Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Desperately Seeking

Now I have to quilt it. It was a lot of fun to feel like a choreographer as I came up with new poses for my little skeletons all around the quilt. Some are barely holding on by their fingernails, some are blithely strolling, some skip, some leap, some lie down and some plod. It gave me great pleasure to think of them as my ancestors, the innumerable, unknowable ones who came before, whose parade I will join someday.

I never like to have a simple quilting grid, especially something that comes from traditional quilting designs, because I feel that if I am going to do something completely new with the design of the quilt, I should do something completely new with the quilting. In that regard I am still deeply traditional. That is, I like to take the quilting seriously as a separate design element on the quilt, not as an element there only to complement the design of the top. I have many friends in the world of quilts who think of the quilting design as something supplementary, something more or less like a necessary evil. To me the quilting design is one more chance to put my own stamp on my quilt. I want it all original.

This one, however, is a real challenge--primarily because the white space is so undefined and open. I have not yet found the right approach. Sometimes it is good to be flummoxed, as it is only when you are desperate, devoid of ideas that you can be in the frame of mind to attempt something radical, something completely different. I am just about there. Every day I think of the possibilities and return instead to writing projects, music projects and family projects. Desperation is sure to set in soon.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Halfway Home
Thinking of my first experience with an actual image--my house quilt called "1871"--I had the idea that I could maybe try another quilt with a recognizable image, or a series of them. The idea that came up for me immediately was this sort of road with skeleton-like figures working their way along it, like my long line of ancestors...like the road of life...like a bunch of ants or something. I don't know exactly what. But the idea fit my way of working, so I stuck with it.

What I mean is that this is how I like to work: I have a vague idea of how something might look. In this case, "a sort of road with little figures all along it." Then I started in by creating a meandering line. I let the line create itself by starting with a length of bias tape and just sewing it down until I reached the end. At the end, I built a little stick figure. Then another and another. Each figure is a new composition, another challenge to find the right pose, the right proportions and etc. After a while they seemed to take on lives of their own, more or less telling me what to do next.

In this way I did not have to plan each detail, but rather to discover each detail...I like to find out what the quilt will look like by making it.

"This is all well and good," you might say, "But what if you don't like what it looks like when you are done?" Fair question. The fact is sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. But I don't have to like something to like it! That is, I am always surprised by some aspect of the finished quilt. On this one I see that the large negative space in the middle is going to be a lot more significant than I thought, so I will have to contend with that with the right approach to quilt designs. Okay. It gives me a new challenge and it sparks a new direction of thought. That is what I am looking for here: new directions of thought.

So it is in doing the actual work that I find the new ways, the new means. The work is not an expression of what I have discovered elsewhere.

I have been held up for a couple of days by my need to prep more materials. I have to cut the many small bits of bias, then fold and glue the ends so they don't ravel. Now I have them and I can tackle my next crew of figures. It looks to me like I am about halfway to the end. See you there.