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.
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.