This copper quilt is driving me mad! I don't think I have ever spent so long over the development of a quilt as this. For once I I had too many ideas and I decided to explore all the possibilities, which has all taken time:
copper used for electrical wiring, circuits & microschips;
copper fixed to the hulls of ships to reduce the amount of fouling and thus make them faster, so slave ship owners would loose less of their 'perishable' human cargo;
copper mined in Cornwall and refined in South Wales, forming the backbone of the economy for the south west until cheaper copper was found elsewhere;
the little known copper-age, ( about 4500 B.C. to 3500 B.C.) where copper metal was worked on a relatively large scale in part because it is found in "large pure ingots in a natural state" in many different locations around the world;
Copper used in medicine as an antiseptic to sterilize, cure eye ailments, help with immunity and TB treatment, give relief from arthritis and as a contraceptive .....
The list goes on, but I wanted to research each of these ideas before I narrowed down my options.
Happily, today, I made a final decision and brought together my refined ideas to form a resolved design. It is a huge relief!
I finally decided the narrative for this quilt would be the Roman goddess Venus, who, in Western classical tradition, is the most beautiful of all goddesses and is the living embodiment of fertility, love and sexuality. Her birth and subsequent life story is inextricably linked with the island of Cyprus, ancient home of the metal copper.
Venus is also known as the 'Alchemical goddess', because she alone had magical powers that could cause both gods and mortals to do as she wished. One thing I rather like about Venus is that she does not fit the image of a 'vulnerable' woman as do many other goddesses, and in classical times was never victimised or made to suffer because she was a woman. She was mother of Cupid and many, many others; she cast spells which resulted in mortals and gods falling in love and conceiving new life; she turned a statue into a living woman for Pygmalion; she inspired poetry and declarations of love. Whole goddess cults grew around her, (some still continuing to this day) focusing on fertility and love. Such was her popularity and power, even Julius Caesar himself declared her an ancestral relative.
During the Renaissance Venus's popularity as a 'sexual' goddess made her a subject of great interest and depictions of her became the classical nude figure. What is interesting to me is though, is how, over time, such depictions have gradually transformed the notion of 'Venus the revered goddess' into a simple nude female sex object. This change is what I decided to explore with my quilt.
I have decided to call this quilt 'Goddess or Sex Object?' and have used Botticelli's painting of Venus as a starting point.
I have kept the quilt top in two parts, to reflect this dual view of Venus and have cut into the quilt to create a large venus symbol. To join the two sides I have created something 'appropriate' - I hope people can figure out what they are supposed to be!
This is how the quilt currently looks.....
It still isn't finished as I have more to work on at the top of the quilt, but I am finally happy with the direction it is going.
Thanks for looking.
And so I finally got there. I have been thinking about this for so long now it seems like it is an old idea, but this week I have finally got it 'out'. The beginnings of a piece of work on copper, element 29. It is that shiny, reddish metal that was probably the first ever metal to be worked my man.
The oldest metal object found to date in the Middle East consists of a tiny copper awl dating to around 5100 B.C. The artifact was unearthed in Tel Tsaf, an archaeological site in Israel located near the Jordan River and Israel's border with Jordan.
In my research into this common place metal I have learned some very interesting things......
Anyway, with this and more buzzing around inside my head I got out my sketchbook and started to mess about. Here are a few of the pages:
Although copper does not readily corrode as much as iron, its surface does oxidise when exposed to air. The oxide layer, unlike rust on iron which flakes off, remains on the surface of the copper in a beautiful green layer known as verdigris. This is the colour I decided to dye the fabric for the copper quilt.
The best verdigris colours came from a recipe using turquoise, bright blue and golden yellow procion dyes. The rest of the greens will probably end up being overdyed again transformed into something for another quilt about lead!
Using some of the symbols from my sketchbook pages I made some print blocks from foam and lino and printed onto the green fabrics. I also used a monoprinting technique to create other thin lines and marks, all which have some connection with copper. You can see some of the results below. The fabrics have been cut into strips and pieced in a similar way as the other alchemy quilts I have made.
And these are two long strips I have stitched together, alongside the original quilt which was the first in the series which has just returned from a trip to China (I wish I could have accompanied it!).
As for what comes next, I am not sure. I obviously want to add stitch - I have some thin copper wire I would like to try - and I am also thinking about using copper leaf and copper shim, but as to how - that remains to be seen. I think some experimenting is in order!
Thanks for reading.
I recently spent another fabulous day with the members of Walton Textiles, this time making beautiful rose gardens. We had a lot of laughs and everyone was tremendously productive, in fact by the end of the day everyone had pretty much finished their curved-pieced quilt top and covered it with sprays of flowers.
The nice thing about this workshop is that the pieced quilt top builds quickly. Once you get the hang of the technique of cutting and piecing the gentle curves (not difficult, just different!) you are off. In just an hour or so everyone had their quilt top done.
By lunch time everyone had a fabulous quilt top to work on.
After lunch we began adding the flowers. There are so many different options..... We discussed size, shape, colour and layout before everyone got back to work.
Amanda began quilting her fabulous quilt top towards the end of the afternoon.
I hope you agree, they are all fantastic. I know that at least one is destined to become a cushion, one a wall hanging, one a table runner and another is going to have a twisted log cabin border added. Ladies, I am looking forward to seeing them once they are finished!
To find out more about the 'Garden of Roses' workshop and download the accompanying brochure, please clickhere.
Thanks for reading.
A few weeks ago a blog post from the members of 'Through Our Hands' dropped into my mailbox. In it they invited anyone and everyone worldwide to join them in creating a small piece of art (A5 in size) to be exhibited at the Festival of Quilts (UK) this summer. Not only is it a great opportunity to have your art hanging in this really exciting exhibition, but if you join in you will be helping them to raise money for the charity 'Save The Children' too. After the exhibition all the portraits will be 'shuffled' and you will receive someone else's portraits to keep. It really is win - win!
There is still plenty of time to enter, (your entry needs to be completed and with them by 31st July) so why not find out more about the Portrait Shuffle and see if you would like to join the fun too? Click here or on the leaflet below to go to the Through Our Hands website for full details.
After paying my entry fee, which covers a minimum donation of £5 to Save the Children, I received my entry pack through the post. In it was a small A5 canvas to work on and a discount voucher for Festival of Quilts tickets. That was a nice surprise!
All I had to do was think of whose portrait I wanted to put onto the canvas and which medium to use. The portrait can be worked in any media you like - photography, drawing, paint, collage, print, textiles........ whatever floats your boat. I chose to make a small quilted piece of fabric to mount onto the canvas. Over the past year or so I have used a lot of portrait style images in my work, so I thought about taking one of these images and creating something similar.
But then I thought why not make something new? I have a nice photograph of my nephew that I took a few weeks ago and decided to use that to get me started. Here he is! (Well, half of him.)
Using GIMP software I twiddled about with the filters, levels and threshold settings and arrived at the image on the right which I was able to draw onto a piece of fabric with Derwent Inktense Pensils.
I added the rainbow as the last time I saw him we were looking at rainbows together. All that was left to do then was to quilt it. I thought I'd leave the long tail threads on instead of cutting them off, and stretched them over the edge of the little canvas along with the fabric before stapling it all down.
I'm popping it in the post tomorrow and looking forward to seeing it alongside all the others at Festival of Quilts.
Why not have a go yourself - it was lots of fun to make - and for a very good cause too; savethechildren.org.uk
Find out more info from the organisers, the Through Our Hands team by clicking here.
Thanks for reading.
I can hardly believe it is that time of year again.
Last year I made the small 12" x 12" quilt entitled 'innocence'. It was a simple printed and painted wholecloth of a little boy I once met whose wonderful name is Spinach.
Each year SAQA (Studio Artist Quilt Associates) put out a request for members to make and donate a small quilt which is put up for sale at a huge auction they host in September. Last year over 430 quilts were donated which raised over $80,000. The money raised is used to support SAQA's extensive exhibition and outreach programs.
Here is a random selection of quilts from the 2016 auction. Spinach is down there at the bottom somewhere. You can see more of the quilts by visiting the SAQA site. Click here to visit.
For this year's quilt I decided to revisit Spinach and make another very similar quilt - but showing how he has grown and altered. He now goes to school and I think of him often.
If you are interested in SAQA you can find out more about who they are and what they do here. I have been a member for just about 2 years and have met some great people and learned a lot about quilt making, exhibiting and lots more through my membership.
Thanks for reading.
I am still working on my sulfur quilt and as I have been working in creating the fabrics I have been thinking about the life the carusi must have endured. Sold to the mine owners or workers for an agreed number of years, what must they have thought of their lives as they hauled heavy loads of sulfurous rock from deep underground up to the surface? They often lived, ate and slept somewhere in the mine, having no proper home to return to. For many boys their only escape from this dreadful life was to be rescued by being called up for military service.
The artist Onofrio Tomaselli created this painting in 1905 after staying for some time with Baron La Lumia, a wealthy sulfur mine owner, and witnessing at first hand the fate of the carusi. The painting was exhibited in 1906 in Milan at the World's Fair and was a tribute to 19 carusi who lost their lives in one of many terrible accidents at La Lumia's sulfur mine in Gessolungo, which occurred in 1881. I guess it shows that there were, at least, some people with a conscience at the time.
(Source: Davide Mauro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
For the fabrics, I dyed lots of yellows as you would probably expect. Starting with lemon and golden yellow fiber reactive dye I added very small amounts of orange, rust, bronze and chartreuse to create interesting mottled backgrounds. Onto that I monoprinted shapes, words and other marks that help tell the story of the carusi.
The fabrics have turned out to be very interesting - I added very dense print marks, which may mean the quilt will end up with very 'busy' look, so I will have to be very careful when positioning the different pieces.
Planning ahead, I decided to check out how the straight quilting lines would look over the young boy's face, so I made a small trial piece. Although it may seem like an extra step, I prefer to try out important design features to ensure I am happy with the effect before moving on with a design. I have used this simple but effective straight line quilting pattern on the other quilts in this series, so I was keen to continue using it, but not if it comporomised the overall look of the quilt. Happily, I think it works well.
As I have no plan for this small sample I have entered it into that SAQA 2017 trunk show. I hope it arrives in time!
I am now in the process of positioning the fabrics on the design wall to create the quilt top. I usually take a quick photo of several different variations and then look at them to see what works and what needs to be changed. Somtimes a layout just falls into place, but when it doesn't I find this really helpful.
I'll let you know how it develops in my next post. Until then, thanks for reading.
One week on and here it is - the finished quilt 'Dragon's Blood'.
I don't think I have ever made a quilt so quickly and enjoyed the process so much. The hardest thing about the whole project was choosing the title! It is my entry to the SAQA challenge 'Made in Europe'. (Dragon's Blood was the name often given to red pigments by the Romans - no matter what their source!)
I am so pleased with how well it came together. As most of the preparatory work had already been done in my sketchbook it was just a matter of cutting the fabrics and playing about with them on the design wall to work out the best arrangement of textures and colours.
The other thing I am really pleased with is the cotton sateen fabric. The photograph doesn't show nearly how beautiful this fabric looks. It is the first time I have worked it and I am completely in love. The cloth is soft and easy to stitch, yet firm enough not to stretch or distort and has the most delicious sheen. I wish I had started using it years ago!
I mentioned in the last blog post that it is a follow-on piece from a quilt I made a few year ago, called Chrysopoeia. Now 'Dragon's Blood' is finished I can show you them both together.
The large silver symbol on the new quilt is one of the many symbols used to represent Mercury - both the planet and the rather unusual silver-skinned metal. (I have always been fascinated by the symbols the Alchemists used to represent the chemicals they knew of).
Mercury is a relatively rare metal, whose use has long been irreplaceable in a variety of technical, chemical and industrial processes. It has only ever been produced in substantial quantities by a small number of mines worldwide, the largest of which is in Almadén, Spain. Almedén has the largest reservoirs of cinnabar (the ore which yields mercury) in the world and in 1937 60% of the world's mercury came from its mines. Competition from China means that the mines are now closed, but Almadén has become a World Heritage site on the strength of its past.
As well as being the major source of metallic mercury, cinnabar has another use. When ground into a fine powder it makes the intense red pigment known as vermillion and was embraced by artists during the Renaissance. True vermilion isn't a uniform shade, as it varies from a brilliant orange-red to a duller, bluer red, depending on the consistency of the cinnabar grounds — the finer the powder, the more brilliant the hue.
With this in mind I decided to use fully saturated shades of red for most of the quilt, even though I knew that would make it pretty intense!
As I continued to work of the design of the quilt I made the decision to continue to using Alchemists symbols as marks on the fabric. I chose the following as the main symbols and made the marks using the mono print technique with black and silver textile ink.
For the final part of the design of the quilt I wanted to incorporate something of the story of Alexander Calder's mercury fountain. Calder was commissioned by the Spanish Republican Government to create a piece for the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris. Although highly toxic, Calder chose to use mercury to create a kinetic sculpture to welcome visitors to the Spanish Pavilion. The mercury in his fountain had a double significance: acting as the driving force of the piece, and also paying tribute to the people of Almadén who suffered greatly at the hands of Franco's fascist troops during the Spanish Civil War. Among other works, the World Fair Spanish pavilion also contained Picasso's iconic painting Guernica and Miro's painting 'The Reaper'.
'Mercure Espagnol D'Almadén'
After the exhibition Calder donated the Mercury Fountain to the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, as a mark of his friendship with Miró. It is now displayed behind very thick permanently sealed glass to ensure the poisonous mercury vapors never escape.
So, that is this quilt finished, and for my next one..............sulphur. You can probably guess - it is going to be yellow!
Thanks for reading.
I am in the process of making a new quilt for an exhibition named 'Made in Europe'. I must admit, I found the topic quite difficult to interpret. After a lot of thought I decided to revisit the subject of land art - the way man has intentionally shaped the landscape. Living in Wiltshire means I am surrounded by it; the Wiltshire White Horses, Stone Circles, Henges and Burial mounds are everywhere, so I have no shortage of inspiration.
I began my quilt by dyeing a beautiful piece of white cotton sateen; I got quite carried away and ended up flooding the kitchen floor with dye so I could get the effect I was looking for. (In hindsight, I think I should have bought something like a kids paddling pool and used that to contain the lake of dye) What I wanted was a green landscape background with lots of swirling movement created with red/brown curved bands radiating around a central circle. Happily, the fabric turned out just as I had hoped and I began work on the next step - adding the henge circle and white horses.
Everything was going well and I was very pleased with the progress of the quilt, until I hit an issue. The exhibition has specific requirements in terms of the finished dimensions of the quilt, and although I was mindful of this at the outset, I deliberately decided to create the quilt larger than required and then crop it down later on in the making process. In the past I have regretted not making a quilt larger, so I thought this would be a good idea. Unfortunately once I had the horses completed I pinned the quilt onto my design wall, stood back and took a long look at it. Straight away I knew that I didn't want to cut it down in size. The rhythm and circular movement of the design would have been ruined if I cut 20cm off of each side. Damn. So it was decision time. Cut the quilt and compromise the design, or put it to one side to finish another time and make something else.
I decided on the latter.
Which means I need to get on with a new quilt pretty sharpish as I have just under 3 weeks to get it completely finished! I briefly thought about recreating the same quilt, but smaller; but really, what is the point in that? So instead I got out my sketchbooks and started to develop an idea I worked on a few years ago when I made the quilt called 'Chrysopoeia'. That quilt was about Alchemy and the mysterious creation of gold. You can see more about that quilt here:
The new quilt is going to use the research and imagary of another metal that was important to the ancient alchemists - this time Mercury. Here are two mercurial pages from my old sketchbook.
The largest natural source of mercury is the beautiful reddish mineral known as cinnabar, and the richest deposits in the world are found in Spain and Italy. Cinnabar is composed of mercury and sulfur and as well as being the primary source of metallic mercury it has also been used as a pigment since ancient times - the pigment being known as Vermilion. It is vermilion that is to be the subject of my new quilt.
Find out more fascinating information about Mercury here and vermilion here
For a quilt about vermilion I obviously need red fabric - and as true vermilion pigment is not just one specific hue (as it is made from finely ground cinnabar which contains all kinds of impurities) the pigment you obtain varies from orange-red through to a blue/grey-red. That meant I needed lots of different reds. So I got out more of my lovely cotton sateen and started dyeing again (no puddles this time!)
Once rinsed and pressed I moved on to adding marks using one of my favourite techniques - monoprinting.
I know............... this is blue fabric. I need a little contrast too! A 100% intensely red quilt may well just be too much!
And here are a few examples of how the fabrics are presently looking.
So, now I am off to begin piecing all my lovely fabrics together. So far..... so good!
Thanks for reading.
p.s. just in case you didn't notice, I have changed my website address. It is now plain and simple:
but if you use the old one, you will still be redirected here.
I met a lovely group of very accomplished traditional quilters this week. We spent a great morning together eating cake, swapping stories and sharing our work. It was a pleasure to see such beautifully made quilts. It always makes me smile, but the world over, quilters always seem to ask the same questions...
'How long did it take to make?'; 'Where do you get you ideas?' and 'How do you turn the ideas into quilts' being the top three that seem to get asked most often.
A quick Google search brings up lots of videos, online courses, tutorials, books, and tips for those who would like to make the transition to designing and making their own work. If you want to get technical you can get into the detail of good design and like many other quilters I have written a book about it. One of the main things to do is to stop wondering about it and take the plunge. Try something small and don't worry if it doesn't work out. But that still doesn't answer the question, does it?
So, here is one quick and easy technique to at least get started, and once you have started it will all seem a lot easier!
Find something that you like. It might be a picture, a cushion, your auntie's old tea towel, or maybe a quilt that has particularly caught your eye. It can be anything. You aren't going to make a copy of it - so no need to fret about copyright. (However it might be polite to ask the permission of the original maker if you think it appropriate.) This is going to be your inspiration and you are going to look at it carefully and ask......... 'what if ?'
To demonstrate what I mean, here are several quilts made using the quilt 'City of Roses' (a quilt I made several years ago) as the starting point and the 'What if ?' questions that I asked.
What if................ I changed the colours?
This is a pretty straightforward and not terribly original, but it is a good place to start this explanation.
(note: if you are only changing the colours of a quilt then you really do need to ask the permission of the original maker, as it is a copy). So, instead of green and pink I chose blue & purple and peach & pink. Already it is starting to look different. (I will be teaching this quilt and many options for altering it at Midsomer Quilting on 3rd July)
What if.............................. I modified the shape of the flower motifs?
In my sketchbook I tried several different ideas for the rose shapes. There are lots of different variations that could be made. I stuck with roses, but I could have easily changed the type of flower to something like a daisy for a really different look.
I decided to change the way I cut the spiral. Instead of a simple straight edged spiral I made the edge bumpy.
What if ....... I changed the way I put the flowers onto the quilt top?
Instead of using raw edge applique I thought about how else could I put flowers onto the fabric. I made a lino cut stamp and also experimented with Derwent Inktense pencils and mono printing
What if............. I add some leaves?
Just a few little green leaves add enough contrast to help define the rose shapes on the busy background. They act as visual cues to say 'we are flowers' and stop the rose spirals from appearing as a big scramble.
What if....................... I changed the background?
As you can see from the quilt below I made quite a few changes to the background. You can read more detail about how I made this quilt in an earlier blog post by clicking here, but basically I cut the quilt into 3 and inserted panels of white fabric in between. On the white fabric I wrote a message with dye to tell the story I wanted to convey.
At a glance this quilt looks quite different from the original, but if you look more closely you will see it shares many similarities with 'City of Roses'. There are changes to the size, colour, overall shape of the quilt, as well as a slight change to the flower motifs and the method of adding the flowers. All this has contributed to making this a new and unique design.
What if...................... I simplify the quilt?
Instead of having 3 central panels - how about making it smaller and just having just one? Alternatively how about making it larger and having 5?
What if ................. I change the colour of the text?
Rather than have black and grey, what would it look like if I had black and rose coloured text?
The answer turned out to be YUK!! Oh well, sometimes these things happen and when they do you get to try another 'what if ?' to solve the problem.....
What if ................. I change the colour of the white outer fabric?
To quieten down that bright pink writing that was now shouting out I tried painting some weak blue and green dyes onto the fabric. It calmed it down a lot and I like the new look.
What if .................. I change the position of the band of appliqued roses?
To be honest, this happened by accident, but is nevertheless another good example of a 'what if !' When I fused on the flowers I did not notice I had the quilt upside down, but rather than pull them all off I stood back and looked at the quilt to see whether I liked it or not. I liked the new position - so they stayed and were stitched down.
Do you notice that the central panel isn't completely square in this one? That would be another good avenue to explore -perhaps trying a parallellogram or trapezium shape instead of the square.
What if............... I added a big extra border?
The blue outer border made me wonder whether another border might look good - giving a much more traditional look to the quilt.
Looking at it now I am thinking what if I extend the flowers across the blue border? I might lay a few on to see how it looks.
What if.............. I took the text away and replaced it with some quilting lines instead?
For this one I free motion quilted thorny rose stems and leaves and then added a little colour with Derwent Inktense pencils. It has given a light and delicate look which I like very much.
What if................ I change the quilting pattern?
Instead of the straight line quilting I used a micro stipple to fill the gaps between the leaves. I think this one might be my favourite!
That pretty much explains how I approach the whole 'What if' idea, and it has yielded some interesting results.
Thanks for reading.
As you may well know, I have a bee in my bonnet about encouraging people to feel more confident about creating their own original work. I do understand why people want to come to a workshop where everyone makes a quilt that is almost the same as the model the teacher provides; you know what you are aiming for, you know which resources to bring, and you know what you will go home with. Job done. But that scenario makes me just a bit twitchy. If you are going to pay your hard earned money to attend a workshop why not go to one where learn to make something just a bit more than someone else's quilt? Why not take the first steps towards learning how to design your own? Sure, it is a bit more effort, and you do risk it not turning out the way you expect - but you also gain by creating something completely your own at the end of the day. You gain by learning more than just techniques - you learn how to create something new and how to take more control of the process so that next time you will be more confident when it comes to trying out something new.
That is what I am hoping for with these two new workshops - 'A Garden of Roses' and 'Not My Grandmother's Garden'.
A Garden of Roses workshop
In this workshop we will look at the two quilts above and analyse some of the design elements and principles I have used to arrive at the finished design. More specifically we will examine the lines, shapes, use of space & colour, and how these elements have been pulled together to ensure harmony, balance, contrast and rhythm to give an overall unity to the finished quilts. Don't worry - it wont be boring, and we wont spend hours on theory! We will just be looking at real quilts and pulling out what is relevant to us as quilters. Using this information you will then design your own quilt by selecting your own variations of the design elements and principles and get started on making it. It isn't difficult and I will guide you though the whole process, giving you lots of ideas for creating your own work.
I'll also teach you the techniques of free cutting and piecing gentle curves if you wish to incorporate that into your design and I I used make your own interpretation. Let
Of course, if you don't want to alter the design and you would simply like to make either of these quilts then I am very happy for you to do just that, so don't feel you have to get into the design process if you don't wish to go down that path.
Not My Grandmother's Garden
Once again, if you don't want to alter the design and you would simply like to make a copy of this quilt then I am very happy for you to do just that, so don't feel you have to get into the design process if you don't wish to go down that path.
For more information on these and my other workshops I have created brochures which you may like to look at. You can find information on all my workshops by clicking on the WORKSHOPS tab at the top of any of my web pages - or by clicking on the pictures below.
Thanks for reading.