Friday, February 1, 2008

New Piece Complete

Whew, I made my deadline.The new piece I've been working on is finally finished, photographed and will head off on a CD to the AQS magazine editor in tomorrow or Monday's mail. I'm naming it "Letters to Baltimore"-- it plays with the traditional center medallion popularized by traditional Baltimore album quilts -- and will illustrate an article I just finished for the magazine about burning fabric edges. I had hoped to make this piece fit the body of work I'm creating for my solo exhibition in May as well -- and get two uses for the work of making one piece! -- but I ended up relating the design choices more to traditional quiltmaking.

I've been working pretty determinedly for the past few days with my "variations on a theme" approach to composing. Here's one of my first ideas for the piece to illustrate uses for burned edges-- the gem in this experiment was that I got to burn the edges of the backing fabrics while retaining the smooth lines of the letter forms. They didn't quite work on this surface, but the idea may fit well on a different piece.Several of my wonderful and helpful crit group friends really liked the possibilities in the approach below, although I definitely went overboard with putting so many elements on this surface -- I just fell in love with playing with the different values of red! So I went to the other extreme and took too many elements away. I started to feel like Goldilocks digging into the three bears' bowls of porridge. By this time it was bedtime and I fell into bed contentedly, planning to add a few more letter forms to this the next morning, then stitch them down and finish the piece.

Surprise! I woke up at 2:30 AM, headed up to peek at my design wall and ended up working intensely until 6:00 AM, by which time I had completely changed the piece to the version below.

I can really SEE this in the magazine; I think it fits. Just a side note -- when the magazine asked me last fall if I would like to write about burning fabric edges, I wasn't sure I would find enough to write about the technique. I was definitely surprised when I started developing and writing the article and think it's pretty cool! My dear friend Nancy Murty helped photograph all the pictures to illustrate the technique and I am sooo grateful for her help.

I actually like the way this piece turned out enough to hang it in the breakfast nook of my kitchen (and I only hang very few things I make in my home, believe it or not.). It's a perfect size for that area at 45" x 45" -- not too large that it overwhelms the space, not so small that it disappears on the wall. So "Letters to Baltimore" is for me, but as with every piece I work on, I learned so much by trying various design ideas. Like reading a good novel, it's way more fun to create new work when you don't know for sure what the ending will be!

I've had many discussions with myself as I've worked on this piece and have jotted down sketches and ideas about where to take these ideas next. I definitely was pleased with the additions of a value scale of reds and will continue to develop and refine both the scale and the shapes themselves; I think aging the fabric on this work by tea dyeing it complimented the burning of the edges. A great challenge, this one, and I'm happy to be wrapping it up...but a new one is already waiting in the wings to start next!


  1. Wow Jean! The final version is fabulous - I was already in love with your piece too. I know about those mid night insights that hit so hard they wake you up ;o) What a transformation - and I love it!

  2. This piece turned out really nice. I wasn't to crazy about the first photos, but by centering the letters, then adding the red squares to enclose it, you have made the piece much more interesting.