Revisiting the Unknown Family

About a year ago I began a project that involved unlabeled family photos. I envisioned a three part series featuring groups of people, women, and children; all with no identifying names. After finishing one with groups of people I stopped working on the series as I hit a mental block. I just couldn’t make them into art quilts, and the colors were very muted. That was understandable as I was working with old linens. However, I wasn’t ready to take on a huge amount of embroidery to add color, and I wanted to keep the vintage theme.

All I know is that the people in the photos lived in Ireland or Manitoba.

A week ago I hauled out the remaining women and children photos and set to work on developing visually pleasing layouts. I realized that these won’t be art quilts, but are more fabric scrapbook pages. Once I made my peace with that I was able to find a way forward.

The women piece features a wallpaper sample, a linen napkin, pillowcase ends, a hankie, lace, old photos, and crocheted pins.

I had done natural dying on the old pillowcase some years ago, so I was stuck with the muck green color. The central photo may be one of my mother’s cousins. I know it’s not as old as the surrounding photos, which were probably taken in Ireland. The original of the stern matron has the name of a photographer in Letterkenny, Donegal, at the bottom. The crocheted pins were made by a friend of my parents, while the flower filled oval came from a scrap I was given.

I’m not thrilled with how dark some of the photos are, but I don’t have the originals to scan in and edit.

While I still have some hand tacking of edges to do, in my book the women are done.

I can’t say the same for the children. The photos are a mix of studio portraits and casual snapshots. The latter are under or over exposed, but again I don’t have the negatives. The fabrics here are another linen napkin, an embroidered small pillowcase given to me by a friend, hand knit mittens and a hand embroidered bib that may have been made for me. There’s no one left I can ask.

I think it needs an edge treatment but I have nothing suitable.

So, one will go back in my undone pile, while two will go in the completed pile. These aren’t works to be entered in a show. For one thing, shipping would be difficult as they can’t be rolled up or folded. For another, they aren’t works of art, but family mementos. Maybe I can convince one of my cousins they are perfect for their family photo wall.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

8 Comments

Filed under In Process, mixed media

8 responses to “Revisiting the Unknown Family

  1. These really show off your great eye for composition. Such good use of all the elements and photographs. Isn’t it interesting how we see things after we stepped away for some time.

  2. Norma Schlager

    Yes they are works of art. Something to be treasured. I love how you put them all together to make a cohesive work.

    • I appreciate your opinion. If I were to do it over, I’d get the original photos, scan them, and adjust the tones to go together better. I’d also try to correct under and over exposures.

  3. I really like this idea and think that they are works of art!

  4. Very artistic use of old linens, lace and photos.

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