Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Building a Composition

Turtle Spirit II, in progress
by Gayle Pritchard
In my previous post, the central panel  of Turtle Spirit II was finished. By showing you the piece on my working wall here, I hope you can get a sense of how the finished composition was built, piece by piece, literally.

As I mentioned before, I sew my compositions in sections on a tear-away backing. This makes it easier to work with the sections on my sewing machine, and it allows me to join unusually shaped edges to each other with ease.

To the base composition, I have added two side panels of African fabric, each of which features one of my hand-made cyanotype prints appliqued in place. I already envision how I want to quilt these side panels with long, broad stitches in perle cotton, and can hardly wait to begin sewing them! Along the bottom of the original panel is a single piece of unusual striped fabric, to which I have pinned various fabric remnants to be appliqued in place. I like this method of working. It is the same process as when I create a paper collage. The elements are auditioned by placing them on the main composition where it is very easy to immediately see what does or doesn't work. The finished art quilt will also have an additional layer of design, which is the quilting stitch itself. Unless you make quilts, it's hard to describe how much adding that line to the surface of the piece can change the surface, directing the eye in unexpected directions. I can also later add additional layers of fabrics and surfaces, such as stitched and printed attachments, to further enhance and complete the composition. I can respond to the composition throughout each stage of the process, adding and taking away until the piece is finished. All of these potential features are in my mind as I place the elements for this layer of the finished work.
The base layer of Turtle Spirit II, almost done!

To the striped bottom edge of the top's center panel, I added a narrow strip of fabric to create a visual edge. Underneath, a section of African fabric matching the top central panel is repeated, edged on either side with an exciting fabric that has a directional design, and more snippets laid on the surface to consider for applique.

Considering future structural problems, I decide that the two bottom side edges need a fabric underneath them to make it easier to bind the finished quilt when the layers are assembled. (Trying to bind those shaped side edges is a problem I definitely wish to avoid!) I don't want the fabric I use to jump out visually, though, because I like the illusion of the sides being slightly shorter than the bottom central panel. My solution is in the next picture. Ignoring the purple and blue backing fabric, which will not show on the front when the piece is finished, can you tell what I added or changed?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Grounded Like a Turtle

Detail, Turtle Spirit, ca. 1995
I mentioned in my last post that I was finishing up some odds and ends around my studio. One of those pieces is a Turtle Spirit quilt. I had made one as a commission for a wedding 20 years ago, and a detail of it is shown at left. Turtle is a symbol of mother earth, fertility and feminine wisdom. You can see on the detail shot that I included embellishments representing rabbits as a wish for the new couple to produce the children they desired. Sure enough, two beauties came from the union!

In our family, we have long enjoyed Sams and Carson's Medicine Card deck. At our get-togethers, the spiritually inclined women gather around a spread, and take turns reading the interpretation to the seeker, spending hours discussing the wisdom uncovered to guide our paths. Since turtle is considered to be the personification of goddess energy, I find her to be a powerful symbol. She protects and invites us to go inside ourselves to connect and be grounded. I wanted my own Turtle Spirit quilt. After I finished the commission, I started one for myself and never got around to finishing it. Ah, but Turtle has reappeared in my life this year, and I am driven to finish the new piece and hang it on my wall.
Turtle Spirit by Gayle Pritchard
ca. 1995. This is the original
commissioned artwork.

For my Turtle Spirit, I began with essentially the same central panel, a turtle form cut from hand made shibori fabric, hand appliqued in place on a remnant of one of my favorite African fabrics. I then cut and pinned additional design elements in place on my studio wall until I was pleased with what was happening. If you look closely, you will see cut-out snippets of fabric as well as border strips used to make the design larger. 

The central portion of the new Turtle Spirit, shown above left, measures about 25" wide x 30" high, to give you an idea of the scale. If you examine the edges, you will notice the tear-away backing showing. I create all of my fiber collages on top of a non-fusible medium weight tear-away backing. It not only provides body while sewing, it also allows me to create shaped pieces that fit together like a jig-saw puzzle without making any patterns.

In my next post, I will show you how I built my final composition, beginning with this little panel. The piece is almost finished now, and I can't wait for you to see it! I can't wait to hang it up on the wall.