Friday, August 5, 2016

Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence, Finally Finished!

I feel like there have been a bunch of "finally finished" posts on some of my big projects lately.  I don't think it's really the case, certainly I've been even less productive than usual recently, but I guess it's just how the posts shake out.

This quilt is one of my most long-running ever.  The first post about it was February 18, 2014, but the project had been bubbling in my mind since at least 2009.  This is one that's been "almost" finished for months.  You may recall back in June I realized that two of the large illuminated letters had been put on backwards, so I had to rip out a ton of quilting, carefully remove the initials, change their places and then requilt.  It then needed to be rephotographed (thanks Mike for all the pictures in this post).  Then came the pockets and labels (times 2 of course since there are two panels).  And then finally another large black pocket spanning both panels and sewn on top of the original pockets.  The large black pocket was required because the IQA judged show at Houston requires multi-panel pieces to be sewn onto a single pocket or black panel.  Although it was extremely annoying to sew on, I don't mind so much since the quilt got into the show (yay!).  Anyway, now it's actually finished finished, and writing up the blog post is the last step.

Eucharistic Prayer C: Convergence, Shannon M. Conley, c. 2016, 45"h x 62"w
The quilt is an exploration of the intersection of science and religion and is part of an ongoing series of liturgical quilts I'm completing.  The central text comes from Eucharistic Prayer C, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.  It is a slightly more contemporary version of an ancient prayer used before communion.  I have always been drawn to the science/natural history feel of the text. It says:

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace.
By his blood, he reconciled us.
By his wounds, we are healed.

I started thinking about God in the world, the evolution of life on our planet, and those who use their talents to study the world around us.  Thus instead of saints, the illuminated initials contain pictures of notable scientists.

Louis Pasteur

Galileo Galilei

Marie Curie

Barbara McClintock

Likewise, instead of depicting biblical stories or other scenes from the life of the church, the borders illustrate the evolution of life on our planet.  Starting along the top are "galaxies, suns, and the planets in their courses" along with sections of a Louis Pasteur quote expressing the idea that science can bring us closer to God. "par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu"

The whole quote is: Le premier regard de l'homme jeté sur l'univers n'y découvre que variété, diversité, multiplicité des phénomènes. Que ce regard soit illuminé par la science, — par la science qui rapproche l'homme de Dieu, — et la simplicité et l'unité brillent de toutes parts.

Working counterclockwise, the far right border depicts early life: my interpretation of "primordial soup" (top), chemosynthetic bacteria at an undersea hydrothermal vent (middle), and stromatolites which helped oxygenate the earth's atmosphere (bottom) beginning in the Archean eras (~3.5 billion years ago).  

Working around the quilt counterclockwise, the bottom right border features a variety of creatures from the Cambrian explosion (~544 million years ago [Ma]) on the right.  These include everyone's favorite trilobite as well as examples of Hallucigenia, Opabinia, Pikaia, Marrella, and Aysheaia. 

The middle panel shows two examples of more advanced, later undersea life.  The bottom is a Eurypterid, which is basically a giant (up to 8ft) sea scorpion which first appeared in the Ordovician period (~505 Ma), but was present for an extremely long time (all the way into the Permian period ~278 Ma).  The top animal is a type of early jawless fish called Cephalaspis which appeared in the early Devonian period (~408 Ma).

The left panel is my very favorite of all the "creature" panels, and is meant to depict early life on land.  Life spread to land during the Silurian period (~440 Ma), and features an example from the order Trigonotarbida, a small spidery creature.  Of course life on land means early plants as well, so the little bug is pictured with a fern.

The skinny borders along the middle of the two panels effectively function as one set of animals, all from THE AGE OF DINOSAURS (that should sound like a deep resonating voice over a PA system).  At the bottom is my old friend the Helicoprion, a shark species with a round saw blade-like set of teeth. Definitely check it out if you aren't familiar. Helicoprion actually arose in the Permian period (~290 Ma), survived the great extinction event at the end of the Permian, and continued living on into the Triassic period.  The middle panels feature our old friend Coelophysis, a carnivorous theropod dinosaur of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods (~200 Ma).  The top is a Pteranodon, from the Cretaceous period (~144 Ma).

Back on the bottom (this time of the left panel) but continuing to work counter clockwise, I've included a Gastornis, a species of giant (up to 6 feet) flightless bird that lived during the late Paleocene/Eocene epochs (Paleogene period, ~60 Ma).  The center features a wooly mammoth from the Pleistocene epoch (first diverged from other mammoths ~400,000 years ago).  The final piece of the puzzle is people, and the bottom corner shows my version of Adam and Eve, sitting at the base of a symbolic tree of life.  They're reading On the Origin of Species, and the rest of the tree of life that runs all the way up the left side is filled with a variety of Darwin's finches.

I think most of the story of this quilt will probably not be evident to those who just view the quilt, but all the pieces were integral to my design idea, I wanted to explain them here.  After finishing this highly planned, quite precise/realistic/involved quilt, I'm looking forward to working on some other more abstract and free-flowing pieces.  I'll be called back to this series at some point though, so I'm sure there will be more illumination-style work in the pipeline.

What are your long-term-in-your-brain-forever projects?  Have you finished some of them?  How did that feel?  Were you happy with the outcome and how it matched what you had in  your head?

Linking up with Nina-Marie, and TGIFF.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Something New

Something new, something free-flowing, hopefully something fearless.  I've been painting and blending, big arm strokes and runny colors.  Petals.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Anonymous: finished!

Back in May I showed you my improvisationally pieced quilt top which started out quite abstract before slowly resolving into something that looks, to me at least, a lot like a person.  I free motion machine quilted it as always, more or less following the general curves of the piece and using both contrasting and matching threads.  After finishing the quilting and indulging in some creative consultation with my mom, it became apparent that it not only needed to be cropped, but that the pale background was blending in to the white wall.  I therefore decided to mount it on a dark blue quilted background which I think grounds it nicely.

So here it is finished.  And many many thanks to Mike for taking all these final pictures.  I think he really managed to get great definition in the quilting on the background without washing out the foreground too much.  Many of the fabrics are silky/shiny, and they look great in person.  I'll keep everyone posted if it goes out into the world.

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h

My artist statement for this one is short and sweet:  In remembrance of women throughout the world who remain voiceless, oppressed, judged for their choices, or stripped of their identity.

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail
Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Anonymous, c. 2016, Shannon Conley, 34"w x 45"h, detail

Linking up to the fabulous Nina-Marie as always as well as TGIFF!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Map Wallets

A few years back I bought a cute wallet from a lovely etsy seller who has since closed her shop.  It featured cute paper covered with clear vinyl, and held up really well!  About that same time I bought a card case made from a map from a different Etsy seller for a friend of mine.  She recently facebooked me to say it was finally on its last legs and did I know where she could get another one?  I decided to challenge myself to make new wallets for each of us, combining the map idea with the overall design of my previous wallet.  I didn't have a pattern or anything, but was able to trace some general shapes off my old wallet.  I stitched them on my singer 201 which did great with all the layers of vinyl.  Mine was the guinea pig and didn't come out exactly right, but by the second one I really had it down!  This was a fun little project and now we each have reminders of home!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Crest Trail- Finished

I finished this quilt just in time for and end-of-January entry deadline, and delayed showing the final quilt lest I jinx it!  In the end it didn't get into that show, but I recently found out that it has been accepted into Fiberworks 2016, a show here in Oklahoma City.  For any locals, please join us for the opening, next Friday (July 15) from 6-9 at the IAO gallery at 706 W. Sheridan.

It's been a while since I talked about this quilt; I designed it to depict my favorite section of my favorite childhood hiking trail, Crest Trail #25, from Monjeau (which falls more or less at the top right/northeast) to the base of Ski Apache (which falls on the bottom left/southwest).  Each layer of fabric coordinates to a 160 ft elevation topo line from the USGS maps of the White Mountain Wilderness in New Mexico.

I talked before, here in detail about how I painted the fabric and cut and assembled the pieces.  But for anyone who is just checking in, all the fabric was hand painted, after cutting but before assembling.  The background (with front-batting-backing) was free motion quilted first, and then painted and used as the base on which all the layers were assembled.

Topography #2: Crest Trail, c. Shannon Conley, 2016, 42 x 28 x 4
Each of those funny spots that looks like a big stitch on the front is a place where the wire comes through all the layers.   Between each layer a pony bead is strung on the wire to prevent the layers collapsing on themselves.  Many thanks to Mike for taking the final pictures.

So this is my tribute to one of my very very favorite places in the whole world.   The number of memories I have hiking this trail is too many to count.  The colors, while obviously not realistic are meant to capture the transitions this trail goes through- many forested areas with either old growth or new growth forest, as well as open, treeless saddle areas where the green grass quite quickly turns to golden yellow in our dry New Mexico climate.  Unfortunately, the area was devastated by a forest fire a couple years back, and now looks very different.

Making this was both a technical challenge and a wonderful mental and emotional exercise.  I love the way it turned out and wish I could spend more time there.  I hope that some of you can get out to see the show at IAO, Fiberworks is always great.  It features tons of different types of fiber art, not just art quilts.

Linking up with the fabulous Nina-Marie as always!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Color Study

One of the exercises from the class I took with Jean Wells Keenan earlier this year was to put together a strip set using her freeform curved piecing technique and whatever color palette appealed to us.  I had planned on using oranges and blues along with some creamy neutrals (as you may recognize from the other pieces I worked on in that class here and here) so that's what I used for my strip set.

When I got home from the workshop, I decided to try Jean's portrait finish technique, and turn my strip set into a finished mini quilt.  In her portrait finish, she quilts/finishes the central part and then stitches it down onto another fully quilted/finished background piece.   This is similar to how I did the dogs; her work was actually the inspiration for how I finished/mounted that piece.

I auditioned several background colors and although I wanted to love the brights, I settled on the navy on the far right.

After piecing in some colored strips and chunks of piecing to help the background tie in to the central panel, I quilted the background, faced it, and then stitched on the central panel. It's not very big, maybe about 16 x 22, but I thought it was a fun way to finish what would otherwise have turned into another orphan block sitting in a bin!  

Trying to figure out where to place the center panel was challenging, I moved it around a fair amount and settled on an arrangement which lined up some of the center piecing with background piecing.  However, this put the top edge of the central panel too close to the top of the background, so I wound up having to cut off some of the orange on the top of the center panel.  I wish I hadn't had to lose so much of the orange, I feel like it helped balance the top and all the blue, but it really looked funny with so little space between the top of the quilt and the top of the center panel.

Color Study, Shannon Conley c. 2016

What do you guys do with leftover blocks/class exercises?

I'm linking up with the fabulous Nina-Marie, click over to check out all the other fabulous arty things people are working on.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Eucharistic Prayer C Quilt- Almost Finished

I realized I haven't updated with progress on my Eucharistic Prayer C quilt since early March so thought I'd jump in and give an update.  It's been my primary quilting focus this spring, and I'm really pushing to get it finished!

Back in March I finished the quilting, and after that the next step was to paint in all the quilting in the borders.  I'm going for a dense, richly colored border, something like this or this which meant a lot of quite tedious painting.  I decided to go ahead and block, square, and put the facings on before painting, so that it wouldn't be all raggedy while painting.  Here's what the two panels looked like before I started painting.

 For the painting I used a combination of regular acrylics, setacolor, and fabrico markers.  It was quite challenging as the goal was to stay just inside the quilting lines and as soon as the paint was liquidy enough to apply gracefully, it started to bleed.  I finally just had to give in to the idea that that would happen and let go a bit.  It really took forever, just ask my mom, who for several months would call and ask what I was working on only to hear Still Painting!  My biggest struggle was actually how boring it was which made it hard to get up the motivation to work on it.   I didn't get very many in progress pictures of the painting, but here are a couple so you can see what I'm talking about.

I was so excited to finish the painting, but unfortunately realized shortly thereafter (when I really truly thought I was done) that I'd made a catastrophic error on one of the panels.  Specifically, I'd mixed up the two illuminated initials.  You can see in the first picture below the initial L followed by "t you..."  and in the bottom picture, the initial A followed by "et us..."  As you might imagine, the L goes with "et" and the A goes with the "t you" and I cannot believe I made such a huge mistake.  The whole illuminated initial is 6-8 layers thick, and will have to come off from the blue/purple border forward.  Unfortunately, it's fused down and heavily quilted.

I'm currently now beginning what feels like an insane amount of (quite boring) quilt ripping which is even more fun given how much tedium I just forced myself through with the painting.  Talk about learning lessons the hard way.  I'm just hoping that I can peel the fused initials off cleanly once I get the quilting removed, but it's going to be tricky.  Also tricky will be getting them back down since they're not exactly the same size.  Alas, it's always something.

Someday I will be well and truly finished with this, but until then.....

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

SAQA Auction Donation Quilt

It's time once again to send in our 12 x 12" quilts for the annual SAQA auction which will take place later in the summer.  It's a fun thing to participate in-  the small works raise a bunch of money for SAQA and it gives me an opportunity to try out some small things.

This year I started my auction quilt while at the Jean Wells Keenan workshop.  It was the first time I'd pieced improvisationally, and it was quite freeing (and new) for me to not have to plan every single thing.  I was working on a larger piece which I hope to share sometime soon, and piles of little bits of fabric were accumulating near my sewing machine.  On the second to last day of the workshop, I decided to piece together a bunch of these little bits into a pleasing composition ~12 x 12".  It's a mixture of cotton, velour, polyester, silk etc. (always with me it's all kinds of things) but the main background fabrics are some sort of weird pseudo-suede in grey and light purple.  They gave a great soft texture to this piece and the larger piece in which I used them, but they melt/scorch worse than just about any fabrics I've ever worked with, so beware.

I was really proud of myself to use only the random scraps of things left over from the larger project!  I did a bit of hand stitching using perle cotton, and then quilted it on my machine when I got home. I'm one of those people who can't let abstract things stay abstract, and it looked to me a little bit like a tropical reef fish (with the nose pointing to the left and the fin pointing up), so I named it fish and bits.

Fish and Bits, 12 x 12", c. Shannon Conley, 2016

I'm not really a piecer or an improv-er, but that's why I wanted to take the Jean Wells class.  It was really wonderful and pushed me to work in a totally new way.  Have you taken any classes that were like that?  It's such a rewarding experience.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

New Project: Improvisational Piecing

As I've mentioned, I was lucky to get to take a 5 day workshop with Jean Wells Keenan at Asilomar this spring and it was a really great experience.  Her work includes lots of intuitive piecing, two things (working intuitively and piecing) that I'm generally terrible at, so it was a great opportunity for me to get to push myself to try new things.

We were to bring inspirational pictures, and the class was called something like "abstracting from nature" so most people worked from nature pictures.  However, as much as I love the outdoors (especially at asilomar) I wasn't feeling that vibe.  Rather my inspiration and pinboards lately have been filled with bold, graphic, sculptural art so I brought a pile of pictures in that vein.  Before going, I used this picture as a color scheme to help guide what fabrics I packed, so wound up with lots of blues, oranges and neutrals.  I really love this combination, especially with a few pops of saturated fuschia.  Yum.  I also liked the sculptural nature of those pants, but in the end used this beautiful paper sculpture as the jumping off point for my sketching.

The first part of the class involved exercises in color selection and the curved piecing technique that Jean uses.  That was really helpful to me-I love curves, but have always hated having to precisely match up seams and curves.  It was great to be able to piece freely along the curves.

After doing some initial exercises, we started sketching and abstracting.  This is where I really had to let go- typically I sketch/draw/design until I have a full pattern (either on paper or in illustrator) and then follow my pattern.  Here though I sketched and abstracted and sketched and cropped until I had some shapes that were reminiscent of the original inspiration, but really quite different.  Then I just started piecing-keeping a vague idea of the direction I wanted my curves to go, but otherwise just letting things build.

Small sketches

This was my final "pattern" which was just mainly a suggestion for the directionality of curves/piecing.

These were the first two sections I pieced.  You can see they're a little lumpy from all the curves, but judicious pressing and reseaming when irredeemable bubbles formed solved the problem.  I found this process of piecing curves worked great as long as I was willing to let go of any preconceived notions about making something that matched my pattern.

Here with the third inner set pieced and pinned up.  It was feeling a little top heavey at this point and there was a ton of "waste" where the two orange sections overlapped, so I cut off the overlap and auditioned a bunch of different ways to incorporate the piecing I whacked off.

I settled on that option on the bottom right.  Once that was sewn on, there was another bit of light orange overlap to cut off, which I wound up positioning at the bottom left.

At this point I found that it had completely diverged from my original sketch and that it looked a bit like a person wrapped up in a scarf or shawl. One of the exercises we did in the class was to go around and leave one word about how all the pieces resonated with us.  My sheet had all kinds of great words from my classmates, many of which were spacey/science fiction-y in nature.  I thought it looked kind of like a Jawa, others suggested a still suit a la-Frank Herbert and Dune, and many others had additional sci-fi words.  

The yarn lines are pinned up to help guide/audition the piecing and design lines in the background.  That was one of Jean's suggestions and I found it really helpful for deciding how to fill in all the background area.

And here it is with the background pieced in.  This is how it is still, hanging on my design wall waiting to be quilted.  Originally the pale purple inside the blue circle corresponded to open space behind that paper sculpture, but as it's taken on a more figurative aspect, I've been wondering whether I ought to paint that central purple piece dark- maybe to look something like the picture below.  Thoughts?

It'll be the next thing to finish, although I still have to decide how to quilt it.  I'm not sure how I'll finish it- I may cut it off square, but I might also decide to make uneven edges to reflect the curved piecing.  I'll wait to decide until after I quilt it.