Art Quilt: Unmoored

After an unusually big storm in the San Francisco bay area the end of January, a small sailboat, without sails, appeared, unmoored, at the water's edge near the Bay Trail where my friend and I walk. From the looks of its paint and overall condition, it looked neglected, possibly let loose, a feral boat. We took photos of it and wondered where its owner had gone, if it had been untethered on purpose or pulled free in the storm.

The whole world feels unmoored. An understatement, perhaps. On a personal level, I felt at loose ends myself, not sure in which direction to go. I spent a month or so making garments, inspired by the Alabama Chanin techniques, but their patterns didn't fit me well, and I am no dressmaker. Still, I liked the materials and the combination of stenciling and sewing, which I have incorporated on and off for at least twelve years, but hadn't really settled into as a style for my main art quilt work.

The abandoned boat began calling to me. It turned in the tides, stuck in the sand at low tide, and floated a little in higher tides. I saw its name, Shell Craft. I took more photos.

At this time I was experimenting with a dark green dye that didn't work on the garment I was dyeing, but as I like to do, I dyed some cotton before I discarded the dye batch. It was a compelling light teal: seafoam, perhaps? But bluer. I definitely had to do the boat.

And wood type. I still wanted to print wood type on the letterpress. It took some doing, but I was able to mix a color to match the dye. Prior to the printing, though, I had to order more letterpress ink as most of mine had dried up. To the letterpress printers out there: I am happy to report that the tubes of soy-based ink from NA Graphics print beautifully. (The company has been around forever, but they just started working with a new supplier.)

I cut the printed cloth into strips and began piecing. The gray is from the avocado pit dyeing I did earlier. The quilt began to come together. I drew and cut a stencil and added it. Then made some stitching decisions. Machine sewing made a nice tight line for the riggings. Hand sewing with the knots showing felt right for the boat. Some running stitches to anchor it (okay, a pun) unobtrusively to the backing. And then the binding.

19.5 x 44" (49.5 x 112 cm)
Hand-dyed cotton; letterpress printed from wood type on cotton; fabric paint with handmade stencil on cotton; silk thread; cotton thread; button/craft thread; hand and machine quilted

Detail. Note the Cretan stitch in silk thread as decoration, letterpress overprinted wood type (white on the darker cloth as well), knots on the outside, dyed and crumple-dyed cotton:

Last week I noticed that the boat has a fluorescent green warning slapped on the side of the boat by the Contra Costa County Sheriff. Apparently there are numerous abandoned boats in the bay and have been for many years. The article has an interesting mention: some abandoned boats are able to be repurposed for those who are unhoused, unmoored.


dinahmow said…
I love this boat! Perhaps the colours, maybe the
nautical angle.But maybe the un-moored, all-at-sea feeling...
I'll work it out of my system somehow. Probably by planting things!
Alisa said…
Thanks, dinahmow!