Write like an Egyptian

quilted hieroglyphics

This composition began with block-painted silk. The three bird images are from a library of hieroglyphics, drawn onto the sillk, and then quilted. The small symbols are machine quilting. This kind of drawing with the sewing machine is possible with a dedicated free motion machine, like my mid-arm Sweet 16.

This quilt is finished with a facing; 9″ wide x 12″ tall

finding the center(s)

‘Proud Bird’ started with the powerful Egyptian hieroglyphic of a pelican.

The parallel lines in the tail were especially strong. I repeated them in the cowl of the bird’s head, giving a kind of Sphinx-like quality to the bird.

I also drew the figure so that the curve of the head echoed the curved color gradient in the painted silk background. The head, the lines, and the curve became the strong center of the little quilt.

Everything else I did after that was designed to echo or strengthen the impression of that center, by building on borders around each component. This process is natural for a quilter; we always start the quilting in the center and move outward toward the boundaries.

The quilt is almost monochromatic, with the yellow-orange-beige colorway predominating, and the turquoise accents limited to less that 25% of the area. The tiny bit of white is very important to the design.

New turnings – timeless design

Traditional darning mushroom to honor my Grandmother Franceska, who was a pioneer farmer in Utah–the source of this cottonwood burl cap.  The stem is mesquite – another wood that was unknown to my Slovenian grandparents.  They both brought needlework skills to their new life.  Grandfather Francis was trained as a tailor, but preferred to try farming.  They moved to Denver soon after my mother, their 8th child, was born in 1923.  Grandmother continued to sew, darn, make lace, and crochet in the city, passing her skills onto my aunts.

Zentangle® for quilters

This small quilt began as a drawing of a woman with an umbrella on paper.  I drew the Zentangle® patterns around her with a pigment liner pen.  I printed the drawing onto cotton with my inkjet printer, added the color wash, and used scraps from quilting to frame the drawing.

The colorway for this quilt comes from the cyan-magenta-chartreuse set of transparent primary colors.  It takes transparent color to allow the drawing to come through.  This type of print-and-paint gives me the opportunity to make a series of quilts from the same labor-intensive drawing.  I have been in galleries with easel artists who sell their painting numerous times by making prints.  My method provides a unique composition, but allows me to work quickly on multiples.

The primary benefit of the discipline of Zentangle® drawing comes from a relaxed approach to infilling a background.  In order to do free-motion quilting in a truly freehand way, I need a repertoire of patterns that are adaptable to different sizes and shapes of quilted areas.  It is also necessary to learn to divide the quilted surface into sub-sections, and Zentangle® provides practice making these divisions (called ‘strings’ by the founders).

I have also enlarged the patterns significantly in order to provide a more interesting style of background quilting.  This black matrix quilt started with a rubbing of an elm stump.  The machine quilting is straightforward right up to the  edge of the stump.  For the background, I used simple ‘string’ divisions and then drew upon Zentangle® patterns to fill the black background area.  It takes excellent lighting to see the patterns in the background, which adds a bit of a surprise to the artwork.

Even though we may no longer be interested in covering every available surface with Zentangle® drawings, practice with this drawing system is uniquely helpful to any quilter developing freemotion patterns.

Crafting the European Folk Art Horse

While working on my quilt of ice age horse drawings, I discovered the marvelous ‘Kone’ of Miroslav Jaros on Pinterest.  These carved and decorated horses reminded me of the simple horse carvings that my Slovenian grandfather made for me and my sister in the 1950’s.  We loved playing with the wooden toys, wich needed all of our imagination to supply the details and the stories.

I feel very comfortable exploring some of the forms that Jaros uses.  We have the same eastern European heritage, so any appropriation is personal, and not cultural.  I have never seen his work in the round, or even learned the scale of it, and I never copy directly from his forms.  There are many examples of Swedish folk art horses, as well, although they lack the more sculptural and monumental weight of the Kone.   With my grandfather standing behind me, I have a great sense of joy exploring this form.

The horse figures in the photo have been roughed out on the bandsaw from 1.5″ thick stock.  They are about 5″ tall.  I used carving tools and abrasives to refine the forms after taking the photo.  These are marvelous surfaces for ornament!  There are an infinite ways to divide the surfaces for pyrography, paints, patination, and applied decorative elements, like upholstery nails.  Although the shaping is somewhat tedious (more than woodturning; more like quilting!), the surface decoration makes it all worthwhile.

Candlestacks

The candlestacks started as a way to use all of the leftover ‘beads’ from the sculpture totem in the Creative Gambit show in July 2019.  My favorite leftover bead was the teacup and saucer, turned off-center.  For the show, I painted the teacup/saucer chartreuse, but these two are showing off the figure in the aspen.  Each section of the stack is turned separately, and then the stack is joined together using a wooden dowel.  The stacks are around 10″ tall.  The top is sized to hold a 2″ diameter pillar candle, a large tealight, or a 3″ round candle.  The one on the right also holds a 5″ coach candle with the taper-style base.

All wooden candlesticks are safer with the battery-operated lights.  There is a reason we don’t find very many old wooden candlesticks.

 

 

 

Many famous woodturners (Michael Hosaluk, John Jordan)  have turned teapots in varying degrees of functionality.  It something of a modern standard that the spout is part of the original turning, and not added to the body, as it would be in a ceramic teapot.   I decided to start with the basic shape as a bead for a candlestack.  So it is solid, with a hole for the dowel, and a handle made of this amazing flexible wood.  This one is quite a bit smaller than the two teacups in the photo above.

The use of a central dowel to connect parts comes from stacking toy blocks.  I’ve also used a 2″ plastic pipe to build the hatstand.  It allows me to make much taller turnings than I could fit on my shortbed Vicmark lathe.

Discovering the very oldest part of ourselves

When we came home from the Legends Rock paintings near Thermopolis, Wyoming, I was inspired to make my own version of the ‘quilt lady.’  The rock painting is larger than lifesize, but this one is a block print about 5 x 7,” printed on rust-dyed fabric that is not quite as red as the Wyoming rocks.

I have made a variety of goddess figures, too.  Most of these are inspired by the drawings in Civilization of the Goddess:  the World of Old Europe, by Marija Gimbutas.   I’ve drawn the bird goddess on clay and wood.  Recently, I made some simple white line woodcuts.

Here she is, with pearls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bird goddess works well for woodburning, too.  Here she is on a maple burl vessel, with red oxide highlights.

Some of the other goddess from Gimbutas need a 3D presentation.  I was lucky to get some red micaceous clay from Jennifer Hanson at Spinning Star studios for these three charming goddess figurines.  There is a relatively clear consensus now that the earliest use of clay by humans was for figurative work.

 

Wooden applique block

Fragments from an off-center turning became leaves and a flower for a framed wooden quilt block.   The inner block was part of ther Creative Gambit wall piece in 2019.

I have added a border of color to fit the 7″ frame.   A quilt applique technique adds shapes to an underlying block. Instead of stitching, this block is held together by glue.   The turned leaves were shaped, cut in half, carved, and painted with leather paint.  The veins are carved and filled with white liming wax.  The flower center is an upholstery nail.  Woodworking techniques applied to quilting habits.  It’s my favorite way to work!

Indoors, reading scraps of other projects

I imagine that January was a time for pioneer women to indulge themselves with scraps saved up from the busy months of outdoor work.  The daylight is short, but adequate for piecing together leftovers into new fabrics.  A 21st century quilter can still capture the nostalgia of sorting scraps and assembling them into a new memory.

This small quilt started with the branch-like silk scrap from silk artist John Venezia in bronze and blue.  The hand-dyed blue scrap finds itself in the floral and the graphic prints.

A quilt is only a quilt because of the stitches that hold it together – here some free-motion work to create the texture of branches.   I saw a lot of ‘v’ shapes, which are repeated in the small scrap and the embroidery.    That is the feeling of scrap quilting – following the links between fabrics until it is finally captured by a binding.   There are discoveries, memories, and the joy of freehand composition.

What’s your superpower?

Best quilt of 2019!

This 5 x 5″ framed quilt was my best composition of 2019.   It also tells the story of new making techniques that I began using this year, building on my fascination with white line printing.

The quilt started with carving wood blocks for printing.  One was made for ‘white line’ prints – everything except the branches in this case, which are the white fabric shining through the printing inks.  The other block cut away the background, so that the ink created the trunk and branches of the tree.  I have used silkscreened patterns before, but this was my first effort with block printing.

The ombre (graduated) stripes were a commercial fabric that picked up the vertical elements in the two printed blocks.  For some other designs, I have printed directly on the ombre fabric, with happy results.

For a quilter with a wood shop, I suppose that block printing is the obvious combination of media.  As I increase in skill and vision, I hope to move on from this tiny format into bigger works with more to say.