I’m sorry that my posts haven’t been as frequent as they were over the summer. This is because I am doing the day job – teaching students at the University of Bristol, and it does take up quite a lot of time. I quite understand that as they pay me they do like me to do some work for them, but it does mean that time for doing creative things gets squeezed, and like lots of other people, I find that doing the creative work doesn’t feel like proper work, even though I publish on it and what professional standing I have is largely based on it. It tends to come second. Even though if I don’t do it I can be fractious and irritated and just plain stroppy. Anyway, on Sunday I did manage to make a bit of time to do some work on the death quilt. I put it together.
I am very surprised that it hasn’t come out the way I thought it would at all. I think that there are roughly two sorts of people who work in textiles – the planners and the splashers. The planners have graph paper and computer programmes like Electric Quilt, and rulers and templates. They produce exquisite work which I would love to be able to do but can’t. They produce quilts with 3000 triangles which the eye merges to form a picture in cloth of the Taj Mahal. They produce wonderful applique. All those things you stand in front of at quilt shows and just gasp.
The splashers like me, though, just start and never know where we are going to finish. More or less everything I do now is improvised. Imagine my horror when Ineke Berlyn gave me a pattern in a workshop and told me to make it up. Imagine how interesting it was when we all came out with totally different results from the same pattern. The point of this ramble is to say that I am the sort of quilter who increasingly listens to the pieces. What do you want? How do you want to be? What would you like me to do for you? I recently examined a PhD on midwifes that used a quilt as one of its main methods of inquiry – a lovely piece, and the midwife metaphor is a good one. I show up to help the quilt into being. And it is a wonderful feeling when the various parts just ‘click’. When the colours sing together for example, or when the balance is right between two design elements. Had I not got to start some marking I would write about notions of beauty and what we find or are trained to find aesthetically pleasing, because making this piece has been an object lesson in this. I will save that for another day. I will also post later about the antagonist elements in this piece: the smooth flowing lines against the spiky and aggressive. But for now, here are some close-ups of the quilting.
The cotton fabric from Oakshott is a wonderful lime-y mossy shot green and a deep purple-y black. This is great cotton to quilt because the weave shows the light and dark so well. The green colour was very difficult to photograph, though. The camera – in full daylight – bleached it for some reason and I had to adjust the colour manually to give any sense of how deep and rich it is. I will try it under different light conditions and see if it gets any better. The thread is a bronze-y, copper-y metallic by Madeira. My good friend Liz was selling off threads that she was never going to use again and I bought quite a few from her. I really think that having cheap thread is helpful. Lots of people don’t like it and say that you get what you pay for, and reduced Madeira is not quite like cheap polyester thread from the supermarket, but having lots of it means that you are not so timid and worried about wasting it. Excess, the permission to waste, and stuff you are happy to throw away are very important elements in creativity. I know this is a luxury in straightened times, but I think it’s vital for me. Meanness in both senses is the enemy of creativity for me. Here are more photos: