail line at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which I took 20 years ago during a trip to Poland.  And I have a photo with a similar perspective line of the Lincoln memorial as seen from Arlington National Cemetery. I figure taking on both the Jewish diaspora and the African diaspora is a bold place to start. I mapped out an enlarged version of the Birkenau photo on paper to see how it looks:

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I started filling in the outline with torn up pieces of photocopies of the photo:

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Here’s a closer photo:

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Once I get to the Lincoln Memorial I’ll post more. But in the meantime, I have a lot of paper to rip up into tiny pieces. And once the collage is done, it will be transferred to silk.

New Paper and Silk Lamination Project: Wild Cotton

Last year, the year I didn’t blog, was hell.  But I did manage to take photos then with the idea I’d do art again one day. I took this photo at Sabino Canyon last October, during an unusual fall wildflower bloom. This is wild cotton, and for more info on the plant check out this helpful blog:

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I’ve blogged before about a very cool technique to make fabric, using color photocopies and transferring the pigment from the copy to fabric. It’s been ages since I’ve done any art, and the time finally is right, so since getting back from Santa Fe I’ve been working on this project. I took the above photo, along with a few others, and made photocopies which I then turned into a collage. Here is the roughly 18″ x 24″ collage outside ready to be laminated to silk. I like to work outside for this part of the process as it can be messy.

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I then pinned silk organza over the collage, and used some tape as well.

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I then screen-printed acrylic gel medium over silk-covered collage; and then I quickly rinsed off my screen and squeegee, as acrylic gel medium dries super fast. The collage dried in about 10 minutes in our hot summer sun. The next step is to remove all the paper, so that all is left is a lovely piece of silk—with a collage transferred on to it. I start the paper removal process manually; this is the piece looking at it from the back. You can see all the bits of masking tape used to adhere all the little pieces of photocopy paper together in the collage:

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Once I’ve pulled all the paper off I can by hand, the piece is soaked in cool water for about 10 minutes, and then I use a scrubber to gently remove the paper. Gently. I’ve scraped a hole in silk before so….be…..careful….when….scrubbing! And note the sieve. Personally, few things drive me nuttier than wet paper. It’s gummy and sticky. After a little bit of scrubbing, the fabric goes back in a tub of cool water for a rinse, and then is returned to the scrubbing table for more scrubbing. I pour all the used water through a sieve to strain out the paper and dispose of it properly. Never be tempted to dump any of this stuff down your sink. It will clog in a way you likely can’t imagine so don’t do it!

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This is the finished piece:

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I am inspired by how translucent this piece is, and it’s an impetus for me to use this technique for a piece I hope to finish in time to enter in a nationally juried show. More on that next time!

Project Projection

This is how it starts when it comes to making shadow shapes: the overhead projector gets dragged into the living room. This is the biggest shadow shape I’m using, here it’s projected on some Pellon True Grid taped to the wall. I outlined it with a sharpie, cut it out, and pinned it on top of a large piece of shiny nylon tulle. I put stabilizer on the back of the quilt top; here I am feeding the shape through my machine and sewing the outline:

Pinning everything together and laying it out requires my large braided rug to be used as a work surface:

The next step: dyeing yarn for the outlines for the shapes. I’m using bright colors to liven things up; the piece is a bit gray so far.  The largest shape requires 20 feet of yarn. I’ll dye small amounts of fabric or yarn in my kitchen sink:

The first completed shape is orange and it’s on the left side: it’s meant to be subtle.

I’m sewing down the second outline now….updates soon.

New Piece!

I finished the most recent piece I was working on; I wanted it done so I could photograph it and submit it to the member show at the Tubac Center for the Arts this December.

Last time I posted, I’d straightened up the quilted desert marigold piece. This past week, I picked up where I left off.

I used a zig-zag stitch to attach 4 strips of quilt batting to each side of the marigold center, making a large rectangle; I then put a piece of yellow fabric on the bottom for the backing, and I cut matching strips of the fabric I dyed last week on top of the strips of newly attached batting. Here you can see the quilt sandwich in process, I’ve just started laying down the pressed strips of fabric on top:

Once I attached a strip, I machine quilted it with an abstract stipple pattern; I guess this is the “quilt as you go” part of the process:

Then I cut 4 strips of green fabric from my hand dyed “stash” of fabric, the green strips bring out the green flower stems; I carefully measured and placed each strip over the areas where the raw edges of the fabric were exposed. Then, I straightened up all 4 sides:

Finally, the last step is the binding. There is apparently some sort of quilt sprite or elf at work in my studio space, because out of nowhere I found a pre-assembled binding strip, abandoned from a prior project. Finding this saved me a bit of time! I’ve always liked a black binding with faint polka-dots. I think it’s my universal binding and I tend to use that fabric often for bindings. I just had to press the binding strip I found (it was perfectly long enough) and then draw a 1/2 seam allowance line along the length of the strip to keep me on track as I sewed it down:

Here is the almost-finished piece: not the best photo, as you can’t see the entire binding, but it is straight and hangs nicely: all I have left to do is whip-stitch the binding to the back of the quilt. This was good enough to photograph and submit to the Tubac show.

I would’ve probably gotten more done this week, but Thursday night I made 15 pounds of German potato salad for a big family reunion this weekend in St. David, Arizona; my mother’s 9 siblings and some of their families are in town for a memorial service for my maternal grandmother, who died earlier this summer. Luckily I have a big enough fridge to accommodate all 15 pounds. I also roasted a turkey breast (sadly, I could only afford a commercial factory bird) and made cranberry sauce.

Now it’s time to put it all in a cooler and get ready for a long weekend with family!

Quilt-As-You-Go Part 2

Well, I finished last week’s quilt-as-you-go sample and it turned out really good. I was inspired: finally, I’ve found a solution to a problem that’s been dogging me a while. I started straightening up my quilt piece:

Here it is, nice and even:

I needed some fabric that would make a good border, so I made up a new batch of dye concentrates, I think I mix up the same 7–8 most of the time:

And out to my wet studio I go…..ha ha ha:

I sponged on layers of dye; the fabric was soaked in soda ash water first, then wrung out. The initial dye application was blurry, but as the fabric dried (remember, it’s very dry and hot here) the sponge marks became more distinct. This is what the fabric looked like mid-way through the process:

Here’s the fabric as it rests for a few hours to let the dye work it’s way into the fabric even more:

I also dyed some black and white fabric for the binding. This fabric turned out really interesting, it looks almost skeletal: this is just one piece of fabric scrunched and dyed in black dye:

I attached strips of batting to my quilted piece, then made my quilt sandwich with fabric on the back, batting, and now strips of my newly dyed fabric; here’s how it looked as I was assembling it:

And here it is now that I’ve machine quilted 3 sides of it:

One more piece to go, then I’ll attach the strips and voila, I think I’ll have found the perfect setting for my desert marigolds.