Monday 24 August 2009

Lunaria (Pearlessence)

Now I've collected my quilt from the Festival of Quilts, I'll describe part of the process of making it. The theme was Pearl Essence and I based it on honesty seed pods collected from the garden. I'd already explored possibilities of using pearlescent paint for this subject in journal quilts last year and for this piece I used Photoshop to try out different scenarios of layers and level of opacity. My rather ambitious idea was to have very large floating seed cases as a top layer with 2 layers beneath to give detailed texture -it didn't quite work out like that and in the end this quilt is a compromise but I enjoyed the huge amount of problem solving along the way and reasonably pleased with the results.
'Lunaria' Finished quilt

Stage 1
The basal layer of the quilt is composed of a large pieced section of greys I made several years ago while demonstrating 'chop and swap' block construction.The section above this is an image of honesty printed on on 4 sheets of treated cotton in 2x 2 'poster' printing mode, then sown together. The wonderfully appropriate batiks are commercial ones . The main vase is a Japanese textured fabric applied then the fabric behind cut out. The quilt was then layered with wadding and backing and quilted with Madeira FS metallic thread ('tigerseye') including extending the branches and stems into the vase area. Then using liquitex iridescent medium and cream acrylic paint I painted all the individual honesty seed heads. I decided 2 more vases were needed -these were painted with Golden micaceous iron oxide to give the effect of pewter. Lots of hand seeding with 'mystique' cotton perle thread (from Out of Africa) was added.
People always want to know 'how long did it take'. Well I got to this stage in May having started in January. Then I was stuck. I could have entered it as it was but it was too safe and conventional - I wanted to push it further but how?

Layer 2 Trial
I'd printed out an image of honesty on 16 sheets of treated organza using 4 x 4 poster printing mode. At this scale the image is a bit pixelly but as ink bleeds on organza anyway this did not worry me too much. I tried it out by pinning some of the sheets and also using various Photoshop manipulations and came to the conclusion that I could use either this second organza layer or a third paint layer but not both. As the theme was pearlessence (and I'd already sent it the quilt description!) I went for the 3rd layer .
The idea of launching directly into a painted top layer with no chance of alteration was too scary even for me so compromised on cutting out seed pod shapes in organza and moving them around. I tried a variety of sizes and Photoshop image manipulations but they looked too blobby!
Back to the drawing board
In the end I went back to the old fashioned method with tracing paper- printing out a photo
of stage 1 and with the vase of honesty in front of me drawing the shapes mainly using the existing stems on the quilts to connect them. There's nothing like direct observation especially as it had been several months since I'd first sketched them. Using this as the basis I cut out seed head shapes in organza and stitched these on by machine( 3 rows then cutting back the excess)
I then painted most of these with pearlescent and Golden interference (fine) paints. And with deadlines looming, squared it up and put the facing binding on.
By the time I was packing it up to post (and making a bag to put it in ) I was feeling pretty ropey - the start of Swine Flu

Proud Creator

It's always an interesting process scaling up. It ended up being more pictorial and less abstract than I'd originally intended , the biggest compromise being the size of those top seed cases - I would really have preferred them much larger but without a mid layer there would have been no connection to what was beneath. I intend to use that abandoned mid layer (it was a lot of work! ) as the basis of another piece - and paint those large ovals on top.

Despite neglecting to put a flap over the label it was judged. Mostly a mixture of good and satisfactory with excellent for surface design and originality from 2 out of 3 of the judges.
and mainly positive comments. What hacked me off a bit was that it was marked as only satisfactory in fulfilling the theme.What did they want - obvious pearls?? Given the winner that is exactly what they were looking for ..... For a variety of reasons I'm not sure I'll be entering the Quilters Guild Challenge again.


Fibrenell said...

Your quilt is beautiful -thank you so much for detailing your thought process and stages in photos. I'm into translucency at the moment, and just love your pods on top.
Well worth all your effort.

Sandra Wyman said...

As I said to you in person I love it - definitely one of my top favourites from the show and definitely worth more "excellents".
I've never yet not had peculiar comments/marks from at least one judge.

Great to see how it got there.

The WestCountryBuddha said...

Fantastic post, thank you so much for sharing your methods and thought processes. It's interesting to follow your ideas to the concluding end and I have to say the quilt is fabulous, and I appreciate it even more now.

On a separate note, I so understand your reactions to the judges comments. I didn't enter a quilt last year for very similar reasons. I find some of the comments I've had banal, unprofessional, and missing the point completely. I think art quilts should be judged by artists, but I realise that not every one agrees with me! This year, although I did put in one made in 2008 (I had no others available) I have told myself that I am going to put the comments straight into the bin without looking at them. Why upset myself?

Jasmine said...

What a magnificent quilt. You certainly achieved your goal as I thought of honesty as soon as I saw the picture on my blog roll. Wow. All things inspired by nature strike me as beautiful. Thank you for sharing the creative process.

carorose said...

Don't be put off by the comments of the judges you are working in a newish medium and this is to be expected. You are in good company if you look at the work of some other artists. Art is very subjective. Just keep in there, you have a a very individual voice that is your own. Do it for yourself.

Olga Norris said...

I enjoyed seeing your quilt, and I find the process interesting. I can see the inspiration of McKeever there too.

I think that all the competition quilts suffer from the way they are hung, and inevitably cause problems for judges who have to come up with comments on so many quilts. I was disappointed with the winner in that category - but the responses to theme, design, and even execution in non traditional making methods are just so subjective when it comes to judging.

If the festival was of fruit, and the challenge was the apple category - any choice between Cox and Gala comes down to taste in the end!

I like your quilt very much, and I also understand your decision not to participate in the competition in future.

magsramsay said...

Thanks for all the positive comments. I should clarify that although I probably will not be competing in the Guild Challenge in the future I will be entering entering quilts in the 'Art Quilt' category. My issues with the Guild Challenge is that as it is a real mixture of styles ,my perception is that it gets judged conservatively - I hope to have a better understanding from the Art Quilt judges. You would think with less quilts submitted in the Guild Challenge there would be more chance of winning but with the substantial prize on offer it can't help but attract the professional.
I thought this years winner in this category was frankly ugly particularly when compared to her earlier work and her winning piece last year (which I loved)

Digitalgran said...

Your quilt was one of my favourites, but I didn't know it was yours until I read this. If it's any consolation I was with 4 other women going round the exhibition and you would not believe how differently we all felt about every single one. So it really is a matter of personal preference and we all like different things.

QuiltandDagger said...

Your quilt is fabulous. You are a talented artist. Sometimes I think quilt judges want to discourage quilters.