It is remarkable how inspiring being with my dear friends who are artists can be. Last week I met with a group of women I have been friends with for several years. We meet once a month and spend the day together discussing our works in progress or anything else that is going on in our lives. It is without a doubt one of my favorite days in the month. I brought my piece Nine Faces for critique and discussion, with the top completely pieced and basted together. This has taken me several months to complete. My original goal was to I to enter this piece into Quilt National this year, but I wasn’t able to finish it in time for all sorts of reasons. With that said I decided to not to rush my work after putting so much of my time and myself into creating this piece.
The initial inspiration for Nine Faces came from nine drawings I did earlier this year in my sketchbook. I drew nine separate women’s faces using pigma pens and markers. Then I scanned each image onto photo-transfer cotton sheets.
I created the fabrics for this piece by hand dying 100% cotton and also doing extensive surface design on black cotton fabric. I made original stamps and used textile paints to apply the stamped designs onto the fabric. I also applied the same stamps and paints to the women’s faces intending to connect the fabrics and the women.
After I had all the fabrics dyed and painted, I began my curved piecing. I was originally taught curved piecing by Elizabeth Rosenberg. I immediately fell in love with the process. Since then I have gone on to creat a technique for myself that I find very precise and efficient. In a later post I will demonstrate my technique.
As the piece grew I thought I was done after five women’s faces where constructed and built into the pieced fabrics. However, It just didn’t feel right. Something was off. I felt the balance was off. Usually I can tell when something isn’t right because I get a very unsettled feeling in my stomach and feel irritated. I listen very carefully to those feelings. So with that said, I photographed the piece, emailed the images off to my dear friends, and the consensus was clear, it was not balanced. The suggestions I received were to add more black on the right side. This came from Georgia Heller. Both Benedicte Caneill and Jeri Riggs felt that perhaps I needed to add another woman. They felt this way because without my seeing it, I had already created three black sides of the four sided frame that I put around all the women’s faces. The only thing missing was the face.
You can see in the photo above, that near the top right corner there is a spot aching for a face. It is at times like this when is it helpful to have trusted friends who are also talented artists to offer me a fresh perspective and objective sets of eyes to help critique the work as it progresses. Sometimes what the piece needs is right in front of my eyes, but I am just too close to see it. After all the emails came and went I got back into my studio and considered and explored their suggestions. I did add more black to the right side of the piece and immediately saw the difference. The balance was still off and so I added one more women to the upper right side. To do this, I needed to deconstruct much of the right side of the piece. Perhaps I was an engineer in another lifetime.
Several days later, with the addition of black fabrics, newly pieced sections and another woman installed in the upper right corner, the feeling in my stomach dissipated and I felt myself settle down.
With the top layer of the piece completed, I brought Nine Faces to our recent meeting to discuss the next step in the piece, the thread work. Once again I had a feeling in my gut and wanted to be certain that my instincts were right because I had already invested so much in this piece. I was thinking of doing free motion quilting on the entire piece and perhaps some straight line quilting. We discussed the overall design and composition of Nine Faces and it became clear that the thread work really should keep the painted and drawn circular and spherical shapes moving throughout the overall piece. Vivien Zepf who has an keen eye also agreed with the decision to omit any straight line quilting. I chose to free motion quilt the overall thread design and did not include straight lines anywhere in the piece. Despite the fact that each woman is set in her own frame, the thread-work strengthens the movement and connection among them.
Over the weekend, I enjoyed the breeze coming in from my studio window and the company of my dogs as I put my mind to the task of doing the thread work and trying to complete this piece by Monday night. Tuesday, I had an appointment in NYC to have nine pieces photographed and I was determined to finish Nine Faces in time to include it in the photo-shoot. Inevitably with a piece this large, I found there were times when I wasn’t happy with the stitches and had to remove them. I took a few breaks to eat, enjoy a cup of coffee, check the mailbox, And do some regular stretching. I am pleased to report that I completed the thread work very late Sunday night.
I needed to stick to my time table as Monday is a work day for me not a studio day. I planned on doing the facing Monday night and finished it at 1 am fueled by my determination to have it set to go with me to the photographer in the morning.
Feeling content, I fell asleep for a few hours. I woke smiling, looking forward to a bringing Nine Face to the studio to be photographed. Of course, I was already thinking about squeezing in some time for a neck message!