Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Earth Stories, Part Five

One last counting story.  I decided to count the attic.  I had boxes and boxes of teaching curriculum stored up there, along with a number of other things... But, I didn't get to it until summer.  And the summers in Texas are really hot, and even hotter in the attic.  The heat was so intense, I was only able to count for about 10 minutes before I had to escape to air conditioning.  And then it took hours to recover from it.  I drank water while I was there, but it didn't help much.  So, I am sure that my number is artificially low. For example, instead of counting all the papers, I counted how many files of papers.  A lot of unused items came out of the attic and on to recycling, or donation.  I am pretty sure the heat is destroying most of what is up there anyway.  In retrospect, I wish I had done the attic first, in the cooler months.

On to making the quilt. I was planning to make a floor plan of my house, and then use tally marks to represent the number of objects.  It would be fun to color code, either by location or type of object.  I also thought it would be really interesting to see how many objects were made from non-renewable resources vs. renewable resources, but I didn't collect that information during the count.  Then as I thought about what the quilt would look like, if it were me, I would be super curious about what all those tally marks would actually represent.  That's when I decided to tell my viewers what was in my house.  That's when the project went to a mostly text image.  It was also an incredibly uncomfortable experience to share that information, which is partly the reason I decided to push my comfort levels and just do it.

We were required to make two quilts.  One was 72" x 72".  The other was 12" x 14" in a vertical format.  I started on the big one first. I pieced together two pieces of white fabric to make the correct size, and then drew lines lightly with pencil every 1" across the entire surface:
I also made a very small sample.  I used it to test different pens for writing on fabric and different paints and inks.  I found a pen that both worked well and did not run or fade with water.  I also tried a number of writing styles and decided on the scale of my work.  I measured how many letters I wrote on average just to get an idea of how many words I would be writing.
Here's a photo of a section of the large piece hanging on my design wall.  It shows the beginnings, with just the lines.
Then I made a long list of words on my computer.  I listed things from memory for each room and then when back later and added in words for things that I didn't remember.  In this way I came up with a list long enough to fill the space on the quilt (and slightly more).  I ironed freezer paper to the back and taped it to a table and started drawing the letters.
I wanted my words to all run together, like all the objects in the house.  But, I also wanted to be able to read them easily.  So, I decided to paint the first letter of every word with red fabric paint.  I thought it added a nice touch of symbolism, as in 'red ink', to refer to the financial implications of buying so much stuff...
Then I found an old blueprint of my house, and enlarged it by a factor of 4.  I drew in lines behind the words and filled in with blue paint.
Next, I added in giant block numbers at the bottom, the total number for the count....which I will not reveal yet.  After the show opens at the first venue, I will be able to post full sized photos of my piece, so we shall have to wait for that!

Then, to finish up, I quilted it.  I quilted in straight lines on top of the pencil lines I had drawn previously.  Then I used a simple white facing to finish the edges, a hanging tube and a label on the back.  All done!

For the smaller quilt I used the same technique, but a slightly different concept.  I worked with my original inspiration of Manufactured Demand, from the Story of Stuff.  I focused on the issue of bottled water.  It is an incredible tale of needless waste (no judgment here! ha!).  You can see the video here. And, I am pleased to say that the city of San Francisco has passed a law to ban the sale of bottled water.  Yay for small steps!  For the quilt, I listed lots of water brands, and then put a message behind the words, and added a small embellishment.  For now, here's a close up of the small quilt..

Thanks for stopping by.  Hope that I have not needlessly bored you will my tales of counting!


Tonya Littmann said...

Wow! I love the concept! Can't wait to see the whole quilt.

Rebecca said...

I recently shamed a friend into using travel cups and the already filtered water in her house rather than flats of bottles. Off to the link now.

Maybe art work "should" speak for itself, but I find much more meaning when the artist talks about it. That's quite a story behind your quilt!

kathy york said...

Tonya and Rebecca,
Thanks so much for your comments. This project was quite a departure from my normal work and it is so good to hear some positive responses to it! Thank you!

Rachel Parris said...

Can't wait to see it! What a massive, gut-wrenching project. I followed on your blog and couldn't imagine how you were going to show this to us. Can you/will you tell me how you drew the blue lines BEHIND the words you had already written?

kathy york said...

I'll make you a little youtube video and post it! thanks!