The other day, Pamela commented on my quilt exhibition at Art Lab Studios and Gallery in Parrsboro and asked how I set the quilts up to be displayed. I explaining how I make a sleeve from inexpensive muslin, baste it to the top of the quilt, insert a dowel with a bulldog clip on each end so the hook from the hanging wires has something to slip into. A simple solution, really.
Carefully examine the work and the decisions in this example of Bisa Butler’s textile art. [Detail of “If I Ruled The World, Imagine That” (2022), cotton, silk, wool, metallic brocade, and velvet, quilted and appliquéd, 102 x 51 inches].
This complete piece is large 102″ x 51″ – the width of a king size bedspread and 2/3 the height. This portrait is one section of it and still you can see how amazing her decisions are regarding colour pattern and background!
As much as I enjoy creating image wall art, I can’t begin to think in the manner and scale that Butler does – notice the roller skates on the pants, the hair, and glasses frames, the shadowing on the vest, the detail on his hat. Her wild choices of fabric, her amazingly done appliqué work, the juxtaposition of patterns are simply wonderful. My works are small – hers are massive!
Today I hung my quilts and wall pieces at the Art Lab Studios & Gallery in Parrsboro. I didn’t hang everything I took with me, opting for the “less is more” principle. Nevertheless, I’m delighted with how the show looks.
I spent the afternoon as “artist in residence” to chat with folks who dropped by for the “opening” – there were probably a dozen visitors who stopped to look, half of whom actually wanted to learn more about the works themselves. Lovely conversations with each of them.
This year, I wanted to show the new quilts produced since last summer as well as a “retrospective” of what I refer to as “the portrait” pieces – the wall art based on my photos where I print elements of a photo on fabric and embed them in a pieced background. The initial reaction is always that you’re looking at a photo and then only when you step closer do you see you’re viewing a textile/thread piece.
The show hangs until late in the afternoon of August 18 in Parrsboro NS.
If you’re considering a day trip to Parrsboro make sure to stop for lunch at The Pier / Harbourview Restaurant in Parrsboro. Ruby and I went there just to have their lobster roll – it won’t disappoint you!
A nicely toasted (buttered) hotdog bun FILLED with chunks of fresh lobster seated on some lettuce (OK, so there wasn’t any chopped celery, but we didn’t complain because there was so much lobster). We added a single kids’ portion of fries which we shared (just enough for two without having to feel guilty about eating them).
We started with the deep fried battered dill pickle – yes you got that right – a Pier Restaurant invention, I think. Crazy but surprisingly tasty. Ruby had never had anything like it so I ordered some. Comes with tartar sauce for dipping.
On our way back to the city we stopped at “The Egg Lady” – to pick up 5 dozen fresh eggs for a friend of mine. Laid today, they’ll last her for several weeks.
For now I have the finished “Fish” pieces 4 & 3 hanging on the closet door. That’s it, I don’t plan on doing any more of these. They’ll go in the closet along with the other “skinny quilts” – I may take them to Parrsboro for the summer exhibit there, we’ll see when I start pulling work from the closet closer to the end of July.
One friend commented she’d put small bubbles coming to the surface – I did think about that for a moment as I was finishing the stitching on Fish 4 – but in the end I left the fish swimming peacefully among the seaweed.
I finally started stitching this piece yesterday. I filled in the sky and worked on the mud flat with blues/greys and brown/rusts (to really see what I’ve done, click on the image).
Today I worked on the land in the distance (still have the headland to work on). Then started in on the vegetation on the bank. First I had to modify some elaborate floral stitches on my machine to get the feel of the taller plants on the edge, next the long dried grass; after that the shorter dried grass next to the gravel (which I haven’t done anything to yet).
I’ve begun stitching the dark lines on the sun-bleached bench; I still have more to do there – just not sure which elements to try bringing out.
The gravel will present a bit of a challenge – I’ll probably use wandering straight stitching with a mixture of lighter and darker thread.
The most difficult element will be Ruby herself – I want to bring in the construction elements of her jacket – cuffs, the yoke and pockets, the collar. I think I’m just going to outline her hair, her face, and her hand, and leave the fine facial detail alone!
Maybe a bit more later this afternoon; if not, I’ll work on the piece again tomorrow.
What’s sticking out in the photo is my attempt to bring a bit of grey cloud to the upper right corner of the piece. I’m seriously thinking about taking out the grey thread and replacing it with the paler blue I used for the rest of the sky. The darker stitching seems a distraction. Retracing the stitching will have to be done v-e-r-y slowly so I can reuse the needle holes from the stitching I’ve taken out! Fingers crossed that it’s doable.
Grey Thread Removed From Sky
I did it – took out the grey stitching in the sky. Looks better. Check on the closeup (click on the image) and you’ll see the needle holes I now have to use as I stitch with lighter blue thread!
In case you harbour any illusions that I work in a tidy way – I wish to share the chaos on my cutting table!
Creating a textile wall art piece is an exercise in mess! It may start out looking orderly, but it quickly degenerates into piles of tiny scraps of fabric scattered everywhere; some so small I need fine tweezers to pick them up and place them.
Step 1 is to guesstimate the size of the piece of fabric (leaving enough for me to trim my way to the shape I intend), then Step 2 is adding fusible web to the back. I use a silicon sheet when pressing to be sure I’m not sticking fusible web to my ironing board.
Step 3 – I cut out whatever small shape I need and carefully place it on the background (which is already fused to the muslin base). Sometimes to get a shape, I cut that element from the paper printout of the scene – that’s what I’ve done with Ruby – I’m using my paper cutout to help me position all the other elements. Ultimately, I’m going to print the Ruby enlargement (~115%) on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of prepared fabric (for her to fit the size of this piece I’ve had to crop and enlarge various parts of the photo to get the overall magnification right).
After establishing a position for my horizon, I work from distant background to foreground – carefully layering the bits of fabric and pressing the cutouts into place, waiting for them to cool before adding the next bit. At this point, I’m also trying to visualize where I’ll be thread-painting to build texture and detail to the scene – in the case of the mud flat at low tide, the brown bits of fabric will be stitched with light blue thread, the water will be stitched with brown thread to blur the boundaries of water and mud.
I just thought you’d find the mess I work with interesting. I use both course and fine permanent markers to adjust colour, sometimes I’m even able to cut bits from previous projects printed on fabric sheets to provide a bit of added detail. I was looking at the rocky beach from a fabric print-out of Black Rock Beach but the pebbles are too large to be useful for the gravel path in front of the bench at Five Islands Park. I will use a bit of Stonehenge fabric and thread-paint it to get the effect I want.
I’ve just spent the morning working on the distant background – the NS mainland in the far distance, the islands closer to the Parrsboro shore and the nearby headland. Then I started on the mud flats – it’s fiddly and the bits of fabric may be too large but I won’t know that until I get the foreground developed. I can always remove some of the bits of brown and fill in with thread-painting.
Shaping & Fusing Elements
Looking at the photo, Ruby might be just a bit too close to the centre – I may want to position her a smidgen closer to the right edge. But now I’ve got the layout positioned so that her head is above the headland. I also like how the sky has turned out – it’s a piece of fabric I purchased quite a while ago. I will add in some more grey clouds on the right, probably using some organza, but this will thread-paint nicely.
Gotta go do other things now. Back at this tomorrow.
I’ve written about my visit to the Five Islands Park this past July. While at the park, I managed to capture a photo of my friend Ruby who had been on the trip with me:
At Five Islands
I knew I would turn the photo into a piece of fibre art. I started by enlarging the photo so I could make the panel 15″ x 12″ and have Ruby still be prominent. Next I dug out a bunch of fabrics and scraps from the stash trying to match colour.
At Five Islands – Picking Fabrics
Then I sketched in some features (using a Friction pen which will disappear when I fuse fabric elements in place).
At Five Islands – Sketching The Scene
This morning I started cutting small bits of fabric to “paint” the scene:
At Five Islands – Preliminary Layout
Nothing is fused in place yet. I’m still trying to get the feel of the layout. I can see I need to squash the vertical aspect quite a bit because I want Ruby’s head to be well above the landscape behind her.
The challenge with this piece is getting the feel of the wet mud flat of the Bay of Fundy at low tide. Yesterday I painted a piece of fabric using an acrylic wash but the colour is much too bright for the scene. I need something quite a bit darker; I also need to cut away much more.
St. Margaret’s Bay
I have been studying a couple of my watercolour paintings of the ocean – I’ve spent hours in front of them trying to understand how to set up the mud flat. Because the water reflects the sky it has to be the same colour – it’s the subtle shadowing of the “land” elements that make us read “water”. With watercolour, the water is painted first with the darker land elements added after the water has dried. I need to do the same with my piece – lay down the water fabric then add strips representing “mud” on top. The thread painting will fill in the flow of the remaining surface water on the mud.
Next step is to add fusible interfacing to each of the small fabric pieces, shape them, then fuse them in place.
The finished colourwash panel – complete with inner raw silk border, rust piping and black crackle frame.
Blue Garden With Butterfly
I’m pleased with the colour distribution on this piece and the small butterfly appliqué adds a place for the eye to land.
I undertook a second panel for the class – this time I cut my fusible interfacing grid into 8″ strips, taped them to the cutting table, laid out my squares, fused the squares to the interfacing (easy to do because the strips were narrow enough to carry and place on my ironing board), stitched the three panels together, then continued systematically stitching the small blocks – cutting the interfacing as I went so I could press the seams open (which precludes stitching in the ditch as a finishing quilting).
Garden in Pink
I wanted to add some kind of focus element in the centre of the panel but I didn’t want another butterfly and I didn’t have anything else to place there so I’ve left it as is, for now. Should I come across an idea or an image of something small enough and from the right colour palette I can always remove the backing panel and add it to the work.
Next, in preparation for the Wednesday workshop, I cut a gazillion (around 2000 actually) 2″ blocks in as many shades of dark, light, and medium print fabrics as I was able to find either in my stash or from my local shops. I bought 4″ strips from width of fabric which yielded two 2″ strips – one I set aside in my stash, the other I cut into 20 2″ squares.
I’ve colour sorted all the blocks into sandwich bags placing bags with similar colours in larger ziploc bags so there is some order to this collection. I also cut a 26″ x 24″ panel of fusible interfacing in preparation for the class, and using the grid on the non-glue side as a guide, marked 2″ squares on the glue side so it’s possible to visualize the layout (the grid lines are very difficult to see when I’m working on my dark green cutting surface).
So I think I’m now ready for the Wednesday day-long class. Week 1 we’ll assemble the watercolour/colourwash panel; Week 2 we’ll turn it into a finished textile hanging – inner sashing, piping, outer frame, even an embroidered signature.
Finished with a hidden binding and backing fabric. I like this one even more than the original. I think the ombre fabrics create a feeling of water and notice the single fish swimming against the school…. But that’s it for fish – I have no more in my bag of fusible scraps.
Skinny Quilt #4 – An Update
Skinny Quilt IV – Straightened
I wasn’t happy with this banner – it wasn’t quite square and it showed when the piece was hanging. Yesterday, I took it apart so I could straighten the sides and while I had the backing and binding off, I decided to remove the smallest blue circle – first, because it was the wrong colour – it didn’t really show up – and second, it was the eighth circle and an odd number is more pleasing. Now the yellow in the top large circle is now echoed in the small one and your eye moves between the two and is then drawn into the complexity of the fabric design of the other circles. A better balance.
Best of all, the banner is now square so it hangs straight and I can include it I the banner/skinny quilt collection.