Monday, 1 February 2021

The Endeavourers #13, Memories - "Treasure box"

Today is the reveal date for the latest piece for The Endeavourers art quilt group; our theme for this quarter is Memories. It's a broad subject covering a lot of possibilities so I am excited to see what my fellow Endeavourers have done!  You can find out here.

As usual, it was lovely to have such a thought-provoking theme to mull over! To begin with I wondered about making a scene illustrating a particular memory, then about trying to represent the biochemistry of memory and the way it depends on synaptic connections between neurons.  

Finally, I started thinking about the relationship between our memories and who we are - the way they contribute to who we are as a human being. We can have experiences but it is the memory of those experiences that allows us to learn and change and develop as a person. Memories are layered and stitched together, colouring and shaping our personalities, and our attitudes to the world.  

While I was wondering how to translate this idea into a piece, I thought about the treasure box I keep under my bed, as I'm sure many people do, and about the way the objects in a collection like this represent their owner's individual memories. The collection as a whole is more than the sum of its parts too and also reflects the owner as a person. 

In fact a person is like a treasure box - we are all treasure boxes! Together the box and its contents symbolise us as the keepers, and the product, of our memories.   So here is my imagined 'Treasure Box'.




And it is not a quilt! This is my first 3D textile work for the Endeavourers, and I have made what is supposed to look like a precious lacquerware box, full of treasures. The box is stitched together and the lid is made using crazy patchwork to represent the layering and stitching together of memories into a person, with different shapes and colours representing the variety of memories.



This variety of memories is also shown by the treasures on a bed of tissue paper inside; a couple of shells, a baby shoe, a dried corsage or buttonhole, some old pine cones, a fossil, and a conker, while the choice of objects gives some clues about the person it belongs to.  




Here is a closer look at the contents of the box and the pieces (all made of fabric) that I made to represent what is important in the imagined life and personality of a particular human being.   

: a little Douglas fir cone  and a larger Scots pine cone. My own treasure box has a cedar cone which is a reminder of a very long ago family picnic with my Grandma, during a sunny summer holiday. I thought that a fir cone might seem like a trivial thing, but in terms of memories represent something very significant.


: a couple of shells, kept as a general reminder of jolly walks on the beach, or of one special trip.

: a fossil, since they are treasures in themselves, but also represent many happy hours of fossicking.
 

: an old conker on a string. Maybe a reminder of childhood games, but also, like fossils, times spent scuffling around looking for them and the magic of finding a good one.

: a dried corsage/buttonhole saved from a happy or romantic occasion - a wedding, or an important dance, maybe. 




: a baby's shoe. (When my oldest daughter was very tiny, she seemed to grow much bigger during the day by force of personality, and it was only when I saw her shoes after she had gone to bed that I remembered how little she was!). This shoe is made from satin silk. Perhaps the owner made it from scraps of a wedding dress. 



: and hidden away inside, there is a tiny box (Treasure Box's mini-me) because there are some memories locked away that we perhaps don't take out very often, or share with other people.   



For some treasures, the significance of the memories might be common to many people, but for others we can only guess at their importance and the effect that they have had on their owner. 

When I was working on this piece I thought a lot about the film Blade Runner - as an exploration of how memories contribute to your identity and what it actually means to be human, you can't get much better! The replicants in the film began their 'lives' programmed with a set of someone else's memories, but they have also made their own (they have 'treasures' too), so they feel, and want to be understood as, human. I love Rutger Hauer's final speech - more of a poem really - which makes it clear that he is no less human or important than anyone else.  

'I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. 
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.  
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate.  
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.'

When our memories are lost, part of who we are begins to fade away. But even at the end of our lives we live on for a while in our 'treasures' and in other people's memories until eventually these are lost too.



....

Making the Treasure Box has been such a distraction from current events. I really enjoyed thinking about the imaginary owner of the box, and what might be in it. 

I set myself two challenges: 1. to make a piece that was constructed only using textiles and stitch, and 2. to only use materials I had rather than buy anything new.  The first was partly to fit with the aims of our group as a textile art group, but both of these also seemed very important to fit in with the idea behind the piece.  

Apart from some jewellery wire in the stems of the corsage I nearly managed the first challenge. Almost everything is textile and sewn together, but I had to resort to using some glue to secure the padded lining inside the lid and to fix the hinges and key plate. I just couldn't work out a stage in the construction when I could sew them on/in and be sure they would end up where they were supposed to be, and I couldn't force a needle through them afterwards!  

The second challenge was very satisfying! I was able to use up some tiny scraps of flimsy interfacing to make the carnations, and fabric 'crumbs' went into stuffing other objects.  The fir cones were made out of a piece of furnishing material reclaimed from a sample book. 


The box is reinforced with some stiff tapestry canvas, which I happened to have in exactly the right quantity, and is made from black velvet cut from a torn old favourite jacket. Sewing it all together was crucial to the idea but I did occasionally wonder why I was putting myself through this torture when it would just have been an awful lot easier to wrap fabric round a cardboard box!

The hinges and lock are made of scraps of suede painted with metallic fabric paint. 




For final decorative details I used cold tea to age the corsage (dipping in the carnations, and then putting some of the damp tea leaves on the fern and leaving to dry) and I used watercolour on the rosebud and shells, and to add shadows to the quilting on the fossil. It took a while to think about how to make each object but as the box and its contents symbolise a human being and their memories it felt very important to try to make everything look as precious as possible.  




Sometimes I wonder about the point of making things (me, not anyone else!). Occasionally it does seem a bit pointless, but putting a rather obsessive, and possibly rather mad, level of effort into this box was a lot of fun and I decided that that is really the point, it shouldn't matter about the circumstances or the result, or what anyone thinks, and anything is a worthwhile endeavour if it makes you think about and see the world in a different way.




So thank you very much again to all the other Endeavourers for making this such a great group to belong to, and do please have a look at what they have come up with.















 

Friday, 20 November 2020

A Life on the Ocean Wave

Having finished my Sea themed quilts for the Endeavourers after rather a long period of creative drought, I suddenly felt inspired again.  I do think that the sea, as a theme, offers up so many possibilities and I am going to keep going.   I've just finished another little quilt.

A Life on the Ocean Wave

Inspiration for this quilt came from an unusual source - my coffee pot!  I suddenly saw a beautiful wave, and an idea came into my head pretty much fully formed.  It is lovely when that happens.  


I had such fun making little silver fish out of the metal from tea lights (thanks to Fiona who used this metal for her beggars' tokens)



and seagulls out of modelling clay.





I've hung the quilt on a piece of driftwood


and am just waiting for a less wintry day so I can take even more photos.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

The Endeavourers #12, The Sea

The Endeavourers art quilt group have been working on the subject of the sea this quarter, resulting in a beautiful collection of quilts featuring all kinds of different techniques - check them out here.

I'm arriving late to the party.  The last few months have been difficult for us all and, like many people I'm sure, I haven't felt much creative enthusiasm but as people say in motivational books I gave myself permission to play for a bit! This subject is very close to my heart as I grew up near the sea, and still live near to it albeit in another part of the country further down the coast.   I find the colours and textures endlessly fascinating and it was these that I decided to think about to begin with, concentrating first of all on wave forms.




I started with the simplest wave quilting on calico.  It's a very peaceful and meditative exercise.



Then I pieced some waves.



I love that this piece almost looks carved in stone.

After that I progressed to colour


and then combined piecing, quilting and colour.

I realised that I loved the unfinished edges of this piece and will have to find a way to use this in future.


I made a copy so I could play with some seagulls



but this was just a diversion because I wanted to concentrate on making abstract pieces.

Finally, I wrapped three finished pieces round canvases - separate works which are also supposed to work together.  As things sometimes take on a life of their own, the pieced quilt became a kelp forest  (and by the way, if you have not seen the film My Octopus Teacher, with its stunning photography, it is worth looking up as a lovely and gentle antidote to the state of the world.)  The other two pieces reflect waves and ripples in sand.  Unifying all the quilts is a fairly heavy natural (and seeded) calico which I used for its lovely sandy colour and texture.  

Kelp Forest









Wave



Shore Line


The Sea


Although we have chosen our new theme - Memories - to work on in the coming quarter I think I will carry on working on sea-themed pieces as well.  I don't think I've finished my exploration of this subject:  getting these works finished has got me thinking again and I'm really looking forward to trying out some more ideas.  As a subject it opens up fairly limitless possibilities!

As always, I'm very grateful to be part of such a lovely group of creative and supportive members.  Please check out the other quilts on the group blog where you can also find links to each individual quilter.





Saturday, 1 August 2020

The Endeavourers #11, An Imaginary Voyage of Discovery in the South Pacific

Today The Endeavourers quilt group reveal their quilts for the quarter.  This time we did not have the usual quarterly theme but were to make quilts inspired by a prompt sent to us by our partner - a poem, a picture, a piece of fabric, etc.  My partner, Janine, sent me this wonderful compass as my inspiration piece for this quarter's quilt.  I was quite overwhelmed to receive it.  



Knowing that all my fabric was, at the time, in my studio where I couldn't get it during lockdown Janine also very kindly and generously sent me some fabrics, including the marvellous piece of map which went into the quilt.

The compass immediately set me thinking about great endeavours.   I love the stories of Scott and Shackleton, and sea-going adventures, like Darwin's on the Beagle.   A couple of years back, we visited the Discovery in Dundee, and I was really taken with the laboratory and its portholes.  






Then, having a particular interest in plants and horticulture, I read up about some of the great plant hunters who travelled the world bringing back new (to us) species from round the world.  In my head all these things finally came together in this quilt, combining science and adventure.






The story goes...

It is sometime in the 1800s.  The occupant of this cabin, the Scientific Officer of HMS Persevere (Leith), has gone on deck to watch as the tiny South Sea island they have just visited recedes out of view as they head further south.  On his bench are some shells he picked up there, and a piece of Ipomea pes-caprae - named Goat's foot morning glory because of the shape of the leaves - which grows on beaches throughout the world.  Its seeds are dispersed in salt water.  It is not a great discovery as it is already well known, but it was beautiful to see and he may paint it later - he is a competent botanical artist.  A Monarch butterfly has found its way on board and will hopefully evade the killing bottle.    The Scientific Officer has been delighted in the last month to receive a letter from his wife, enclosing a studio portrait of his three little girls who he hasn't seen for a year.  He hopes to find more letters from home next time they reach a port visited by packet ships.    He misses his family very much, but until then he will be busy examining rocks and barnacles under his travelling microscope (currently in its box away from the salt air), and writing notes for posterity about beetles of the South Pacific.

Porthole view



Monarch butterfly

A family picture




A real, and a stitched shell


I had a lot of fun making this quilt and imagining the life of its subject has been a hugely therapeutic bit of escapism. Thank you so much Janine for such a lovely prompt!  Please check out the other quilts on our group blog where you will also find links to the other members' personal blogs. 

[Note: Leith is part of Edinburgh where I live, and contains a large port.  The motto of Leith is 'Persevere' - a good motto for the times!  The little Victorian girls in the photograph are actually my great grandmother and her sisters in the 1800s.  The butterfly is a tribute to my grandfather, an entomologist.  I still plan to use a picture of my other great-grandmother as a stand-in for the Scientific Officer's wife, but she is currently in a box somewhere at the back of the attic!  The woman of this era who were not fortunate enough to be adventurers themselves deserve a lot of sympathy and recognition.]

Quilt details

Size: 18 x 24 inches

Techniques used:  watercolour and acrylic paints, textile pens, trapunto, raw edge appliqué, free-motion embroidery,  printing on fabric, free-motion quilting

Fabrics used: Quilting cotton, Oakshott cotton, gauze, interfacing

Friday, 1 May 2020

The Endeavourers #10, A Scene From a Book, 'My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun'

Today is the 10th quarterly reveal of the Endeavourers, and our theme for the Quarter is A Scene From A Book.   You can find all the members' works on our group blog and I'm looking forward to seeing what scene everyone chose, and how they've represented it.   I feel especially grateful to be a member of the group just now.  While we are all locked down it's reassuring to feel part of something that involves such positive human contact.   But whenever I get the chance to communicate with anyone I'm talking far too much, so be prepared for a long post!

At the beginning of lockdown I didn't feel in any way creative, and was concentrating on doing practical things to prepare for all eventualities.  However I did spend a lot of time thinking about the theme. I initially struggled to think of a scene from a book because I've already turned some of my favourites into quilts, but finally decided on Shakespeare's sonnet No 130 which I love.   (Not really a scene from a book, but a scene from a poem in a book...)

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

I love the way Shakespeare is poking fun at other contemporary poets and their flowery and somewhat ridiculous use of metaphor to describe the objects of their desire.   But while he is doing that he also manages to builds up a picture of his mistress - a real woman who doesn't float about but treads on the ground - who he loves to hear speak and thinks as rare as anyone described with false comparisons.  With social media placing so much emphasis on conforming to a particular, idealised and often artificial idea of beauty this poem has quite a contemporary relevance.

Incidentally, out of curiosity I looked out images of woman of Shakespeare's time.  Being wealthy and important enough to have their portraits painted, decked out in their finest, and on their best behaviour, they often look rather bland and lifeless. The poets Shakespeare teases, with their unrealistic, idealised view don't seem to properly see the real woman, and I didn't get much feeling of the person underneath in these pictures.   

However I came upon some paintings by Artemesia Gentileschi and it is worth looking them up. (I was just now adding the link to the Wikipedia article and realised that there was actually going to be an exhibition of her paintings at the National Gallery this year but it has been cancelled because of Coronavirus.)  She used herself as the model for several paintings and her intelligent face is beautiful and full of character, though somewhat sad as she had a rather terrible life which is reflected in some of her grimmer pictures.  I like the way she confronts the viewer.


Anyway, that was a digression.  I began by thinking about what I could make with a rather ragtag collection of bits and bobs I had at home.   It was an interesting challenge to use up some of it in my quilt, just as I'm getting creative at making dinners out of what's left in the fridge because of course you can't just casually pop out to the shops.  My plan was to throw these odd scraps into the pot and make a mosaic quilt using them to build up a picture of the woman in the poem.  That seemed to fit the times and to fit the poem which also builds up a picture with each line.   I thought I would make something quite colourful and down to earth.  


However, when I started laying out fabric, another quilt started to take shape by itself.  It moved totally away from the original colourful mosaic idea.   I like this about making pictorial quilts - it's a fairly leisurely process and you're not committed until you sew.  Things sometimes take on a life of their own.

My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun
My black-haired woman was cut from one small piece of black Oakshott cotton, which was fused to another piece of cream Oakshott, then the whole thing was machine appliqued to a pieced and quilted panel I had made for another project and not used (the section in the middle of this quilt).



I found a bag of scraps of batting in a drawer under my bed (yay!) and 'frankenbatted' them together to extend the size of the panel by sewing them round the edge.  I had cut some calico from the back of a mini quilt, which I had planned to use as a substrate for scraps in the mosaic quilt plan, and that turned into the border.   I had a tiny piece of gold silk, only just enough for the sun.

My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun
I took the above photo in the sun outdoors so that the shadows would show up the quilting. She's not the colourful earthy woman I intended to make, but there you go!  I wanted to make an image of a woman who asserted her personality into the picture, so she is framed by the border around her but is not constrained by it. She has a direct gaze and I tried to make her to look as if there's more to her than what you initially see.   

My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun




___________________________________________

Crafting during Coronavirus. The dining room is now also for sewing, online pilates class, and growing sweet pea seedlings in toilet roll tubes.



LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...