When the theme of fire was announced for our Four-in-Art group, I immediately thought of all those days spent roasting marshmallows over campfires, just like Betty did. And then afterward, when people would gather back and just sit and watch the flames, as they moved and shifted. It was that movement I was trying for. I had thought about taking a lot of pictures of fire and scanning them onto fabric. What was I going to do, light a bunch of bonfires and take photos? Nyet. Then it was patch together a lot of squares, and “color” them by doing rubbings of a textile crayon onto the surface. Because I couldn’t come to a vision of that one, it faded, too. So one day in a church meeting, I sketched the bit on the left:
I dropped the notebook and when I picked it up, I noticed I liked it better the other way (the version on the right). With the triangles pointed upwards, it also had a birthday candle effect.
I dutifully drafted and cut out a bunch of orange and yellow-gold miniature triangles, and pulled red, ochre, rust, magenta fabrics from the stash.
I chose whatever colors I had in my stash that had that “fire” color to them.
Because I wanted that idea of movement, I pieced up the strips with two colors. It’s about this stage in the process that I begin to talk about it to my husband. I told him I’d been reading in a book, Why Faith Matters, by David J. Wolpe, and although I hadn’t gotten very far, I had read the section about Abraham and the idea of doleket, and how the duality of fire was presented in that passage. I began to research this idea, and to think about it as I worked.
If this was to be a consuming fire, then wouldn’t there be fallen timbers? I took a few of the strips, laid them across the upright timbers, stitched down on edge, then folded them over. I figured I didn’t need to really nail these appliqued pieces to the cloth, for it was in a place of construction/destruction. I may sound like I’m spouting malarky, but how do you explain where the brain wanders?
First draft Doleket. This measured way over our constraints of 12″ per side.
So I laid two pieces of cloth over the top and bottom, trying to figure out where the trim line would be. Whoa! Tidying up that jagged line really bothered me. I’m usually one who likes her quilts — and edges — all tidy and pristine, but this wasn’t where this quilt was going. Construction, or creativity, and destruction by fire happen in a random, haphazard manner.
So from the back, I raggedly hacked at the edges, purposely making them uneven and slightly unkempt.
Our group is keeping to the idea of a quilt sandwich and I knew I wanted the batting to be organic–cotton, rather than my usual. But I needed to piece some scraps. I auditioned several pieces for the background of the burnt timbers, but ended up going with a text written in a vintage style. I was thinking about words, how they also are permanent, yet ephemeral.
Now to quilt. I just started stitching along the strips, quilting right over the crosswise strips. I’d done a few, and really liked the hanging threads — they reminded me a prayer shawl (seen mostly in the movies, to be quite frank), and I liked them.
I took it outside on a bright sunny day, laid it on this yellow cloth and took a photo, but realized that the small details of the threads couldn’t be seen. I also had a hard time photographing this because the reds would freak out the camera sensors. I think this version is the best representation of the color.
Betty had started making labels for her pieces, and I wanted to follow suit. So here are the three we’ve finished so far. Our next theme is “owl.” I’ve known lots of owl collectors (of trinkets, mostly) in this world and I’ve never been one. But it’s really in nod to wisdom, so Betty says, so I’ll have to think about that. Our next reveal is August 1st–right after Rachel delivers her baby.
We’ve settled into a comfortable groove now, and while sometimes it’s been interesting to bring the discipline to get these done on time (we did move one deadline), I’ve appreciate how the process, and the product, has been gratifying. I was curious to see if I could make “art.” And with this last piece, I think I can say I’m approaching it, if only in my small way.
I’ll end with a few thoughts from a recent obituary for Eudorah Moore in the LATimes, describing her as someone who “blurred the boundaries between art, design and craft.” She championed “mixed-media inclusivenss,” working for years as curator at the Pasadena Art Museum, which later became the Norton Simon Museum. In 1973, she wrote:
“We’re going to put down the 19th-century idea that unless you are an easel painter you aren’t an artist. We’re going to accept that an artist is a person who has a definite statement to make, and can make it in any material.”
Now onward to wisdom, and owls!