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.