Threads of identity – the latest piece

Threads of Identity IV
Threads of Identity IV

This is the finished piece mentioned in the last post.  It is based around one of the very striking pieces of fabric donated by Trish Aldrick.  This one has peacocks on it:

Laura Ashley peacock fabric
Laura Ashley peacock fabric

I think that this is an early fabric.  It is printed on quite thick cotton looks like it might have been made around the same time as a swan print fabric which I have seen made up into a dress in the seventies.  I can’t quite imagine what it would have looked like to have had a dress in this, but I expect T Rex and David Bowie would have been playing in the background, or more likely Nick Drake or Van Morrison.

I have quilted the fabric down onto the panel with a very light synthetic glittery thread.  In my experience, no matter how careful you are when you apply a square of fabric it always puffs up in the centre if you don’t anchor it.  In this case the thread more or less disappeared into the fabric.

The peacock also suggested the theme for the rest of the panel.  On the previous Threads of Identity quilts I had assembled a number of elements to create a trail of narrative, so a snake, a small framed picture, a scrap of fabric, a pretend ancient ‘goddess’ figure and so on.  But this piece is all about peacocks, a motif which has interested me since one of my very earliest pieces, a peacock quilt made about the Nike Goddess campaign.  I have collected odds and ends for a while now, and they have ended up on the piece here:

Colonel Peacock
Colonel Peacock

This one looks slightly stupid, and came out of a lucky bag of ‘Eastern’ things which would have made Edward Said’s eye’s roll.  Orientalising gone mad.  Colonel Peacock, here,  also required a bit of first aid as his beak had fallen off since his purchase several years ago.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is this magnificent specimen from Aarti J’s, the fantastic trimmings supplier, seen in detail here:

Peacock motif, detail
Peacock motif, detail

I thought I might just use one actual peacock feather, given to me by my lovely friend Beatriz (www.beatrizacevedo.com) when we went to the wonderful Cult of Beauty show at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  In the end, though, I thought the piece really came to life when I put three feathers onto it.  I can’t remember now which one is Beatriz’s, but it is on there.  It was quite fiddly sticking them on, and then going back to put in a couple of anchoring stitches, but they seem quite secure now.

The peacock is an interesting symbol.  It’s usually about pride and vanity, which the little one requiring first aid seems to sum up.  A quick trip round a few internet sites suggests some other meanings: glory, vision, royalty, spirituality, awakening, immortality, refinement, incorruptibility, integrity, kindheartedness, love and good luck.  I also discovered quite quickly that it is a favourite for tattooists and the tattooed:

Peacock tatoo - not mine!
Peacock tatoo - not mine!

I really don’t care much for tattoos, but this one is a work of art.

My interest in peacocks really does date from working on the Nike piece.  I chose to make a piece about their Goddess campaign, thinking about Hera, the Queen of the Gods.  She had a chariot drawn by peacocks.  She is associated with marriage, and was present in Greek myth as the jealous older woman.  Although I have only ever been jealous of our glamorous, Marilyn Monroe-type terrier, who only has to shake in the morning to look glamorous beyond words, I can see the attraction of a goddess for older, powerful women.

Anyway, given that these pieces are cues to narratives of women’s lives, it is interesting to think about what sort of woman this might be.  I think she might be a graphic designer of some sort and this is her mood board.  There is a nice rubbing done with markal/shiva paintsticks over silk in the piece, which might be one of her sketches:

Indian block print rubbing
Indian block print rubbing

The use of a bit of lime green markal really made this sing.  The rubbing reminds me a lot of the silver peacock feather which used to be on the purple Liberty of London carrier bags.  They also have a signature print, ‘Hera’:

Liberty Hera
Liberty Hera

Sitting here now reflecting on this piece and how many quilters also started out working with Liberty Tana lawn which are beautiful prints which look lovely together (but are difficult to match with anything else), I think I should have gone and found a scrap from my stash to include.

The photo of the rubbing also shows the embroidery on the piece, which was good fun to do – also over markal rubbed over rubbing plates that I bought at the Festival of Quilts:

Peacock panel hand embroidery with favourite Winifred Cottage thread
Peacock panel hand embroidery with favourite Winifred Cottage thread

So, this one has a slightly  strange feel to me, which might prompt some sort of reflection later on, but in design terms it feels like a success.

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