I would love to find discussions that address my current artistic quandary: at what point do you want to/should you defer to the opinions of others when they have a very different take on your work than your own? I refer specifically to work you feel much more positively about than others do. And you respect the opinions of these others.
Case in point, my current piece that I’ve named “The Left Coast.” It is based on my memories of Big Sur in California, though it’s meant to be evocative rather than representative. I chose to focus on the cliffs rather than the ocean.
I began with a drawing that I turned into templates after enlarging it with the old fashioned grid method. Then I went through my stock of hand dyed fabric.
I had a subtle set of gray/purples from Vicki Welsh (she calls it thistle) that I thought would work well. Other gradients dyed by her and batiks completed my choices for the cliffs. The sky/water was more vexing. I tried three different blue and purple gradients, all of which overpowered the cliffs. I resorted to a pastel batik (no idea where I got it, maybe Lunn Fabrics?) that I spent a lot of time recoloring with Neocolor II pastel crayons. At one point I decided the piece was turning into a painting.
The piece is now sandwiched for quilting. I am using a pieced top I could never get to work right for the backing. It’s part of my use it up campaign.
I suspect time will be the ultimate arbiter of whether “The Left Coast” is good art or variations on a bruise. It may be my opinion is like loving a man that all your friends say is bad news. When hindsight shows he was a jerk and it’s a good thing you didn’t marry him, your friends were right. Luckily, the quilt is just fabric and the consequences of misjudging its worth are minimal.
Tucked away in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, east of Pittsburgh, is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces. Fallingwater was built for the Kaufman family in the 1930s as their summer retreat. Its setting is fantastical – partly suspended over a waterfall – and totally impractical. It is a triumph of vision over reality.
For my birthday this year my husband arranged a trip there. We drove by such tourist attractions as Jellystone Park (Yogi Bear’s home) to reach the long drive up to the visitors center. Timed small group tours take you through the main house and guest house. The house has 9,300 square feet, which seems large, but 4,400 of those feet are outdoor terraces. In fact, the interiors are expansive, but not much larger than one of today’s suburban homes. The common areas flow into each other, but bedrooms and studies provide privacy. This computer graphics video will give you an idea of how the house fits into its site.
An incredible amount of labor and reinforced concrete went into construction, and some of the techniques Wright used were untested. The visitors center has a fascinating display on the building process. As was usual with Wright projects, the original construction cost estimate of $35,000 ballooned to $148,000. Our guide told us that the annual maintenance costs alone now come to about $4 million. Wright’s beloved flat roofs create a lot of problems, as do the stucco exteriors.
Still, it was wonderful to immerse myself in the home. Videos cannot prepare you for the effect of Wright’s cramped staircases exploding into light infused expansive rooms. Since Wright was a control freak who decreed every detail, excluding the dining room chairs (the Kaufmans won that battle,) you get a chance to see his artistic vision realized. I have been in contemporary design homes with flounced curtains, so I have some sympathy for his dictatorial ways. Another Wright trick was to have almost all the furniture built in so the owner couldn’t rearrange it.
I don’t know how livable the house is, but I’d be willing to try it out. The only part I really have doubts about is the open steps off the living area terrace that go down to the stream. It’s one of many features that aren’t ADA compliant. And one more defect – very limited closet space would require severe pruning of personal stuff.
One of my favorite surface design tools is thermofax screens. These screens are sort of like silk screens, but a lot easier to use. You need fabric paint or ink, fabric or paper, some kind of squeegee (an old credit card will do,) and a container of water large enough to hold your screen once you use it. If you clean the screen promptly it should last a while. If you don’t, it gets clogged and you can’t push ink through.
You can buy such screens online from several venders. You can also make them yourself IF you have a thermofax machine, an obsolete piece of technology used in schools a long time ago. The ones I used this month came from Susan Purney Mark. I like them because they are asemic writing, something I have struggled with doing. I printed on top of painted and dyed scraps (I think some were mop up cloths, aka rags) and old linen napkins. I also printed on tissue and paper, and found that works well.
I branched out to use stencils for printing as well.
And while the paint was out, I did gelli printing on Pellon 830 easy pattern with hand made stencils.
What happens to these experiments? Most wait patiently in the closet to be chosen for the right piece. Many are subjected to more surface design, which often improves them though some end up in the trash. One experiment with toilet paper roll printing has become a throw pillow after free motion quilting.
Bloomin’ is defined as “just a casual swear word” by The Urban Dictionary, and I used a few while quilting Rhody. As I recounted in an earlier post, I have been developing an impressionistic floral piece made with fabrics I had dyed, painted, and printed.
My original plan called for an undulating circular walking foot quilting design in several thread colors. Then, I decided to create the illusion of leaves around the edges. I had already reached the limits of walking foot quilting on the circular part, so I knew FMQ was the only way I could do leaves.
It turned out there was a lot more edge area to quilt than I had thought, so the FMQ went on for a few days, to allow my shoulders and temper time to recover. I tried several thread colors and weights to emphasize the leaves more, but I declared it was good enough when I found myself quilting the same leaves more than twice. Of course I managed to catch a bit of the excess backing fabric in the quilting, but the facing will cover that up. Only you and I will know about it.
I used seed stitch and french knots to give the flower center texture. It was backed with fusible fleece and satin stitched to the already quilted top.
Here are detail shots, plus a view of the back. As always, the back was made with whatever fabrics I had that were large enough. I pay attention to nice backs for working quilts, but not for wall art.
Of course the really boring chores – facing and hanging sleeve – remain. The fabrics are measured and cut, but sewing them on will await a time when I get stuck on my next new project and need thinking time.