Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Five Projects: Finding Inspiration

As you know, I can't share images of the project I'm calling "tall me." I will share some bits of inspiration. I'd really been thinking a lot about two paintings by Rene Magritte.

A Friend of Order, 1964

September 16, 1957

I really love both these paintings. I loved visiting the Magritte Museum in Belgium two summers ago. Check out the mirror in the bathroom of the museum!

I like the mood and color palette in these paintings -- and many of Magritte's other works. I also love the moon sitting there in the mysterious space between foreground and background. It reminds me a bit of Sheep Jones' paintings with chandeliers.

Shed and Chandelier 8, 2011

Another thing I love about all these pieces is the symmetry of the compositions.  It reminds me of films by Wes Anderson. He is known for creating stunning symmetrical shots in all of his films. Here is a still from Moonrise Kingdom.

The staircases, the arched doors, the board game, the chair and the couch... I just love it! Oh and that wallpaper! Here is a delightful short video that shows many more examples of symmetry in Wes Anderson's movies. 

So... I'm thinking about all that. Magritte's trees, silhouette, color, mood, composition, Sheep's chandelier, other kinds of lights and illumination, Moonrise Kingdom, our trip to Belgium, where I stand in the world... or sit cross legged at the bottom of the stairs.

And then I sketch and start cutting up fabric.

I did some handwriting as surface design for a small area for the art quilt.

I auditioned embroidery floss for hand stitching.

At this point, the top is done. I've begun hand embroidery. That means it's really time to get the next project into the design phase. I work well if I have one piece being designed in the studio and one piece being stitched upstairs by the tv.

Tactile Architecture


Coming Up Roses

Tall Me
See above!

Festival of Quilt Art: Home
Must get into the fabric today or tomorrow. Must.

One More
I'll tell you about it later this week.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Finishing Radiation

I finished another of the five projects! Hooray. One of the last steps was to finish the edges. I decided to add a wide fused green binding to the bottom edge and coordinating fused binding to the other edges.

Here's the bottom binding. Umm... not quite right.

Simple fix. Much better.

That additional free motion stitching softens the line between the brown and the green and ties in the mustard color of the stones.

So, here it is all finished. It's called Radiocarbon Dating: Oldest Living Tree.

Here are some detail shots. Some of those flower shapes are stamped with red paint, some simply stitched with red thread and one is red fabric. The eye should follow the red flower, to the red line in the graph, then to the red in the carbon molecule.

I really enjoyed the hand embroidery in the foreground section.

This chart represents the rate of decay of carbon-14. The white dot (French knot) represents where this tree would fall on the graph.

Here's a carbon-14 molecule. You can also see my fused blue binding. I took some additional yellow stitches over the binding to continue the trail of the electrons around the nucleus.

Close up of the nucleus (the large tulle circle), the protons (the blue circles with the yellow plus sign), the neutrons (the red circles) and the electrons (the painted yellow circles with the yellow stitched lines showing their paths around the nucleus).

The tree goes by the name "old tjikko" and is 9,550 years old. That info is stitched here. (The blue in this picture is less accurate.)

One last close up showing a bit of one of the clouds and some of the location of the tree, Dalarna, Sweden.

This quilt will be mailed off to Europe tomorrow for it's premier at the International Conference of Radiation Safety.

Are you wondering how it fits the radiation theme? To date an artifact, scientists use radiation detectors to measure carbon-14. After an organism dies, carbon-14 continues to decay without being replaced. To measure the amount of radiocarbon left in a artifact, scientists burn a small piece to convert it into carbon dioxide gas. Radiation counters are used to detect the electrons given off by decaying C-14 as it turns into nitrogen. The amount of C-14 is compared to the amount of C-12, the stable form of carbon, to determine how much radiocarbon has decayed, thereby dating the artifact.

Tactile Architecture


Tall Me
In the works
I'll be posting lots of info about it tomorrow.

Coming Up Roses
Not entering. And I'm ok with that.

Festival of Quilt Art: Home
Still in the ideas stage.

And guess what... I've got one more project to add to my list. So it went from five projects, to four projects when I decided not to enter Coming Up Roses, now it's back to five projects. More on that later this week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Five Projects: Update

I've been working diligently! I can't believe it's been so long since I wrote an update.

Tall Tree/Tall Me
Here's the palette I'm working with.
I keep a pretty small stash -- and small pieces within the stash. Because the required size of this quilt is pretty big, I really didn't have just the right fabric that was large enough for a few sections. So, I went shopping.

This quilt is due May 1. Timing is a bit tight.

I finished the hand stitching and fused the backing on. Then it was time for machine quilting. I decided to stitch some words to help fill out the concept of the quilt. It will say "Decay of Carbon 14" above the graph. The location of the tree, Dalarna Sweden will be stitched on the right and the name of the tree, Old Tjikko, will be stitched on the left.
I printed the words from my computer, traced them onto tracing paper then pinned them in their proper locations.

Next I needed to choose thread color. Here are the colors I considered.

I decided I wanted something subtle, so I chose the light blue. Ug. Too light. I ripped out the "e" and the "n."

Then I went entirely the other way with the dark dark navy. Ug. Too dark. Ripped out the "d."

Then I found the "Goldilocks-just-right" color, the royal blue. Why didn't I choose it to begin with? I've stitched all the letters now and I'm consumed with burying threads and knots.

Coming Up Roses
Still off the table

Tactile Architecture
Entry submitted! It's called Neighborhood.

Festival of Quilt Art
I really should make some sketches. (Though sketching doesn't always work for me. I do have a vision in my head, I'm not always good at getting it on paper.) I'm getting a bit concerned about the time line for this one.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Five Projects Update -- One Completed!

Things are coming along. I've been spending a lot of time in the studio and I am acutely aware of the upcoming deadlines. Sometimes things seem to take longer than anticipated. Why is that?!

Tactile Architecture
Done! And I'm thrilled with it. It really was fun all the way through. Here are a couple of details.

Above you can see the bottom of the quilt. I struggled with how to finish the edge. I really wanted to do some overcast stitching along that bottom edge to extend that blue section, but I knew it would take a bunch of time and required a fused binding before I did the overcast stitching -- I really wanted to do a quicker zigzag edge finish. In the end, I took the time to do the fused binding and the edge stitching and I'm so glad I did. (Below you can see I also did some green overcast stitching on each side.)

This entry is due on Friday. I have not taken a good photo yet, so I'll share that with you at the end of the week.

Last I posted, I had completed the composition for the top of the quilt and done a bit of machine stitching. I spent a couple of days doing lots of hand stitching, including all these lines around the carbon 14 molecule.

But then I ran out of floss and I had to go buy more.

I also stitched a red line showing the decay of carbon 14 over the years.

These are all stitched with the back stitch which is perfect for a beautifully controlled uninterrupted line. But, it uses so much floss! Twice as much floss is hidden on the back of the quilt. (Or eventually between the batting and the backing.)

Raditation has now been sandwiched together and I started machine quilting.

Tall Tree
I'm not supposed to share in-progress shots for this particular exhibit, so this is probably the last one you'll see. But, it's in the works. I'm switching from "tall tree" to "tall me." I had to print out this image three times to get the right size (using Rasterbator again). It will eventually be just a silhouette as you can see the traced outline on the right.

Coming Up Roses
Probably going to cross this off my list. Easter is coming. My parents will be visiting. Before they arrive I'd like to spend some time in the yard. Then while they are here, I'm looking forward to just hanging out with them. You don't need to know the reasoning. I liked the idea of preparing an entry for this exhibit, but I am totally ok with not moving forward with it.

Plus, there is a serious shift in the balance in our home and family since I've been spending so much time in the studio. Laundry piles up. Meals are more thrown together -- if at all. I'm not taking time to exercise as regularly as I should. No one is complaining. But, the reality is that I can't do it all. (Newsflash.) And I don't want to. Sometimes I want to spend time in the studio and sometimes I want to do other stuff.

Festival of Quilt Art: Home
Still excited about this one. Haven't done anything other than ponder ideas, but that's an important part of the process.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Table and Tree

If I am going to have any chance of completing these five projects, I must keep my studio clean. So this needed to be addressed.

Ah, much better. Hi Lincoln!

Once I decided on the old tree as an example of radiocarbon dating, I finally could move on to the design phase of the radiation quilt. I used this photo to create a enlargement since there was excellent contrast between the tree and the background and I could make a pattern for a silhouette.

I use Rasterbater to create this full size print that I could print on regular sheets of paper and tape together. Then created a line drawing on freezer paper and "worked forward" using Misty Fuse fusible webbing to get the cutting line on the back of the green fabric.
You can see I've also planned the background of the quilt: blue sky, rocky gold strip at the horizon and brown in the foreground.

Lots of tedious cutting.

At this point I thought I was ready to begin stitching. I was in a hurry to move toward completion, but I decided to remain true to my personal style and add some surface design. I cut freezer paper stencils of clouds and sponged some white paint into my blue sky. I also stamped some red flowers in the brown section.

Here I've added a carbon 14 molecule in the upper right...

 ... and this sheer rectangle in the lower left will be a chart representing the predictable decay of the carbon 14 molecule.

Next I'll be hand stitching the path of the atoms spinning around the carbon nucleus and the line showing the rate of decay by percentage and year.

Tactile Architecture
  • just more stitching, almost done. Should be able to finish tonight while watching Survivor.

Tall Tree
  • cleaned off the table
  • taped together two large pieces of paper on which sketch my full size "pattern"

Coming Up Roses
  • nothing
  • other than to admit to myself that if any of these projects must be eliminated, this is the first to go

Festival of Quilt Art
  • nothing

I started this whole project with the idea that it would be good to work on more than one project at a time, right? I'll share some thoughts about how that is going tomorrow.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Fabric strips, standing in the yard, re-inking, etc

Radiation Quilt Progress

I can not believe how much time I've spent pondering the radiation quilt. Too much time really, but that's just how it's worked out. As you remember, I thought I'd settled on just using heat and light from the sun as my inspiration. Then my friend, Barbara, who is coordinating US submissions gently said something like, "Um.... we have a lot of submission about sunlight. But, we don't have anything about Carbon 14 dating like you wrote in your blog post. Just sayin'" Ug!

Then we had an amazing lightening storm on Thursday night. All my local friends were posting on Facebook about it and we stood out in the front yard for quite some time watching the flashes of electricity between the clouds. It was a great moment standing in the yard at the beginning of spring with my family. So, I convinced myself that lightening related to radiation and I could do a landscape quilt with lightening.

I even pulled out tons of fabrics, ripped strips and pinned this on my design wall. (A couple of hours of work here probably.)

Then I admitted that lightening really doesn't relate to radiation and I went back to the drawing board, and google images, and Pinterest, and even the library to check out kids picture books about radiation. (Yes, they exist.)

Finally I returned to Carbon 14, or radiocarbon dating. I thought I'd do a collage of things that have been dated using this method: old pottery, fossils, trees, bird eggs. I printed out several images for inspiration.

It felt like too much, so I chose the single image that was clearly connected to radiocarbon dating AND fit the kind of imagery that I like to use in my work. I settled on this one amazing tree.

This is the oldest living tree. It's 9550 years old. It has the ability to clone its trunk. The current trunk is only about 600 years old, but the root system is over 9000. It's in Sweden in a secret location to protect it.

Whew. I can finally move to fabric and design. The research and conception phase for this quilt was exhausting and sometimes frustrating, but I think I really stretched and I am sure good stuff comes from that.

Tactile Architecture Progress
This quilt is progressing smoothly. It's clear to me what steps need to happen and they are coming together well.

First, I had to darken several areas of graphic handwriting. They didn't match throughout the quilt. This is something that I would not have had to spend time on if I had taken the time to find the best pen when I first did the writing. Careless and lazy. Had to be fixed. Can you see the different here?

I also marked some flower shapes for stitching.

Five Projects Progress


  • see above

Tactile Architecture

  • see above

Coming Up Roses

  • looked through many of my pictures looking for something that would be fun to enhance with embroidery
  • found none

Tall Tree

  • felt lots of concern about my lack of progress on this one which is due only one week after Radiation
  • also concerned that I pilfered the tall tree concept for the Radiation quilt and I won't want to do another tree for this quilt

Festival of Quilt Art

  • none

Friday, March 28, 2014

Thinking, Research, Analysis

As you can imagine, I've been thinking a lot about radiation. I'm still in the thinking stage of creating this art quilt. But I need to move into the composition stage soon.

As I mentioned, I've considered some themes to pursue. Residential solar energy: That's mostly because it would allow me to make another house quilt. Many of my quilts include houses and it's a familiar and rich design element for me. But, I've never done a house with solar panels. Hmmm. I feel like I'd be just slapping on some fabric shapes that were pretending to be solar panels without much experience, knowledge or passion. Residential solar energy.

I also considered creating an art quilt like a Magnetic Field Sensor Circuit. (You can use it to measure stray radiation.) Like this.

Cool shapes and composition, right? I could do each area in a different fabric and embellish with various surface design patterns, embroidery and free motion quilting. Potential! But, then I wondered if I could create something that had any bit of accuracy, because I don't have any idea what all those numbers and squiggles mean.

You know how you feel when you watch a movie or tv show that is set in a place that you are completely familiar with? And they mispronounce something, or show an angle that isn't correct? You instantly are taken out of the viewing experience. I wouldn't want to create a quilt to be viewed by a bunch of radiation scientists and have them zero-in on some inaccuracies rather than just appreciate the design. Magnetic Field Sensor Circuit.

Then I moved on to Carbon 14 dating. When Claire was in fourth grade she explained to me how you can measure the age fossils or other super old stuff by measuring the remaining atoms of radiation in the item. Or something like that. Fourth grade! I thought this might be a good excuse to make an art quilt using the shape of an ancient jug or bottle. Like these from my body of work.

But, ultimately that just seemed too contrived. Carbon 14 Dating

Radiation is an enormous subject. It's not just cancer treatment and nuclear power plants, which are the two things I first thought of. I'm not interested in making a quilt on either of those subjects.

Did you know radiation is used to measure how much air is whipped into ice cream? It can also be used to sterilize food. Your smoke detector, toaster and microwave all use radiation.

I went to my sketch book. 

I need to return to the most simple, yet complex and most obvious form of radiation: the sun. I want to explore heat and light in a landscape composition. At least that's where I am at the moment.

Other Progress

Tactile Architecture

  • stitched more tiny houses and some green flowers


  • see above

Tall Tree

  • none

Coming Up Roses

  • thought about doing some hand embroidery over a photograph printed on fabric

Festival of Quilt Art: Home

  • none