Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quilt on Ice

Serendipity 1 (2011), R. D. Lindsey
Mama, why is that quilt on ice?  That’s what my son asked after seeing my latest completed quilt. His question confounded me at first.  Then I realized he was right.  My creation, Serendipity 1, was floating on ice.

Serendipity describes a pleasant result that happens because of an accident.  Lately, I have been intrigued with sheer fabrics.  I wondered how they could be layered to create a sense of depth.  As a child,  I often sat in my mother’s living room watching  the sunlight dance through sheer panels hanging at her windows.  Was there a way for me to create this same sort of light play in an art quilt?  Hence I decided to play with a repurposed curtain,  an old faux suede pillow and synthetic organza.

My exploration started by hand stitching layers of orange, blue, and green organza.  I wanted an organic shape with limited corners and hard edges.  So, I decided to cut away layers of the organza while eliminating the corners.  I was left with a flimsy amoeba.  (I don’t have a love affair with amoeba, but I instantly thought of one after gazing upon my handiwork!)  It needed support.  I grabbed the faux suede pillow fabric and made a mini-quilt sandwich.  The idea was to quilt a circular shape, stitch the amoeba to the quilt, and do some fancy flipping.  The result was supposed to be a sheer amoeba surrounded by an opaque thread painted quilted background.  It didn’t work.  I ended up with a mess. 

Faux suede pieces on rust curtain fabric.

In the spirit of discovery I didn’t give up. I cut the faux suede thread painted quilt from the organza amoeba and tossed it aside.  My next victim was a square of fabric from a recycled rust colored curtain.  I cut a circle in the middle of the square and laid the opening on top of the amoeba.  Now I had the sheer organza surrounded by opaque rust colored fabric.  I stitched everything together, but it lacked interest.  Amazingly, the faux suede mini-quilt bedazzled with orange, blue, and green thread painting yelled from the top of my discard pile, “Hey, use me!”  

I cut the mini-quilt into  five organic shapes with lots of curves.   After machine stitching  these on top of the repurposed curtain fabric, I began to see something I liked.  I made a quilt sandwich using more of the curtain material for the back and left over polyester batting from a previous project. I carefully quilted through all layers around the amoeba center and randomly over the opaque surface using blue, green, and orange thread.   After cutting away the backing and batting from behind the amoeba, I realized  the amoeba center wasn’t quite right.  It was too flimsy and lacked some interest.  

Organza covering faux suede piece.
In stepped gel medium and tissue paper.  I turned the piece upside down, used books to elevate the piece,  and watched as gravity pulled the amoeba into a bowl shape.   I attached layers of silver tissue paper to the inside of the amoeba bowl with the gel medium. The gel medium dried and I ended up with a solid translucent amoeba bowl.  When I flipped the work over, I made a horrible discovery.  The gel medium had soaked through some areas of  the opaque curtain and faux suede material leaving permanent discolored areas on the surface.  I didn’t cry.  I just got more creative.  I covered the discolored faux suede by stitching to it the same colors of organza used to make the amoeba center. To my surprise the thread work on the faux suede showed through the organza creating a sense of depth and intrigue.

Organic shape defined by stitched border.
Finally, I defined my works organic shape with a machine stitched border of thread.  I trimmed  away the fabric beyond the stitched border to further  define the organic  shape.  Inspired by Quilting Arts Magazine’s publication, “How to Bind a Quilt: 12 New Quilt Binding and Finishing Methods for Your Art Quilts”,  I burned with a heat tool all the edges of the synthetic curtain fabric and organza to prevent fraying.  My finishing touch was to paint the edges with fabric paint like I saw Darcy Berg do to finish some of her quilts.  I used beads from an old tangled necklace to give the amoeba a nucleus and food vacuoles.  I held up my finished piece for a better look.  What I saw was pretty nice, but the light dancing through the amoeba center was even more amazing. 

Candle on glass block
How could I display this small experiment so light could shine through the center? I remembered reading Lyric Montgomery Kinard’s  instructions for mounting works on Plexiglas.  I mounted the piece on Plexiglas and purchased an 8” x 8” glass block from a big-chain hardware store.  Using Loctite Super Glue, I attached the Plexiglas to the glass block, which happens to look like a block of ice. Since the block was so larger and fire resistant,  I could safely place a lit candle inside a glass votive behind the amoeba art quilt.  Thanks to serendipity, I now have an entry for a science inspired exhibit. (I really don’t love amoeba, but Serendipity 1 certainly reminds me of one.)
Sometimes a series of mistakes can really result in something good.  What mistakes have you made in your work that resulted in something good?