I have made several quilts on the theme of Freedom and Liberty over the past few years and have just completed another for the group 12 by the Dozen. I didn't set out with that intention, but this recurring theme emerged from my research into the work of the textile artist Jean Lurçat. (Find out more about Lurçat and his work here.) Initially I was not drawn to his work at all - at first glance it appeared to me to be chaotic and confusing - too much to take in. But after some (slow) research I began understand what I saw now I like it very much.
Here is a very small selection of some of his tapestries to give you a flavour of his work ...
I have also created a Pinterest board with lots more of Lurçat's work, including his paintings and ceramics. Click here to see the board.
If, like me, you are new to Lurçat's work, one of the first things to know is that much of his work is in tapestry, a somewhat unconventional medium in modern times.
From Medieval times, and up until around the end of the 15th Century, the artistry of tapestry was highly prized. Enormous tapestries graced the walls of great buildings, forming part of the architecture they decorated. They served to keep the place warm as well as conveying messages and having their own decorative features. However, from the 16th Century and the beginnings of the Renaissence, painting and sculpture pushed out other forms of art and tapestry came to be regarded as somewhat 'oldschool'. If tapestry was to survive it needed to look more like a painting than a traditional tapestry, The result was that in 1773 the French state run Gobelins weaving works raised the dye palette of wool for tapestry from 20 (twenty) to an incredible 14,400 possible tones. Hence, the cost of producing wool in this many variations went through the roof and Gobelins reached the point where they were having to dye 1,456 pounds of wool swatch to get 44 pounds of tapestry. It was untennable; the upshot of this was that the price of creating a tapestry (that wasn't exactly on trend anyway) became impossibly huge and largescale tapestry production all but stopped.
In around 1915 Jean Lurçat began exploring his art. One of the pieces of art that captivated him was the incredible piece of Medieval art known as The Apocalypse Tapestry (click here to find out more). It was this set of tapestries which set him on the path to becoming one of the modern day artists (along with William Morris) aclaimed for their role in the revival of contemporary tapestry.
The issue of producing so many different colours to create tapestries led Lurçat to conclude "you do not get the subtleties of Bonnard even with 14,400 tones (of wool)" After much thought he set about devising a tapestry colour palette using a "scale of pre-arranged colour" that would hopefully bring tapestry creation back into the realms of feasability.
His success in this quest means that all tapestry now, more or less, follows Lurçat's system of limitation of colours. He used just 5 shades each of red, blue, grey and ochre, four shades of green and six of yellow plus one black and one white, making thirty-two in all; quite a difference from 14,400!
To satisfy my own curiosity, I decided to make a colour study of my own using Lurçat's work. By looking closely at his work I was able to see how cleverly he used colour to make his work almost 'glow'. I then used it to create my own collction of fabrics using what I discovered.
Lurçat's Design Process
Whilst researching Lurçat's work online I also came across a few images of him designing his enormous tapestries at his atelier. Like many people I find it very interesting to see an artist's process. It also helped me to understand the scale of his work.
A few other interesting facts:
The weaver of Lurçat's designs (he was not a maker himself) had to follow strict design guidelines and was to have absolutely no artistic freedom in the creation of the piece. Once Lurçat presented his design, the 'carton' (translated into English as 'cartoon' which is the drawn 'pattern' ) was to be faithfully recreated to achieve exactly what Lurçat had envisioned as the end a result. In essence, it was a non-interpretive code in which the weaver would have no question as to what the designer required.
Additionally, Lurçat mades it very clear that the idea of fashioning a tapestry after a painting, especially one that had originally been painted with no intention of becoming a tapestry, was misrepresentative and disrespectful to the art form. (He would probably, therefore, not be happy about what I did next!)
Lastly, he was adamant that each tapestry should be embedded with content; it should thrive as a partner to architecture and therefore be invariably large scale and designed and thought of as being forever connected to the architecture it was designed for. "I want to remind you that Tapestry knew its proudest moments in a time when a style of extremely grandiose architecture reigned supreme".
For my small quilt (sorry M. Lurçat) I chose several recurring motifs from his work: the sun medallion, butterflies and cockerel. Many of his artworks, tapestries as well as his pottery, have variations of these motifs deeply embedded into their narative. More specifically I was attracted to two of his works that focus on the theme of Liberty: one he created in 1943 and the second in 1948 (see below). They were his response to a poem of the same name, written by another famous French artist, Paul Eluard, (You can read the poem in English and French here.)
I am sure it is a coincidence, but this unusually vibrant yellow colour is very similar to that which I used in my two previous quilts focussing on Liberty - perhaps that is what made me notice them?
I find these two tapestries striking - so much so I wanted to recreate my own 'Liberty' piece along similar lines. Using fused applique pices from the fabric selection I made earlier I created a medallion motif and sectioned it in a similar way to Lurçat.
This is my interpretation of Lurçat's 'Liberte'; my newest version of 'Freedom' using motifs familiar to dwellers of the 21st century: White poppies symbolising pacifism, an olive brach of peace and butterflies, free to go where they choose. The sun's rays represent optimism for a brighter future, but the barbed wire, still lingering, is ready to spread its pain. And at the top, instead of Lurçat's French Cockerel I have placed a dove, flying high over a rising sun.
It is a bit of a different quilt for me - but I have really enjoyed finding out more about this quite different artist and trying something new. I feel it may be the beginning of something. I'm not quite sure what yet, but time will tell.
As a final thought, earlier this summer I was very kindly taken by my friend Liz to the Grayson Perry exhibition in Bristol. He too is working in tapestry on a grand scale, telling contemporary stories. Whilst I thought they were impressive, they did not have a great effect on me at the time. It is only now I am seeing them from a new perspective.
Thanks for reading.
Following on from my last blog, this is the second of my 16 inch square quilts made in my 'Works inspired by artists' series for the group '12 by the Dozen'. This time the artist chosen was Wilhelmina Barnes Graham, chosen by Linda Bilsborrow, and what a great choice it was. You can find out more about her by clicking here.
Below is a tiny taste of her work.
The inspiration for this next quilt comes from my study of her drawings, and in particular, her 'Line' series. One of my favourites is titled 'Music of the Sea' which you can see by clicking here. I find the simplicity of this work fascinating. Simply by the repeated use of hundreds of thin lines Barnes-Graham was able to capture enormous energy and movement in her drawings and is a perfect example of 'rhythm' in design terms. That is what I wanted to explore.
As I wanted to create a portrait again I chose a sketch I made several years ago of a man I once knew named Paul.
Taking this drawing as a starting point I drew several new versions of Paul's face, concentrating on using only thin lines to mark the contours of the face. The progression below shows what I did. I deliberately did not use as many lines as Barnes-Graham as I wanted to leave space to add more lines with the quilting stitches later. I must say, it does remind me of a map!
Once I was happy with the drawing I made a series of mono prints by reversing the image and drawing onto the back of a piece of white cotton fabric that was laid onto a sheet of glass covered in oil based printing ink. It is a technique I love to use and have described several times in the past. (Click here for a recent blog post describing the technique)
As I had a lot of ink on the plate I decided to make several prints. One of the early prints was especially dark and the lines lost much of their definition (too much wet ink on the printing plate) so I ended up turning the fabric over and using the back of the print which was much more subtle.
Once the ink was fully dry (about 4 days) I used Markal oilsticks and a dry toothbrush to add hints of colour to the fabric. I used turquoise, Wedgewood blue and muddy grey colours, similar to those Barnes-Graham used in 'Sea Movement' (see image below; click here for more details of this piece) Once it was dry (another few days) I free motion quilted further thin lines with black thread, echoing and enhancing the lines already in the drawing .
He looks quite a sombre old man, don't you think? I am not entirely happy with the bottom left corner of the piece, I think I got it wrong when I added that diagonal line coming up from his chin area. I also don't like the dark grey shading I added in the very bottom left corner, continuing from his jersey. In an attempt to understand better what I had done I decided to make a second piece to address the problems, which you can see below.
It is mostly similar, but the colours are a little more vibtant, the lines thinner and less dark and the bottom left corner has been tidied up, I think it is a much better version - and he doesn't look so glum either.
I am happy to say that 'Old Man II' is currently on his way to New Zealand (via South Africa) to be part of an exhibition by members of '12 by the Dozen' at the National Quilt Symposium in Auckland, 1st to 6th October 2019. Further details can be found by clicking here.
Many thanks to Rosemary Rush for organising this fabulous opportunity for us.
For my next blog post I will share the third and latest quilt I have made, inspired by the work of German artist, Gabrielle Münter, chosen by Uta Lenk.
Thanks for reading.
I can't remember the last time I made a bed quilt; it has to be at least 5 years, probably longer. So, when I decided to make this one I came to it fresh - and enjoyed every minute of it!
It is a single bed size, so not too hard and made using the 'quilt-as-you-go' method, which meant that the intense free motion quilting I used on each of the panels was easy to handle on my small domestic Singer sewing machine.
The quilt is currently hanging at Midsomer Quilting in Somerset, UK, and will be there until May 19th when I will be teaching how to make these pretty free motion quilted blocks.
I designed 10 dolls and a very special horse for the workshop. The dolls are based on traditional painted wooden dolls from Russia, Japan and Scandinavia.
The idea for the first doll came from the annual Midsomer Quilting 12 x 12 challenge in 2017, entitled 'Where in the World?' After some thought I decided to make a Russian Matryoshka Doll, and if you went to the exhibition you might recognise her.
These Russian dolls are an unmistakable symbol of Russian character, culture and country, an emotional feeling summarised as 'Russian Soul'. As I was researched the history of these elaborately decorated dolls I discovered a lot about similar dolls from other countries, and I was surprised to discover that the tradition of carving these so called 'Matryoshka' dolls (often mistakenly referred to as 'Babushka' - dolls) is not quite as old as I thought.
The first nesting Russian doll set was carved 1890 and has been atributed to a man named Vasily Zvyozdochkinn who made a set using a design by Sergey Malyutin, a folk craft painter. Traditionally the hollow outermost doll in the set is a maternal woman in traditional dress, known as a sarafan. Inside her hollow interior are a succession of smaller and smaller hollow dolls which can be male or female and the smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby turned from a single piece of wood.
Much of the artistry of these beautiful dolls is seen in their painting. Long dark winters are the perfect time for farmers and other artisans to spend time creating beautifully ornate masterpieces. Their decoration often follows a theme; fairy tale characters and regional traditional costume are popular.
The name Matryoshka, written in Cyrillic as матрёшка, translates literally as 'little matron', and is a diminutive form of the Russian first name 'Matryona' or 'Matriosha' (Матрёна). This name is very popular in rural parts and is associated with the matriarchs of a big Russian family, having its origins in the the word mother (mama). I was interested to discover that although in the west we frequently call them 'Babushka' or Grandmother dolls, this is actually incorrect - they are not grandmothers at all!
For people of Slavic origin Matryoshka is a symbol of motherhood and the fertility of nature, which why the traditional dolls take the form of a curvy, female shape, expressing the ancient symbol of motherhood. Some say that in ancient Russian tradition dolls were made without painted faces and did not represent living persons because it was believed that evil spirits could settle inside it. Others say that Matryoshka dolls were given to newborns to wish them a long and prosperous life - something that echoes with similar dolls in other cultures.
Photo credit: public domain: Doll carved by Zvezdochkin, painted by Malyutin - Sergiev Posad Museum of Toys, Russia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5051554
Ten years after the first Russian Matryoshka was created, the doll was presented to an international audience at the Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) in Paris, where it won a bronze medal. The doll was a hit, quickly gaining popularity, and soon began production in multiple regions in Russia. By the 1930s, the dolls were being factory produced and shipped around the world.
Another more ancient nesting doll set, very likely to have influenced the creation of these Russian dolls, came from Japan. It is believed that the forerunner of the Matryoshka was brought from the Island of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Japanese wooden dolls representing Shichi-fuku-jin, the Seven Gods of Fortune are thought to have inspired Vasily Zvyozdochkinn. This ancient Japanese set of dolls has the largest outer doll taking the form of Fukuoka, a kindly, old, pot bellied Buddhist monk who symbolised happiness and longevity . Inside were 6 further dolls. Each of the dolls took the form of one of the 7 lucky gods from Japanese mythology.
Even older still are traditional Japanese Kokeshi dolls, originaing from north easern Japan. There are 11 traditional styles and are thought to have originated in the 1600's as souveniers for those visiting the spas in this part of Japan. Next are the 'lucky' Daruma dolls modelled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen tradition of Buddhism. These dolls, though typically red and depicting a bearded man (Dharma), vary in color and design depending on region and artist. Though considered a toy by some, Daruma has a design that is rich in symbolism and is regarded more as a talisman of good luck to the Japanese.
A modern twist on these Japanese dolls is the 'Creative Kokeshi Dolll'. are probably more popular in the west. They developed as an art form since the 2nd World War and retain the limbless kokeshi characteristic. However, they are more contemporary in their design with more shapely bodies, added features such as hair, as well as colourful exquisitely patterned kimono. Creative kokeshi are 'created' by artists, and have features and styles unique to their own particular artist or creator. The majority of creative kokeshi are made in Gunma prefecture.
These are the dolls that started my new series of doodles that resulted in the Doodle doll quilt. But of all the dolls in thie mini series, I think the Skandinavian inspired dolls are my favourite. Here are 3 of them.
At the workshop we will be making square panels similar to those above, created by 'drawing' the design onto plain white fabric just using black thread. Once the design is stitched we then fill it with free motion quilting stitch and finally use fabric paints to colour them. Depending on how fast you work it is possible to complete 3 of these panels during the day.
The panels can be used in lots of ways - to create a bed runner or a larger quilt, as a panel on a bag, as a wall hanging - or even stitched onto clothing.
Of course, you don't need to go to a workshop to create you own doodles. On paper or just draw an outline and start to fill it with repeated shapes. Once you have your design, set your sewing machine for free motion quilting and 'draw' your design with stitched thread. I paint my finished designs with fabric paint, but they also look very striking just left in black and white.
Why not have a go?
If you are interested in coming to the workshop you can contact De at Midsomer Quilting https:midsomerq.com/. You can also see more on my website by clicking the button below
Thanks for reading.
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.