Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Start of the Series

(Grave Rubbings: Patience. 23" x 29 1/2". Crayon on tea-stained muslin. Hand and machine embroidered.)

The Grave Rubbing Quilt Series started in Maine. I'd been awarded a six-week art residency at the MacNamara Foundation on the remote Westport Island. That's six weeks of provided room & board, studio space, and a travel stipend....and the only requirement was to make art! Heaven!

These words were included on my regular blog, Art in Stitches. They document the start of the series and accompanied these images:

While in Maine for six weeks I noticed small, family cemeteries all over the place. Several were within easy walking distance from the MacNamara Foundation. I'd never made a grave rubbing before and I might not have thought of it at all except that I was reading Jeanne Williamson's The Uncommon Quilter which I picked up at the fabulous Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta on "laundry day".

(Above: Detail.)

On page 85 I read, "When you were a child, did you ever make gravestone rubbings?.....rubbing a big crayon over the surface....This same basic technique can be used to create textures on fabric. To make the design permanent simply iron it in place." The book went on to suggest other textures for mark making but I was instantly inspired to actually take fabric and crayons to the nearby burial sites. How could I resist "Lost at Sea", weeping willows, urns, 18th c. dates, and quiet moments reaching out to touch the remains of history?

My first attempts were done on a piece of tea-stained muslin. I started stitching right away...all the way home while Steve drove, and over the next week of evenings. I've just finished. A piece of vintage linen for used for the reverse. It had been a summer spread for a child's bed but was damaged. Variegated pearl cotton blanket stitches created the edge.

(Above: Detail.)

I came home with yards of grave rubbing material. These were done on silk, a much more receptive material for the rubbings. (For a photo, click here.) Yesterday, I put together another "art quilt" and started stitching again.

I've never actually considered myself a quilter but this format seems perfect for these rubbings. Maybe my anxiety about quilting stems from the seemingly required rules for perfect piecing, even machine stitches, careful measurement, and traditional construction methods. I just can't make myself conform. Yet, I was also reading Robert Shaw's The Art Quilt while in Maine....and learning how others have successfully broken all these rules. Many of the works in this volume closely follow ideal, perfect, traditional construction. They scare me. Yet, many don't. They excite me! The more I read, the more I understood that there's plenty of exploration in this field....even for someone like me!

(Above: Reverse.)

Okay, I also learned what a "journal quilt" is and what the definition for "art quilt" is! I've been reading these terms on blogs for over a year but really didn't "get it". My abilities with free motion machine embroidery aren't the greatest. My hand stitching isn't ideal. Together, though, unique textures are achieved. This I can do very well. The results give the impression of being crafted by loving hands and almost a sign of well worn age. I like this. Who knows, I might become an art quilter now!

To see the original post of this quilt with images that can be "clicked on" for enlargement, please go HERE!

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