I have long maintained that flowers have little to no place in my work. I love flowers in a garden or a vase, but haven’t been drawn to them as subjects for my work. So, I was surprised that I based a piece now under construction on flowers, rhododendrons specifically. Each May I see the bold magenta floral clusters of those plants in the yards of the older houses in my neighborhood. I don’t know if they’ve gone out of fashion, but I don’t see them in newer developments. Of course, that color would give one pause and they like shade.
But I didn’t start my floral project with the shrub in mind. Instead, I began with a surfeit of high flow quinacridone magenta acrylic paint that I decided to splash on scraps of tablecloths, muslin, PFD cotton, and fabric already printed with bell pepper. Then after I noticed all the rhodies in my neighborhood I came up with a scheme to make a piece with a floral theme out of all that painted fabric cut into squares.
To the magenta fabric I added squares (including an old sheet) painted with green, yellow-green, and yellow; plus fabric monoprinted with Inktense colors. Once I had the squares arranged to my liking I added thin bias strips of fused fabric. I know that my inspiration shrub doesn’t have skinny leaves, but let’s pretend bindweed has clambered up on it.
The new color palette I became enamoured of is that used by Zoe Zenghelis, a painter who pioneered an appreciation of the role of color in architectural design. The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh has mounted an exhibit of her paintings, which introduced me to her work. You can read a review of the exhibit below.
Now, I don’t grasp all the architectural aspects of her work, but I do love the shapes and clear, melting colors she uses. I was transported to an alternative universe through her paintings.
I hope to experiment with my paints to achieve similar effects. Maybe I can learn some subtlety.
It’s so easy to get tangled up in choices when I design a piece. Since my starting point is usually rough, at best, many shape and color decisions still need to be made. And it’s easy to slip into not seeing the forest for the trees territory.
I finished quilting my four scrappy medallion log cabins so I rewarded myself with a new start, based on a Spoonflower printed photo of a dry stone wall that encloses a local landmark.
I pulled possible additional fabrics and painted pieces of an old shirt and sheet. Then I pinned them up.
After I looked at them for about two months I thought of an approach to that wall fabric – make several narrowly separated stacks. I used most of the fabric in the above photo. The Marcia Derse and some teal curtain fabric were dropped. I created bias strips of yellow/red/orange to break up the dark area. At this point the piece measures about 45 inches long by 19 inches high.
Now comes the point I’m stuck at. I want to use narrow strips of a gradient fabric by Vicki Welsh between each stack. Right now my plan is to angle the edges of each stack, and possibly have the stacks at slightly different heights. But, before I cut more fabric I need to decide which way to run the gradient – top to bottom or left to right. Then, I need to decide if I want solid strips across the top and bottom and, if so, what colors.
I’m hoping you’ll have some opinions that will prod my thinking. Some possibilities work for color, but don’t necessarily contribute to the story. The story here is the impression you get of this wall as you drive by it on the street that runs parallel to it.
I’ve thought of blue for sky but the blue fabric I have is too strong and draws attention away from the trees. Below are some options I’ve pinned up. Most show only a few of the stacks as the insert fabric won’t stretch across the whole piece and I don’t want to cut it up and then change my mind.
I can understood if you’re confused at this point. If nothing else let me know which options you think really don’t work. I’ve become like a toddler – just give me two options for my outfit. Otherwise I’ll dither forever.
One last point about this piece – the printed fabric photographs much less vividly than the other fabrics. IRL the colors are stronger. Maybe the type of printing process used caused this?
Mid-2021 I wrote down a rough list of possible projects: Sail – Greece, turquoise circles, unknown family, and pink prints. I finished the first two and began the third, which left the enigmatic pink prints. At some point during lockdown I played with coloring fabric and color catcher scraps with high flow quinacridone magenta acrylic paint. (Warning, it has the fluidity of milk and moves just as fast when spilled.) Some I stenciled with Payne’s grey paint. On others I printed birds from a thermofax screen. They joined my pile of experiments.
Rather than come to grips with the puzzle of how to combine photos and fabric for my unknown family pieces, I decided it was time to play with pink. I really wanted to use the birds, which were printed on synthetic satin. Up on the design wall went my bits. I decided to add warm browns for trees as the stencil was of tree branches.
From the base of pink and trees I added more scraps and came up with this. It seemed I had lots of tree trunks in my future.
I realized that fusing was the way to go for the number of trees I had in mind, so I sewed together a base with chunks joined by gentle curves. I also added more tree branch stenciling to the sky and combined two large scraps in the upper left.
To add variety I added three house shapes and a large sun. I can’t claim credit for that idea as I saw a treed landscape painting that was given focus by a large orb, and thought the same could work for me. I was still trying to fit those birds in.
Finally I had to face the reality that the birds weren’t suited to the piece as it developed, so they are back on the shelf.
Quilting has begun, and the pink prints have become “If You Go Into the Woods Today.”
Ever since I took Tansy Hargan’s “From Sketchbook to Wall” course I have wanted to use painted fabric on a larger scale than 10 inches square, with a lot more glue, and maybe even forget about thread. In essence I wanted to move from a three layer quilt to fabric collage. Restrictions on the amount of time I can spend actually sewing spurred me to combine a photo printed on fabric with leftover hunks of cut up clothing already painted with acrylic. The painted hunks, ripped and rough with some curled edges, are stuck on a foundation with matte medium. The result is quite stiff and grungy.
My starting point was a fabric printed photo taken by Penny and a dye experiment leftover from a theatrical costume.
I sewed the dye experiment to the photo and backed it with iron-on nonwoven interfacing. Then I started to position the hunks, adding bits of painted heavy non-fusible interfacing from my experiments pile.
More pinning bought me to this stage.
I think I’ll add a bit of sewing to make sure the pieces stay in place, though how much I add will be a function of how difficult it is to sew over the stiff surface. I may also add bits of paint.
I want to thank Julie Fei-Fan Balzar and her blog for introducing me to Margo Hoff. That post has tons of photos of Hoff’s work, so I recommend you check there for a visual feast. Hoff painted canvas fabric with vivid solid colors and then cut it up to make multi layer collages on canvas. Color, curves, transparency – her work has everything I want to do.
I’m in the middle of a two week online class on textile creation given by Tansy Hargan, a British landscape architect and textile artist. It’s called From Sketchbook to Wall, which is an accurate description. We began with en plein air sketches of nature or built environments, moved on to thumbnail collages of the sketches, and then to transformation of clothing to fabrics for our final pieces.
I signed up for the course to get a different approach to textile art, and I’m getting different with a vengeance. We were to unpick old clothes with a seam ripper, paint them with acrylic until stiff, and add marks to our fabrics in a variety of ways.
Unpicking old clothes palled quickly, and I used men’s shirts I had already cut up plus remnants from my hoard. I combined textile and acrylic paints to use what was on hand, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around deliberately making my fabric stiff. All my past effort to preserve a soft hand in painted fabric made me cringe at the paper like results, but the advantage of that stiffness became apparent later during mark making. Some of the techniques were new to me and possible only because the fabric was stiff. Tansy demoed a variety of ways to mark fabric, including photocopying (stiffness is essential) and carbon paper. I wasn’t brave enough to run sheets of fabric through my brand new printer, but other students did that successfully.
Then it was on to reverse applique, hand stitching, and free motion stitching. Again, this is roughly done and fraying is encouraged.
I’m now at the point of actually composing and fusing the base layer of my 9 inch squares on top of old cotton sheeting covered with WonderUnder. We are to rip/cut our fabrics and arrange them on the fusible surface, inspired by our thumbnail collages.
I am saving the last two videos about stitching and further layering until I make more base layers. I suspect I’m overthinking the fabric arrangements, but it’s quite fiddly to get the little bits to stay put as you fuse them. After my ironing disaster I’ve made sure to use a silicone mat.