New Art Quilt: Becoming

From raw materials to a finished piece, that's a transformation, a metamorphosis. Always a mysterious process, it can also be confounding. I've often said that I and you and anyone who will listen should see "what the book wants" rather than plowing through and insisting on whatever it was that was in your head to start.

Making this quilt was like trying to calm a wild animal (as if I knew what that was really like). It had a strong will and relentlessly tussled with me. Not my preferred way of working, but I had to take a deep breath and settle in, get to know it. It's the first of a series around the theme of "metamorphosis." I knew I wanted to do a reduction print on cloth with several colors, and I knew it would be a merging of organic and mechanical shapes to take on the idea of technology and how we are absorbing it and it is absorbing us, for both the good and the bad.

Several years ago I was making drawings that featured watch parts and the anatomy of the inner ear: gears and ears, so I called them. That seemed a good place to start. I made some new drawings and set out to carve and print a block.

The colors began with a light yellow rather than a cream color, and that was the first sidestep. I printed, carved, printed, carved, adding darker ink at each pass. I printed on both paper and cloth.

So there are some "Becoming" prints on paper available in my Etsy store as "Gears" print

In order to get perfect registration, I would need the block to land in the exact same place on the cloth each time. To achieve this, I sewed each piece of cloth to a piece of paper. It worked.


Carve. Print.

Carve. Print.
Seven layers, total.

Cloth still sewn to paper.

Ink mixing, first run, key drawing.

Linoleum block, key drawing, carving tools on the press bed.
I leave the block locked up the whole time.
A mini shop vac takes care of the bits before I print.
On the drawing you can see the colors I thought I was going to use.

I knew I wanted to document the steps within the quilt: a retelling of its own making, but just stacking them didn't excite me. I cut them up and pieced them at angles, giving them some dynamic life. I pinned it all to a long strip of canvas to work with it at first.

When it was pieced I thought it would be a secondary element, 

and I kept trying to will it to the side,

I planned a second linoleum block, but it seemed to fight the other one.
So I tried to embrace the remaining prints to keep it unified.

But it turned out the original strip wanted to be the centerpiece.

I kept wrestling with colors as they inserted themselves into the process, and finally gave in.

The central panel is quilted with French knots in multicolored metallic thread. The side panels are quilted with running stitches in threads that match their host cloths and in select circular areas on the prints. The top print, which was just a solid block of light yellow, wanted a circle quilted into it: an echo of the gears or a sun, perhaps.

In progress: quilted, not bound.

The remaining prints decided they wanted to be the binding strip. So they are.


Onward to the next quilt. We'll see what it wants!