Sunday, June 4, 2017

Piece-Quilt-Bind—Water & Power: Ripples

I've been making quilts on and off for years, more intensely in the past two. While I admire the attention to detail and the intense labor and craft and obvious love put into the making of the quilts on view in craft fairs today, my quilts are not those.

My approach to quiltmaking is probably informed by my approach to bookmaking and by my interest in and study of a variety of art forms. Some primary formal concepts are: materials and meaning; background and foreground; uses of color; and line and shape. The basic premise after formal concerns is: what do I want to say or express? Every quilt (and book) ends up being different because I am looking at it from a different angle and asking a new question each time.

I had made one quilt with old pants before (Pipeline, see this post), and I knew I wanted to make another with jeans and continue thinking about water and power. How you can only get clean water if you have some kind of power. Extending that outward to all the things we can only get and maintain if we have power.

For my recently finished quilt, Water & Power: Ripples, I wondered what can this material do that another cannot? What can I do with this material that I haven't seen before? What can I do with this material to make it look like only I could have made it? This quilt uses jeans worn by family members. I've letterpress printed on the cloth with photopolymer plates of photos I took that are water-related: watering cans, gutter drain, and amaryllis (since it takes water to grow). Jeans take quite a lot of water to make in the first place, so all the materials point toward a common theme. I made it my own by using my own photos, and by printing on the cloth myself.

After I cut up the jeans, I noticed all the variations in the cloth: the crease lines at the back of the knees, the sun faded patches, the worn areas. The process of piecing them was a soothing, mostly intuitive, experience with shape and color and texture. I was making the background, although I hadn't realized it quite yet.

When it came time to quilt it, I didn't want to just use a straight running stitch or pick stitch across, although I love the look of the plain dotted line. I thought more about the theme of water and power, I knew what I wanted to do. Sewing concentric circles echoed the action of raindrops hitting standing water. The circles emanate outward, sometimes touching and overlapping. I liked the metaphor of ripples for our actions in the world: how your one drop can affect others' lives. I chose a limited palette of thread colors: blues, black, light yellows, as if light were hitting the circles. The lines of the quilting became an important part of the content.

The backing is from a worn flannel sheet. The binding is standard commercial quilt binding. The borders are from an old tablecloth, with one additional piece of leftover black cotton from Water & Power: Pipeline, another quilt, last finished a year ago May. It measures half a twin-size comforter, and it's as heavy as a lead apron.

For this summer, I'm continuing my explorations with printing on cloth. My adjunct position in the Printmaking Program at CCA has ended after twelve years, since they hired three new tenure-track professors and told several longtime-adjuncts that because of this we were no longer needed. So, the cloth is a comfort.


jac said...

I love the combination of print and fabric. Have you tried gum arabic transfer/xerox lithography on cloth. I've been exploring this recently.You can get a clean line and it is easy and cheap to make a variety of "plates"

Alisa said...

thanks, jac! neat! I'll have to add it to the list…

AES said...

Condolences on the end of your position. Here's hoping for fulfilling new projects!

Velma Bolyard said...

alisa, the quilt is rich. really sad news about your job.

Alisa said...

Thanks AES and Velma. Much appreciated. What was sad was a cold email for all of us (even for one who had been there nearly 20 years) with no thanks attached. We know what we did, but it would have been nice to have been acknowledged, just a little bit.

Yes, hope! I know there's a door here, somewhere! My mantra has been, and continues to be Dory's (from Finding Nemo), "Just Keep Swimming."

Jade Quek said...

Dear Alisa - So sorry to hear about the parting of ways with the college but in admiration of your quilt. What a feast for the eyes! It looks like even the collegiate institutions are no longer concerned about keeping those who have the experience to pass on the knowledge and have lost all manner of common courtesy. Keep your chin up and on to new adventures! I do hope you consider teaching workshops either out of your own studio or through SFCB, BookArtsLA, San Diego Book Arts and all the other book centers and guilds. I am sure my fellow paper and book lovers would love to attend a workshop with you. In fact I just had a weekend workshop with Macy Chadwick who taught us how to make and use a volvelle from your book! You have been one of the major influences in my paper and book life and I do hope you continue to teach. Take care - Jade

Alisa said...

Jade, Thank you so much for your kind words. Your comments are comforting and heartwarming. I really appreciate them. On to new adventures, indeed!