When in Drought

Californians, among others, have been struggling with droughts, on and off, for decades. Water conservation was big here in 1976-77, for nearly ten years in the mid-2000s, and it looks like we are back at it again. Showers are short, and we eye the bathtub with longing. Exacerbated by climate change or not, a drought has always felt part of my life. In working with denim, I discovered denim takes quite a bit of water to produce: a pair of jeans takes 3781 liters of water from start to finish. Manufacturers are trying to reduce that amount and turn toward recycling as well.  You can read about it in this article.

When I dove into textile work nearly full-time I was happy to  incorporate the scraps back into whatever I was working on. But as I continued, the scraps started building up. I made little sachets, egg pin-cushions, and in the studio I have little buckets of scraps and a big bag of more. Denim particularly interests me. I like the variations it can have, how it shows wear and the human presence. Already pieced and in progress is a quilt with denim about crows, but I had some denim pieces leftover. I began arranging them on a board, then placed the board on some black cloth, a quilter's "fat quarter."

What was it? I wasn't sure, yet. I liked the materials as they were, particularly after I had stitched them down, but that wasn't enough transformation for me. I didn't want the piece to be just about the materials. In past works I've used denim with water in mind in the two "water and power" quilts: Pipeline and Ripples.  Layered denim looks like waves--the ocean is another love. I already had one scrap of denim that was printed with an open pipe. I thought about water, the lack of water, the drought, and drought-tolerant plants. And I thought about the current political drought and the lack of tolerance. Echinacea (coneflower), one drought-tolerant plant, is seen as a boost to the immune system. I liked the connection and the metaphor it could provide. 

After appliquéing/quilting the denim to a piece of worn linen pants and a black cotton backing, I drew the coneflower centers into faces and stenciled them onto the denim. The letters t-o-l-e-r-a-n-t are also in there, a subtle boost, a reminder. Lastly, I stitched, due to its color, what appears to me as a contradiction: dry rain. It's a small quilt: 17.5"w x 19.5"h.

When in Drought (2018)

It's a challenge to make work that has a message or meaning and that draws the viewer in. Every day holds a search for balance.


Velma Bolyard said…
denim is an important textile, i like how you honor it. i have a quest for real denim, not the kind with stretchy crud in it, which is a sort of metaphor for the infiltration of plastic everywhere. anyway, i like this quilt.
Alisa said…
Velma, Thanks for your thoughtful and kind words. I've always loved materials and textures, and I'm feeling hyperaware of them (and their waste) these days.