Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Radical Elements

The proposal asked for projects related to the periodic table.  Each artist is to select one element to interpret.  And, for an interesting twist, we have been asked to create something using unusual or radical materials in our work.  This is quite a challenge for me because I just love textiles.  It pushes the edge of the meaning of quilt.  We are to take unusual materials and put them in layers and "stitch" them together conceptually and literally.

When this call for entries came up, I knew I had to try.  I used to be a research chemist, then chemistry teacher.  I LOVE the periodic table.  It would be so hard to choose just one element to propose.  Meanwhile, life brought together a confluence of events.

My inspiration for this project...
1. I am reading the Emperor of All Maladies.  It is about the history of cancer.  It is fascinating story full of heavy detailed facts personal stories, and political and science intrigue, all while combating biology.  A perfect combination!
2. It was time for my annual mammogram.
3.  Saw a great TED talk from Deborah Rhoades....Deborah Rhodes: A tool that finds 3x more breast tumors, and why it's not available to you
Except that talk is old now, and her new molecular breast imaging IS available now!  And not used much because most patients are unaware of the type of breast tissue that they have.  Mammograms can not detect tumors in dense breast tissue, it is like looking for a white mitten in a blizzard.  So, how do you detect these tumors?  Molecular Breast Imaging, MBI for short, and it uses a very special radioisotope, Technetium 99m. (Do you know what type of breast tissue you have?)
4.  And last, I know too many people affected by breast cancer, some survivors and many who did not survive.  I am dedicating this project to them all, and their families, and their friends.  

My proposal was accepted!  All that was left was to take my ideas and meld them into a work of art.  I leave you with a glimpse into my project.  This was the stage where I learned what a breadboard was, and how to use it. 



Monday, June 03, 2013

Rainbow Chickadees, and the story of commission piece.
12" x 39" each

I was contacted by a third party and requested to make two more pieces to go with this quilt that I made last year, the Lovebirds.
Lovebirds
It might seem like an obvious answer, YES, but that was not the case.  The size requested by the client was unusual, and an idea of what to do with it did not immediately come to mind.  And then there were the inevitable problems that I will just chalk up to the business part of making art for someone else. But the golden ring lie waiting for me to grasp; my art, in a public place, with a potential for bringing cheer to sick children, and/or taking the edge off the anxiety and fear of their parents....the new pieces were to hang at Cook's Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, TX. 

So, I set to work dreaming up an idea, and making a sketch.  I went out on a limb and proposed a slightly different size that I thought would make the design work better, and it was accepted!  And though they liked the design I submitted, the next stage was the waiting, waiting for the go-ahead to begin and the check for half up front to start.  Somewhere along the way, this step got delayed.  I knew how long it would take to make this project, and the timeline was shrinking fast.  I used the waiting time to complete a number of other projects that I had on my plate.  Then I got a call, a kind of plea, "do it now, please!!"  I got lucky because a window of free time had just opened in my schedule, and they practically over-nighted the check to me.  I was not going to be able to meet the original deadline, but they were open to extending it by a week or two, and so I set off.

Here was my proposal.  I would do this quilt twice, in mirror images....as they wanted these panels to hang on both sides of the original quilt.
I have to give a lot of credit to the person or people who opted to go with this.  Because though this mock up looks sort of cute, I think it pales in comparison to what the real work will look like, and significantly so.  Thank you for having trust in me!!

I thought you might be interested to see how I made the mock up.  I started by taping some of my real batiked blocks and flowers on a white background and took a photo of them.
Then, in Photoshop, I drew in the roofs, the vine, and some outlines around the roofs.  This task was made so easy with my Cintiq sketch pad and pen. 
Next, I selected everything that was white, and filled with a lovely blue, and while it was selected I picked a slightly different color of blue and used the paintbrush to do a sort of mottled wash over it.  This gave the appear of some texture, like a real fabric would have.  The last step was taking a photograph of a real quilted bird that I used on another quilt, isolating it, copy and paste. 


Of course, the resolutions were different, so I had to shrink the size of the bird to make it the right size, and then repeat 5 times to get enough birds.  Now the finished mock up has at least some elements that look like my actual work, compared to a line drawing that is colored in by hand.

Next, I went back to my records and found this.  It is a sample of all the fabrics I used on the first quilt.  I can't believe that I still have it, or was smart enough to make it in the first place.  It is a life saver!  Now, I have full confidence that I can make the new quilts have a similar feel to them by the selection of fabrics.

I went to my fabric stash and started collecting up the same blues.  I did not have enough of some of the fabrics, but I repeated every fabric that I did have and then added to the set with hues that were in between and slightly extending the range of values.  These were then cut into strips and sewn together.
I made two of them at the same time so that I could work on both panels. 

I though it might be nice, in keeping with the rainbow stripes on pole of the first quilt, to have rainbow houses and rainbow birds.  To help make the decision, I made a visual representation. Since I had the blue backgrounds pieced, I layered a piece of tracing paper on top.  I decided to make the houses a rainbow set, and make the birds have polka dot rainbow wings to go with the houses.


I then made paper copies of the birds.  I colored in the wings with rainbow hues, cut them out and played with the placement.    This changed the design slightly, in terms of placement, so that had to be worked out before I marked the vine, or started the quilting.



Here are the two panels, side by side, with the beginnings of the quilting on the right side piece.  I also had marked where the vine was going before sandwiching the quilt with the batting and backing and machine quilting.  I decided early on, that because of the intricacy of the vine and all the houses, it would be much easier to quilt the background first, and then add the rest of the elements.


The next step was to fuse the vine, the houses, and the flowers into place.  The vine was tricky.  If I cut the fabric strips on the bias of the fabric, they will bend into curves if pulled slightly and ironed them into that shape.  It takes a little practice, but it is pretty easy.  It got a little confusing when I wanted some of the vines to go under the houses, and some to curl on top of the houses.

And if you are wondering....I am a Mistyfuse girl!  I just love the stuff.  I find it so easy to work with and so versatile.  One of the nicest qualities is that I could heat it slightly, pull it back up, put the house down, and then re-fuse it into place.  Also, you can tell from this step, that it doesn't look that good yet.  Have a little faith!  It will get there!  The quilting and the birds and the handstitching will pull it all together!

Next, I took a side step, and started making the birds.  Now the fun starts!  I just loved working with the birds and their polka dotted wings!  I don't have photos of all the steps, but briefly I will tell you that it involves, tracing a template of each of the bird parts, the body, the wing, and the tail.  Next, sew the right sides together, with batting in between.  Make a cut through the back fabric, and turn the whole assemblage right side out.  I usually put a piece of fused fabric along the cut on the back, like a band-aid.  Next is to machine quilt the little bird pieces (this is difficult).  I also use felt for the bird beak and the tail, and these are placed in the little pieced sections before they are stitched together.  I trim the felt to the right shape and size after turning them right side out.  And, then I paint the bird heads with black fabric paint.  Here is a small row of bird bodies, pinned to my design wall so that their heads can dry without touching anything.
After they dry, I paint the eyes.  Here they are with wings, and a little late at night when I was getting punchy from too much coffee and M & M's.
And with all their body parts, though not quilted yet. What a colorful little flock!! Lovely! and inspiring!

Back to the quilt panels, I machine quilt the vines and the houses.  And then pin the birds to the quilt looking for their final placement.  I briefly worried while making the birds, which ones would face right, and which would face left???  Then I realized, that it didn't matter.  I was making mirror imaged panels, so I would need one of each, for each bird!  Easy!
Last a few closeups before the final photos...
You will notice some hand stitched elements, which add softness, color and texture.  I also opted not to add bird legs.  The quilt  has so much going on, that I liked the simplicity of the birds without legs better.
The last step, adding the bright blue binding, hanging tubes on the back and a label!
I am happy to present, Rainbow Chickadees....
Thanks for stopping by!