I have finally completed the horses. I spent almost 137 hours on them. The bulk of that time was cutting and fusing, which was over 63 hours, and then I spend almost 30 hours quilting it.
As noted before, I used my home machine, a Janome 7700. I just set up extra tables all the way around to hold the weight of it as I quilted it. I also practiced drawing my background design from all angles so I wouldn’t have to move the quilt around as much.
This is detail of the first horse on the left — shows some of the intricate background quilting.
This is detail of the second horse on the right.
And now I’m faced with naming this piece. When I hear the song Renegades by X Ambassadors, that feels about right. To me, the horses are renegades in the sense that they’re rebellious and unconventional. However, if you look up the definition of renegade, it’s a traitor or deserter — which isn’t right at all.
They are military horses used in cavalry, and Calvary might make a good name — or War Horses.
If you have an opinion on a name, please leave a comment. I would love to have some input.
Often, I wonder what to name a blog post — but not this one. At first, I was going to title it, Nothing is Ever Easy. That’s what I had in my head as I started this morning, but it quickly turned into How to Eat an Elephant.
My Elephant is the Horses. I have been holding off quilting it until I took a long-arming class at my local quilt shop. I had it in my head that, because of its size, I had to put it on a frame. So I worked on every other project in my house while I waited for my class, which I had last Saturday — except it wasn’t what I thought it would be.
I was very lucky to be given the chance to sew on four different HandiQuilter long-arm machines. The 1st was the Sweet 16 which was set into a table. I was sure that this was NOT the one for me. The next model up was the Simply 16 on a small frame, then the Avante on a full sized frame, and finally the Fusion on the largest frame. I had my eye on the Avante.
There were three other people in my class, so we rotated through the machines. I started with the Simply 16 on the smallest frame. Although I don’t normally quilt a lot of feathers, I decided that it was a good place to start. I was so surprised that I couldn’t make the petals come back to the stem. It was really hard to control. And then I worked on the Avante, and it was better, but not a lot. The machine was not moving as I wanted it to. The teacher suggested that I was too used to free motion quilting with my hands guiding the piece, rather than guiding the machine over the top of the quilt. Then I tried a pantograph on the Fusion. I’m not the least bit interested in pantographs, but it seemed to be the highlight of the class to everyone else, and it was a good exercise to just follow a drawn line. It was hard to do too.
And then I sat down at the Sweet 16, and I just quilted. It felt natural, and my feathers looked great. I was in control.
<sigh> I knew by the end that there was no way that I could put the horses on a frame. It’s possible for me to develop the skill over time, but it’s not something that’s going to happen quickly. Renting by the hour at the local shop, I don’t know that it will ever happen. The skill set that I’ve developed is just not as translatable to a frame as I wanted (& needed) it to be.
So I came home and knew that I was going to spray baste my quilt and start quilting it here at home. I may take it to the shop towards the end, when it’s at its heaviest, when I’m quilting the background, and see if the Sweet 16 is a big improvement over quilting it at home, but the table, even with the extra side pieces, is not very big. Here at home, I’ll set up many tables around my machine, and although I’ll have to crawl on the floor to get out of my studio, hopefully it’ll hold the length of the quilt as I’m working on it so gravity won’t be working against me.
And today, I laid out my sheet in the kitchen, I taped things down, and I started spraying. I do wish that I had put down a second sheet as I had quite a bit of overspray onto my wooden floor. My poor socks are covered in a layer of spray glue. But it’s done. My back hurts, but it’s basted.
At least there was no one here to laugh at me as I crawled around on the floor, smoothing it out.
When I was done, I took it upstairs and made sure the back and front were perfectly smooth. I always find that, even with taping, I have a few lumps and wrinkles that need to be worked out. Thank goodness the spray basting allows me to reposition everything until it’s smooth.
Now it’s ready for quilting. Wish me luck. I think I might need it.
I’ve been hard at work in my studio since my last post, pouring the creative spirit out of me and into my work. And I’ve surprised myself.
If you remember, I had finished the first horse, so I began cutting out the second horse, its companion. This shows the light values of the face.
And then the darker brown values.
And finally the darkest brown values.
Here is the horse head without all of the leather straps, bridle, and silver.
Then I added all of the leather parts around the face.
And finally the leather collar.
Once I added the silver, I put it up on the design wall for a quick picture.
At this point, I put it up next to the other horse to see how it would look. Wow. I loved it on the black, but I always do.
I considered for a while making a pieced background, but I finally decided that the horses themselves are so intricate, a pieced background would only create a distraction. I found a great smudged black that works well.
This is both of the horses appliquéd onto the background. The grays in the background black look lighter than they actually are — my camera phone is limited in its range and chose to highlight all of the silver. The final photographs after quilting will be difficult, but this piece may warrant my first trip to a professional photographer.
For those interested in the process, I abandoned my usual appliqué technique, which is a tight zigzag around all of the rough edges. Even a free-motion straight stitch around the edges as an appliqué technique was difficult as the pieces tried to pull off as I worked on it. The horses were large and complex, and Wonder Under can only hold so well. The silver, especially, didn’t want to adhere. It was always the first appliquéd for each of the horses.
And the end result is more artistic. I’m letting go of the restrictions of the quilt world and embracing the art side. The free motion stitch is much more like drawing on the piece. I still haven’t decided if I’ll add some tulle for added protection to the raw edges.
They each have their own personalities, and I’m surprised at what has crawled out of my brain.
And now I begin thinking about the quilting process. I have a hard time just pinning this on the wall by myself because it’s so large. I tried to take a local long-arm class at the beginning of the month but it was full. The next one is not until the first of December, and I don’t know that I want to wait, but I’m also uncertain about tackling this bear of a piece on my local machine. I do happen to have a Hinterberg frame that I bought years ago — it sits in pieces in the corner. I abandoned it when I realized that my Viking didn’t have enough harp space for me to use it on the frame. But I did get another 4.5 inches, I believe, in harp space when I upgraded to the Janome. It might be worth trying it.
So after finishing Minerva and going through my Quilt National rejection, I needed a new direction in my work. So I was flipping through photographs that I’ve taken, and I found one of two horses in full military gear that I took during the Gold Rush Parade in Dahlonega last year. I knew instantly that it was going to be my next piece.
It’s the first piece in a while that I haven’t made for a show theme, and I gave zero consideration to marketing it. I am making this simply because I want to, which appears to be feeding my creative muse in a positive way.
And almost unconsciously, I have made this piece huge — which is funny, because two years ago, I would have made something that would fit the size of my table. I suppose I felt the need to make these life size. So the general size of the pattern that I’ve made is 48″ long by 69″ or so wide. And let me just say that making a piece in this scale is daunting. I have broken it up into sections to make it easier — I’m making each horse separately — and for each horse, I make the face, and then the rest of the head, and then the back, and then the neck, and then all the leather, and then all the silver hardware. It still causes unique difficulties. I’m not sure that I can appliqué it in the same way that I usually do — certainly not all at once — maybe not even one horse at a time. And there are so many pieces in even just the first horse, I’m considering doing what I did with the auction piece I did for IQA, Loyal, and using a straight stitch around the shapes instead of my usual zigzag — maybe even incorporating it into the quilting in the same way I did Loyal. I’m even considering covering the piece with tulle like Susan Carlson does, to provide another layer of protection for the raw edges.
But all of that discussion in my head is not while I’m in my studio. In my studio, I am in the zone.
For this piece, the first 2 values are very light — in fact, I probably could have dispensed with the lightest and just used the batik here. It’s hard to discern where the first value even is.
And this shows the 3rd and 4th values. The 3rd value is a batik I’ve always struggled with, but I think it works well here.
For the 5th & 6th values, I purposefully went into navy blues. Painters sometimes use blues for shadows, and I love the richness it gives the piece.
And then I had to construct an eye. In the photograph, there’s a piece of leather to the right of the eye that mostly obscures it. However, it’s important for the piece to have a successful eye. It’s a large part of what draws in the viewer’s eye. So I found a pencil and drew out what I thought would work.
And then I stepped back and really looked at it. I wanted to make sure that the fabrics were working before I continued — and they’re just not. There is a definite value change between two and three, but the step is too great. The horse looks more like a palomino with spots. So I went back to my fabrics and pulled out a honey yellow. Much better, and I can see the first value now.
I recut all the pieces and carefully peeled away the fabric that wasn’t working and re-fused it back together. And then I started on the neck. All the spaces are for leather bridle, harness, et cetera.
And then I went to work and stopped taking pictures. But as you can see, I worked one section at a time so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. I had fused down all of the horse pieces before doing any of the leather or silver. Here is the horse completed with the leather.
And then here it is with the silver. The only thing I really questioned was the chain running from the top down to the mouth. There really wasn’t an easy way to do it. I may go look for some silver braided trim to use instead.
At this point, she’s finally off the flat table and pinned up on my design. She’ll be the far left horse — that’s why so much of her body is in deep shadow. The forward horse on the right will have a lot more of the brown detail.
I have a few drafting things to finish before I start cutting out the front horse. I also think that I’ll change the horse fabrics a little. I don’t think I’d have enough fabric to make the other one completely anyway. It’s amazing that I was able to get this far without making a trip to the fabric store — well, except for the silver.
And yes, this is silver spandex, just like the gold spandex that I used in The Last Supper. This time I was smarter and fused a non-woven interfacing to it before cutting it out to help control stretch, and then I added the fusible. Last time, I only used the fusible and it was harder to control.
So I just got my email saying that my piece, Minerva, didn’t get into QN ’17, and I was talking to a friend of mine who also didn’t get in (who, incidentally, was in their last exhibit in ’15), and I started thinking — wouldn’t it be really cool to see all the amazing work that didn’t get into QN ’16. I mean, the pieces I know that didn’t get in are spectacular! The acceptance rate was just slightly over 11% — imagine seeing the awesome work that isn’t going to QN ’17!
So I’m going to do this — I’m going to start a gallery page “I Got Rejected From Quilt National,” and I’m inviting other artists that weren’t accepted to send me a pic of their work.
You can email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “QN” — and please make the pics 1800 px on the longest side.
And if I get more than just a couple, I’ll post the page for all to see.
Even if you don’t want to participate, if you received a rejection, know that you’re in good company. Keep going. Enter your work somewhere else. There are lots of other shows out there.
UPDATE: I created a FB group, Quilt National Salon des Refuses. It’s a public group so you can post there directly.
This year, I was again asked to create a piece for IQA’s Celebrity Mini Quilt Silent Auction. It’s an honor to be invited, and I try to support IQA as much as I can. They have helped sell my work, and they have bought my work for their private collection. That’s a lot. So once a year, I stop what I’m doing and create something for them for their auction.
This year, I wanted to make a piece that was more like the rest of my work The last two years, the pieces have been tiny. So I wanted something that was a little bigger but still small that would give more of a sense of my personal style. I finally decided that the broadest appeal to the general public would be a dog or cat, and given that I don’t have a cat and people don’t typically take their cats out in public in the same way that dog owners do, I chose a pic from my catalogue of dog pics.
I found this pic of a black dog that I’m sure I took during a lacrosse game. I have no idea who he belonged to, but he was cute so I took his picture. I think he’s a schnauzer. I zoomed in on his face and loved his quirky expression.
In keeping with my new penchant to use unexpected fabrics (but then also working only from my current stash), I decided that the best way to do a black dog would be to use blue fabrics. Gray doesn’t have the same character as the blue grays. So, like with Minerva, I wanted to create a black dog using blue fabrics — but the end result should look like a black dog, not a blue one.
This shows the 1st two values on my pressing sheet.
When I realized it, I traced the shape onto freezer paper and ironed it to the front.
You can see the freezer paper template in this one — which also shows the 4th value. There’s a lot more character in him now.
And then the 5th value was the actual pure black. He has a lot more dimension now — but he needs a proper mouth and eye.
There’s a little bit of tongue tucked in there and then a row of teeth and two fangs on either side of his gum line.
And then his eyeball. As I have often done lately, I constructed it as it was in the drawing made from the values in the pic — but then ripped it off and redrew it as it needed to be in order to look as it needed to look. There are some things you can finesse if they’re not quite right — the eye isn’t one of them.
And then I ripped the appliqué off the pressing sheet and cut out the freezer template to give me the space I needed on the underside of the ear. You can see the ear more clearly now, especially ironed on to the background fabric. This yellow was a nice contrast.
At this point, it isn’t appliquéd. I decided to appliqué stitch and quilt at the same time, so I sandwiched this rough top up and straight free-motion stitched around all of the shapes.
After the appliqué was done, it still needed more quilting to be evenly quilted — and of course the background had to be quilted.
The only thing I might do differently in the future, in terms of construction of a small piece, would be to pillowcase it so I wouldn’t have to add a facing to finish the edges. That took a while. But I opted against doing it because I thought this piece was a little big for that and I didn’t want any issues with it not laying flat or creating a tuck on the back. I wanted it to be perfect.
I snapped a few shots before sending him off in the mail — he’s due Thursday — so I cut it close but he’ll make in under the wire.
Let’s hope he goes to a good home. He’ll debut at the Silent Auction in Houston in November.
If you want to see the finished piece, he’s here.
Last week, we had our annual opening of Fierce Fibers at The Art Place in Marietta. Rebecca Reasons-Edwards and I have been co-curating this show together for six years. I’ve learned a lot from her, and we had a great time putting this show of local Atlanta fiber artists together this year. We had a great turnout at the opening reception last Thursday, but the show will hang through September 29th if you still want to go see it.
We had a Viewers Choice award, and it was a tie between two of my pieces, The Last Supper and The Abyss, which was a nice surprise. Thank you to everyone that came to the reception and voted.
And especially, thank you to all the artists that allowed us to hang your work in the show. It’s a beautiful exhibit and a great example of the amazing fiber work currently being done in Atlanta.
For the benefit of those that aren’t local to Atlanta, I’ve been asked to post pics of the show online. Enjoy!
Many years ago, I entered Quilt National, and like many others, my piece was rejected. Since then, I haven’t entered again due to their virgin rules which said that the piece couldn’t have been displayed anywhere at all ever in any part online or on physical view in a public venue. I have always enjoyed showing my in progress work on my blog which disqualified anything I might want to enter.
But this year, in their infinite wisdom, the powers that be at Quilt National have changed their rules. They now allow social media marketing of your piece. They only require that the piece not have exhibited publicly in the US or been published.
And I have a piece that I’ve been working on most of the summer that I just finished, so I held my breath and entered it. We’ll see. Quilt National takes 3%, I believe, of their entries. In the past, they’ve been almost completely an abstract show, but in the last exhibit in ’15, there were a few illustrative pieces, so I’ve decided to try. You never know if you don’t try.
This has been a strange piece for me. I can do realism in fabric. That isn’t a stretch for me. But I’m to the point that I need more. I need my work to speak more. And so I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone. I drafted a picture of one of my dogs, but I couldn’t get excited about making her in realistic colors, so I chose wild ones. My base was purple. I even went down into pink for the latest shade.
It was my original intent to use Kaffe Fassett prints — but I still haven’t figured out how to makes those work. There are some fabulous artists that do, like Danny Amazons and Sophie Standing. I think my issue is one of scale. They work very large, and making the large Kaffe Fassett prints work in a very large piece is much easier than in a medium piece.
So as I went, I changed several fabrics.
This is how I began, a pink batik.
This shows the next two values, a batik that varies from a muddy pink to a blue purple and a print with red, purple, and yellow. This last one was my wild card. To me, it gives the impression of the spiky fur.
The fourth value is a deeper purple.
And the fifth value is the deepest purple.
And this is what she looks like after I went back and added the eyes. And I’m struck because I’ve used pink and purple, and yet she still comes across and orange and brown.
I made a black pieced background for her. At this point, I realized that she needed the deeper black in the pupil — the purple alone wasn’t giving quite enough depth.
And then I played with the background to make the piece come alive. My first thought was to add many narrow yellow strips on the black, but that became distracting. Someone suggested using some red too, and I played with placement until I came up with something that adds energy to the piece but doesn’t distract from the main subject.
It is about 36″ square which is what I would call a medium piece — but it’s large for the head of a dog. Its greatest impact is seen when you step back from the piece.
If you want to see it as completed, click on the thumbnail pic to the left or here.
My intention was for her to be somewhat abstracted, and in some way, my experiment yielded something strangely more realistic. I think using the deep purples pulls on the Impressionistic background I learned from my mother’s work. I may continue to explore that in my next piece.
I have completed Yvonne in the Garden. She was surprisingly easy to do. I’ve reached a point where portraits are not difficult constructions for me. Giving the piece deeper meaning is more difficult, however, than the technical skill required to create a portrait. For Yvonne, after her portrait was completed, I was tasked with putting her in a space that was hers. To anyone familiar with her work, I have hopefully succeeded by drawing on the inspiration of her work. For Yvonne, red was a neutral so it was an obvious choice. She loved hot colors. When I didn’t have enough of the right red, I just supplemented with purple — which I think was actually pretty close to what Yvonne would do. I then freehand drew out her name and flowers and a few stars to give the feeling of her inhabiting one of her own pieces. Since her passing, I think she would be happy existing in a realm of her own imagination.
I currently have two pieces hanging at the Abernathy Arts Center in Sandy Springs, GA through June 17th — both The Canary and The Last Supper. The reception was more fun than I’ve had in ages. I believe I was the only fiber artist in the show, but I had a very warm reception from the other artists and a lot of interest in my subjects. I’m finding that putting clues in my work is definitely a successful way of drawing interest in a piece. The gallery was packed that night, and I was surprised there weren’t more people that approached me regarding my self-portrait, but later in the evening, as the crowd thinned, I had more people recognize me from my work.
And now here we are at summer. I think I counted 10 or 12 pieces that I’ve done in the last year which is double what I usually do. At this point, I’m entering shows — 3 on Sunday and a couple more to come in the next month. I think I’m going to take a breath now and consider my next piece. DD2 came home last night with a very large raven painting that she did in school, and it calls to me. I’ve always loved the grace of ravens.
Wash & Wax, the collaboration between Leisa Rich & myself of abstract pieces inspired by images taken in a car wash, is traveling to the Irving Arts Center in Irving, Texas, May 21 – July 3. The reception is June 26th 2:00-4:00pm. If you’re in the area, please visit the exhibit! It’s a great show, we have a new piece added to the collection, and the huge wall piece looks different in every installation.