Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sands of Time: Mini Portrait Quilts

My most recent project was inspired by the HMQS theme for this year, "It's Magic! Memorable Moments."  I really wanted to enter a quilt into this's an unjuried show, but is a judged show, so every quilt entered (so long as it follows the rules) is accepted, and then judged, which means you get valuable feedback for your work.

I thought. I pondered. I considered. I let the idea of "memorable moments" rattle and roll around in my head, until an idea began to take shape. I let it sit and grow, steadily working on other projects in the meantime. I worked on my son's graduation quilt, I did the baby quilt commission, I was even thinking about this back when I was doing a family tree memory quilt for my aunt. And as I worked on these other things, all the time the idea was forging itself into a mini quilt triptych that I couldn't leave undone.

Memorable moments. First steps. First words. First time at the beach. Beach trips. Sandcastles. Each of my boys, on the beach, building sandcastles. Each of my boys, at around age 10, on the beach. Alone. With his brothers. Layers and layers, trip after trip after trip, a little boy at age three....age five...age the beach. Alone. With his little brother. With his big brother. With both brothers. Oldest. Youngest. Middle. All the images, all the beach trips over all the years......three mini portraits. The idea became an image which became a quilt. Three mini quilts, part of one triptych that tells one story.

I began by piecing the backgrounds, using improvisational curved piecing to create a gentle sepia toned landscape, sand and sky, for the first two sections and realistic colors for the third panel. The first two symbolize the past, while the final panel symbolizes present day. Where the sand meets the sky I used a straight line, reflective of the horizon line, to give definition since the first two panels don't have the color separation to identify which is which.

I then sorted photos and created a photo collage of each boy. My first thought was to use a photo as the background, and do the applique over it in translucent fabrics. I quickly realized that would be too distracting, so instead chose one photo to create in applique, and keep the frame of photos layered around the edges.

I built the applique pieces by printing the desired photo on cardstock and cutting out the image, then tracing around it on fabric. I began with the full outline of the boy, then cut away one section at a time to define the arms, legs, feet, head, hair, clothing, etc. I then used those same pieces to cut out the hair & clothing and applique those onto the outline of the boy before finally appliqueing the boy onto the background.

Because the final piece is only 8"x10", the image section is only printed at a 5x7 size, and thus the boy in each is only perhaps 5" tall at best. Cutting the applique pieces was by far the most painstaking portion of each panel, though the actual applique process was not bad at all -- I used a fabric glue stick to glue the pieces in place, and then did simple raw edge machine applique, with  my walking foot, using a gold Sulky thread.

Finally, I cut the photos for the framing portion. I cut apart the collages and tweaked the placement so that they were far enough in from the edge that they wouldn't be lost in the actual frame, and yet far enough apart as to give the right effect to the center applique. I wanted to create the idea of the applique portrait being a larger photo in a pile of small photos....a single moment, captured, reflected on, viewed through the lens of time.

The first panel includes only photos of my oldest son, the second has my second son with my first son, and the final has all three boys. I chose not to include photos of my middle son with my youngest son, in the middle frame, as I wanted to tell the story of one boy growing older, and I didn't want to introduce the third son until his panel. The final panel, though, does include photos of my youngest son by himself, with just my middle son with him, and with all three boys together, because in that panel I did want to show the dual roles of my middle son as both an older brother and a younger brother; on his panel, I wanted the focus on him as the younger brother.

In the end, I realized I'd made this for me, not for the show after all. I wanted it framed, not bound, for one. Then, I wanted it as three pieces, and the rules of the show state that a triptych must represent one final cohesive quilt. While I think it represents one cohesive idea, I don't think it truly represents a single cohesive quilt in the way the show directors mean. And, the pieces are too small to submit individually. Which is all quite fine with me, because any feedback would, for this particular quilt, be irrelevant to me. The idea, the feel of it, the emotion of it....I think I've captured those things exactly as I intended. The quilting of it could be improved, but I wanted simplicity for this and so didn't try and dress it up with extra quilting. It is, for me, perfect, and so the perfect place for it is here, at home, where it belongs.

1 comment:

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