Tuesday, May 31, 2011

15 Days and Counting...

As you might have guessed, I haven't been blogging as often because I've been spending every free moment working on this large underwater scene (I'm still trying to come up with a title for it). What I've been trying to capture in the piece is the sense of wonder, fun, joy, and awe we experienced snorkeling in St. John this summer. I've been sort of reliving our favorite snorkeling moments and selecting which fish and other elements I want to include in this piece. One of the interesting things we saw snorkeling in Trunk Bay were huge schools of these tiny silver fish. There were clouds of them that we just swam through. Here is a photo of my oldest daughter hovering above a large school. The water would just shimmer and ripple with the movement of these fish.
At a certain point in the afternoon, we were swimming among these schools of fish when suddenly these two very large (4 ft long) shiny silver fish came swimming silently along behind them. We were amazed at the size of them and assumed they were hunting down their lunches, although we never actually saw them eat anything. But they circled and swam around this area of the bay for as long as we were in the water. I later found out they were tarpon (you can see a photo of one by clicking here), which are characterized by a large lower jaw protruding above the upper jaw, noticeably large scales, and an extremely shiny silver color.

I decided I wanted to include these two elements in my underwater scene, so I got down to business on Friday and put in a lot of hours over the long holiday weekend. First, I painted and stitched a large school of those little feeder fish. Then I got to work on the head of a tarpon, which I plan to have swimming in from the right side of the piece. I wanted him to have the characteristics I mentioned, so I sketched him out and found a nice piece of shiny silver silk for his body. I decided to add scales out of that prismatic ribbon I used for the yellow-tailed snappers, but the ribbon is only about 1 1/2 inches wide. I drew out a diagram of all the scales, put the shapes onto Wonder Under, and fused it onto the ribbon. Then I cut them all out and fused them into place using my diagram as a map (each scale was numbered). I ended up adding some aluminum foil for his face and covering the whole fish with a sheer white fabric. I'm happy with the results, but I'll wait until he's stitched on to photograph him and post it. Here is a shot of him under construction.When I had stitched and painted a large school of the feeder fish, I realized I needed to finalize the placement of the large piece of orange coral and begin to stitch it down. But before I could do that, I needed to stitch all the pieces of fabric together (they were mainly held together with fusible only). It took a good bit of time to get that done, but I finally finished it yesterday and was able to back it with a loftier batting and begin stitching it to the main water fabric. I'm really glad I took the time to piece it together first, because that left me free to stitch it down only where it would have the most impact. I really want this piece of coral to have dimension. I tried to choose a range of oranges from light to dark and place them so the darker pieces are underneath or behind the lighter ones. I under- and overlapped carefully to also help add depth. Finally, I quilted the darker pieces down more heavily so they would recede and allow the lighter pieces to pop up. I don't know if you can see it in the photo below, but I think it worked! You can see the school of feeder fish in the background and two of the other fish that I already stitched on. I just hope I can finish it in the next two weeks....!!!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Race against time

I've been trying to discipline myself to use every spare moment to work on this piece for the June 15th deadline at Art Quilts: Lowell. I know I'll be very disappointed in myself if I'm unable to submit. Here are a few shots of the progress I made in the past week. What I've accomplished:
  • Stitched on some sheers and laces to serve as background coral formations;
  • Added some more branches to the central orange coral to make it a little bigger;
  • Stitched some of the coral pieces together to hold them;
  • Made a few more fish - fairy basslets and bluehead wrasses;
  • Couched and free-motioned another brain coral and attached it to the first;
  • Added yarn in the foreground for texture.
I feel like I'm moving forward at a good pace, and if I can keep it up, I may be able to make the deadline. Maybe I can give up cooking and cleaning for the next three weeks to make extra time!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Finally showing some progress!

This is how my WiP looks now. Since my last post about it, I touched up the ink and paint on the new background, washed out the resist, basted the whole cloth to the batting, and made a purple sea fan and some brain coral. It's coming along! Right now everything looks like it's floating a bit, because I haven't stitched anything down yet. I want to make sure of placement before I do that. I'll also add more hand-stitched detail to look like sand or coral in the foreground and background.

I was originally thinking I'd only make the central elkhorn coral and some fish, but then decided the elkhorn coral needed to be bigger, or it needed some additional elements. I wasn't about to enlarge and redo that coral I worked so hard on, so I decided on adding more coral. I've always loved those purple sea fans, especially the way they sway with the movement of the waves, so I chose to add some. Here is a bit of a detail shot. How do you like the yellow-tail snapper? I found some prismatic ribbon that I used for his silver scales.
And here is a detail of some brain coral. I chose a pale yellow spotted fabric and chain-stitched curvy lines all over it. Then I layered it with batting and free-motioned with the machine around the hand stitching. I want to add a smaller one to the left of this one and overlapping it. I may also put in some of those sea urchins that were everywhere. Then I need to add a bunch more fish. I would love to get this finished by June 15th, to submit it to Art Quilts: Lowell in MA, but I really would have to make much faster progress. Everything seems to take so long!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Hope everyone had a happy Mother's Day! We spent a lovely day out and about in Putnam County and came across this funny sign outside a restaurant in Cold Spring.

But first, we walked around beautiful Stonecrop Gardens. We had a sunny morning, but by the time we got there in the afternoon, it was overcast. The flowers and garden structures still looked enchanting and it was a nice escape from the busyness of life lately. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

After working up an appetite outdoors, we headed over to Cold Spring. Outside the Depot Restaurant, a Dixieland jazz band was playing in the gazebo and people were enjoying the music with their meals. Luckily, we had thought ahead and made reservations, but we still waited a long time for our food, which was only mediocre at best. Now I get why most people don't like eating out on Mother's Day. The last two years we cooked at home, so it was nice not to have to worry about the meal this year, despite the lackluster quality and service.

After we ate, we took in some window shopping in some of the antique stores and boutiques along main street. Here are some of the sights:

Of course, the girls couldn't resist getting some frozen yogurt for dessert. I skipped the yogurt because I wanted to save room for the Chocolate Truffle Bomb waiting at home! I'll have to get back to healthy eating again this week!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Creeping Along

This weekend I was able to steal away for an hour or so to see all the beautiful quilts on display at the Northern Star Quilters Guild's annual World of Quilts show. My Fiber Arts Northeast group was invited to display the pieces we showed at the Mahopac Library last June, so I did have something in the show, but I'm not a member of the guild and didn't submit anything else this year. (I also forgot to bring my camera but hope to get some photos from a friend who was also there, in which case I'll share them with you later this week). As you can probably guess, there were many inspiring quilts there and just walking around gazing at them all left me feeling very in awe of the skill of so many people! There were many fine examples of Art Quilts, including the one selected as "Best of Show." There were also many quilts with traditional patchwork patterns, but what stood out for me was the individualism of each quilt. I've gone to the show for several years and never feel like I'm seeing the same things again and again. Each quilter puts their own spin on a quilt and makes it unique by the fabric choices and stitching patterns. There were some antique quilts also on display, which brought home the sense of how long women have been using fabric to express themselves, even in useful ways like covering a bed. It was really a beautiful show.

I did kind of leave there wishing I could be more productive myself, especially as one third of the year is already behind me and I haven't made any new peices beyond my weekly "quickie" art. But as I headed to the grocery store to buy a week's worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners, I had to admit that I still don't see how I can possibly fit more into each day. The times I'm not doing something are the times I really need some down time. Otherwise I really keep pretty busy. I do sometimes find myself procrastinating in a productive way, by reading, cleaning, or doing laundry, so this afternoon after work, I made an effort to dig into my second attempt at painting the background fabric for this Work in Progress. I pressed the fabric first, then decided to sponge on some resist to prevent the watery blue paint mixture from coming too far down and covering what will be the sand. After that dried, I went ahead and splashed on the paint. Here it is drying outside on the patio table. I hope I'm happy with the results...!
While the resist was drying, I went back to one of my "weekly" pieces that was supposed to be a goal of mine for the year. I had started this a few weeks ago, but got to a certain point and knew it needed something, but i wasn't sure what. I'm considering using it for our next FANE challenge, which is to make a piece using an object found in an unusual place. The main piece of "fabric," that mottled greenish-pink piece, is not really fabric at all. When I was at the Country Quilter's fall retreat in 2009 at the Interlaken Inn, I happened to notice the exceptional quality of the paper towels in the ladies room! I actually swiped a few of them and have held onto them as possible quilt material. I read a tip recently in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine that suggested you sop up extra paint and ink with cloth or paper towels (rather than dumping it down the drain) and then use the colorful results in your art. So that's where that came from!

As you can see, I'm back in the copper-patina-aqua color scheme. In addition to the paint-splashed paper towel, I have a small square of silk, a strip of metallic lacy fabric I found at Joann's Fabrics, and a piece of copper mesh painted with alcohol inks and stitched on. I had gotten this far, when I stopped to figure out what else it needed. I considered adding more hand stitching, but I just wasn't sure. Then last night, my husband took the last onion out of the bag in the fridge and I swiped it and left it on my art table. I decided maybe I could put the plastic mesh to use...I was also at A.C. Moore last week getting more ink and paint, and these unusual paperclips in the scrapbooking section caught my eye. Aren't they cool? Right away, my oldest daughter hooked a bunch of them together and made a bracelet, but I put the rest away with my other copper and metal things, until this afternoon......when I combined it all with a few beads and things, now it looks like this:

Much better, right? I still want to do a bunch of hand stitching on it, but I'm liking it a lot better than before! (It kind of reminds me of this one I did back in 2008 - maybe they'll be a pair). With all the "found objects" in this piece, I may as well use it for the next challenge! Now I'll go see if the painted fabric is dry and if it looks the way I hoped...