Thursday, January 7, 2010

Over The Years


It's been a strange few days.  I've been in the process of moving things around and doing a massive clean-up and purge around my house.  While doing it I keep coming across pieces of my work that I'd put aside years ago. 

Today I came upon 4 pieces, all made between 1985 and 1995.  Now, I started quilting, (very young!), in the late seventies so by the time I created these pieces I'd been working along for a while.  When I started there wasn't a whole lot out there.  Only a few quilt shops, (all at least 40 miles from where I lived), and I don't think I ever saw quilts on display except at the County Fair.  There was an exhibit at the Oakland Museum in the late seventies but I didn't get to see it.

So, I was out there struggling away on my own.  Fortunately, I had learned how to sew early on, and was adept at embroidery, (the technicality of that helps).  I also had been trained in apparel design and clothing construction so even without real guidance I was able to figure things out.  I also knew that although I studied art and fashion my real passion was for quilting so I was determined to master it.

I figured out piecing quickly, and was flying along with that early on.  I really loved picking out colors and fabrics, and although I was on a very limited budget, I was able to put together a small stash.  Of course working as an Assistant Manager at House of Fabrics, (remember them?), helped a lot.  I got first grab at remnants, and love that employee discount!  Once in a while they'd even give me fabric to make something to put in the window display, which was great because I got to keep the scraps, and they let me have the piece for myself when the display came down.

In the mid eighties I set myself a challenge.  I believed that there wasn't anything that couldn't be reproduced in fabric so I decided to recreate fashion plates from a book on 1880s fashions.  I made about eight small quilts, all done with calico fabrics, trims, and embroidery.  I hadn't quite conquered some problems, (background puckers, yikes!), but learned so much about applique and layering.  Below is a detail of one of those pieces.

The most important thing I learned from making these quilts was how to layer applique pieces.  I had to take my time and patiently work through how each image would be constructed.  It was a huge step forward for me and makes it possible for me to do the kind of work I do now.  It was also a tremendous skill to have when I tackled graphic design.  I already "thought" in layers so figuring out how to work with Photoshop and Illustrator was a lot easier for me.

The next step was adding my own embroidery and applique to simple quilted pieces.  The piece below was inspired by the sun batik print.  I added borders and then quilted, embroidered, and added embellishments around the edges.  It's a simple piece but for me it was another step in the process.  Notice how I used the marbleized prints to give the outer edges movement.  I wanted it to look like the sun was radiating heat.


This next piece was all about me having fun with circles in squares, one of my favorite things!  I did even more embellishment on this piece, I particularly like the "toile" lady in the corner.



This last piece is one that I think I learned the most from.  I'm not so fond of it but it was important to where I went style wise. I put a lot of major embellishment into it  but realized too late that I hadn't put enough contrast into the piece.  If you look at it up close it's really beautiful, but from a distance it looks like a simple piece of fabric.  It was very disappointing to me at the time but it taught me an important lesson.  Now I always try to have contrast so all of my handwork stands out, instead of fading into the background.
                        
                         
It's been fun looking back but now I'm getting excited about moving forward.  I have a couple of more days of non-quilting stuff to get through and then I'm going to have some fun!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

1 comment:

Maddie Can Fly said...

Thanks for showing all these. I really like the fashion plate one. Is that all hand embroidery/applique?