Monday, June 21, 2021

Range Grasses-Finished

 Late last week I shared a post about my grandpa and a quilt I've been working on inspired by his lab notebook.  I ended that post by talking about the digital collages made from his specimens, drawings, and notes and my microscopy images.  I had the digital collages printed onto a polyester satin fabric by spoonflower.  The print quality was very good, and the panels are pretty large (the finished quilt is 37"h x 57"w) and I started by sandwiching the quilt and quilting the whole thing.  The quilting turned out to be nightmare unfortunately- I had a new can of spray baste and I evidently used too much because everything was constantly gunked up.  It was a mess.

Here's a shot from mid-quilting.  I really struggled to keep the straight parts of the design straight and I struggled so much with the stitching (thanks to the gunk) that I was pretty discouraged by the time I finished quilting.  The other thing was that the whole thing was really really shiny.  Usually I like things that are shiny- I love working with polyester and satiny fabrics that are shiny, but it was a poor choice for this project. In the first place, it was supposed to feel like a weathered old lab notebook which is (duh) not shiny.  Almost worse was that because a lot of the design was small and detailed, after quilting, the quilting texture (which stood out much more because the fabric was so shiny) felt like it was overpowering the design.  It was not a good experience. 

I wasn't sure initially how I wanted to finish it, but I settled on some cutwork borders for the outer edge, (I really love the way these turned out) that have shapes that were inspired by the grasses.  Narrow, solid painted brown stripes acted like sashing to separate the panels.  The brown borders and panel edges are zig-zagged on from the top, and I couched on some fun dark green sparkly line to help hide the butted up edges. 

I love the right hand border, it's one of my favorite parts of the whole piece.  I used some paint and shiva paintstick to give a little color variation to the borders and sashing so they wouldn't look so flat.

I didn't want to just have three even panels, so I made some top and bottom borders out of some green velveteen appliqued over some additional printed microscopy images.  The microscopy images are a picture of grass stem- what you see below in brown underneath the green leafy brown overlying applique.  Unfortunately the strip of brown grass stem wasn't long enough so I pieced in some turquoise and then added some paint to give it some depth.  The turquoise alone was looking pretty flat.

To help cut down on the shininess, I painted over all the panels with a coating of matte medium.  It helped some with the shininess, but you can still see a lot of the quilting texture. Normally I love that, but here I worry that it just fights with the design.

Here's the final quilt.  It turned out better than I expected given how much I struggled with it, and designing the panels and reading through my grandpa's lab notebook was a really wonderful experience.
AH  107, Range Grasses.  c. Shannon Conley, 2021, 37"x57", photo by Mike Cox

I made a special label for it with another picture of my grandparents when they were young.  That's my dad over there on the right! I'm so grateful my grandma is still with us to tell us her stories and my grandpa's.  She's gotten really good at zoom and has more recently been playing bridge online with me and some friends.  Love you grandma!

Friday, June 18, 2021

New Quilt-Range Grasses

Early this year I started working on a quilt for the SAQA call for entry called Microscape.  The call was really exciting for me, but I wasn't interested in doing another "here's a picture of something cool under the microscope".  I love making quilts like that (e.g. here and here and here and here) and I'm sure I'll make more in the future, but I was feeling like going in a little different direction. The piece that resulted didn't get into Microscape,  but making it was a wonderful process.

My grandpa Wilbur passed away in the early part of 2020 (right before COVID).  He was a great grandpa, and I shared some of his favorite things in an earlier post about a photo quilt we made for his 80th birthday in 2006.  He had many jobs over the years but I have always known him as a plant man.  He started a nursery business over forty years ago that's still in our family today and for a long time owned and ran a beautiful place with ponds where you could take your kids to fish for trout.  When I bought my first house fifteen years ago, he and my grandma gifted me three trees.  My crabapple tree from him is still very dear to me.  His homes always had beautiful landscaping filled with flowers and trees. I'll never forget calling to wish him happy birthday when he turned 90 and when I asked what he'd been doing that day he said he'd just finished mowing the lawn. 

After service in the second World War, he and my grandma and their kids moved to Las Cruces New Mexico so he could go to college at New Mexico State University.  My grandma tells tons of great stories about their time there.  I've always loved this picture of them from sometime around then.

Anyway, after my grandpa died, my grandma and my aunt asked if I would like to have his college lab notebook from his favorite class.  I had no idea he'd even saved something like that and of course I said yes.  It was just amazing,  the class was called AH 107, Range Grasses, and the book is remarkable.  It's filled with typewritten class assignments from the instructor, my grandfather's beautifully handwritten lab reports, his botanical drawings, and pages and pages of collected grass specimens.  It was amazingly well preserved, the scotch tape had yellowed a bit but almost everything was intact.  As a scientist this was a really special thing to add to my collection.  My grandpa still remembered the scientific names of all these grasses decades later, and would point them out when driving or hiking.

I knew I wanted to somehow use the lab notebook for a quilt, and I wasn't sure exactly how, but I started by taking the notebook to my lab and taking a bunch of pictures of Grandpa's grasses under the microscope.  I'm not a botanist so I'm not sure exactly what all the structures are that I could see, but they all looked really cool.  I'm still amazed that these 70 yr old specimens are so well preserved. I picked a few favorites and then started working on collaging them digitally, with pictures of the specimens, the drawings, the microscopy images, the handwritten reports, and the assignments. 

Bouteloua hirsuta (Hairy Grama)

Just look at that handwriting (!)

This is the digital collaged panel I made from the Hairy Grama assignment.

Koeleria cristata (June Grass)

And here's the digital collage from Koeleria cristata

The final one I selected was Andropogon scoparius (prairie beardgrass)

Here's the digital collage I made for this one.

After making the collages, I sent them to spoonflower to be printed onto fabric.  I'll share more about the making of the quilt later this week!


Thursday, June 17, 2021

I Like #217

 Welcome to another week of things to like!

I'm excited to announce that I was the artist-in-residence on the latest episode of the Quilting Arts Podcast.  Vivika DeNegre and Susan Brubaker Knapp invited me on to talk about art and science and we had a great conversation.  It was really fun to get to talk about things that I get really excited about, and the conversation wandered into some interesting places.  You can get it wherever you get your podcasts, or listen directly here.  Thanks so much to the QA Podcast crew for the super kind invitation!

I like my apples.  Unfortunately so does spooky.  He discovered this week that they are fun to play with and eat.  The tree is very small and now he's pulled off pretty much all of them.  I tried to take away as many as I could (since they're unripe) but of course he got at least one that I know of and probably some others.  Oh well.  It's been several days now and he doesn't seem to have any ill effects.  He's recovering well from being neutered, and doesn't seem too interested in licking or bothering the wound, so that's a blessing too.  Unfortunately, he chewed a giant hole in one of my brand new hand knit socks (pulled it out of the hamper) and the other one has completely disappeared, so I'm not thrilled about that.

Spooky has been stealing the main space on the sofa lately, so Blue has been perching on the back more often.

Cotton the super sweet rat is still staying with me; luckily she has finished her medication and has had her bandage ninja vest removed, so I think she's a bit happier.

No flower pictures this week, but my first tomatoes were ripe, which made me very excited.  The plants have grown very large, so that's fun.  They were quite tasty!

I finally got to blog this week about a couple of small projects I finished up a while ago, my SAQA 12x12 square for this year and a small wallet I made.  Click over here to see more.

Friday, June 11, 2021

SAQA Auction Quilt 2021 etc.

 In going through my files this week I found a couple of small projects from the last couple of months that I don't think I blogged about.  Apologies if I've shared them and just don't remember, I'm not always great at tagging or finding things on the blog.  

The first thing is my annual 12 x 12 donation quilt for the SAQA auction.  SAQA is a really great organization; I'd encourage any of you who are art quilters to think about joining.  They have a wonderful array of educational materials for members, a phenomenal global exhibition program and exciting regional programming and exhibitions amid much else.  The annual fundraising auction isn't until the fall, but I made my 12" square quilt for it a month or so ago.  

Sometimes I have a clear idea what I'm going to do, or sometimes it's a smaller exploratory version of something larger I'm working on.  It's always fun to go back and look at previous 12 x 12s, some of them really stand out to me and some I can hardly remember.  Here are some if you want to take a peek: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013.      This year I didn't have any strong feelings but I made it when I was feeling stuck on something else and I just wanted to get out all my bright and colorful fabric scraps.  I started by making a big swoosh on a piece of light background and then just laying out rainbow colored swooshy bits cut from my stash of fabric that already had fusible.  It was so much fun digging through those bins.  Some are hand-dyed, some are old ties or prom dresses that were cut up, some are just other silks and brocades and weird things from my stash.

After fusing down all the little bits, I put a layer of tulle over it and then quilted.  The binding is a favorite rainbow galaxy sort of print from an old Caryl Fallert collection.  It was all chunked up, so I loved being able to extract enough long pieces for the binding.

I had a lot of fun making this, and it really lifted my spirits.  I'll probably circle back around to it when the auction nears, but it's nice to work on some small discrete projects occasionally.

One of the other small projects from this spring was this clutch wallet I made for my mom for mother's day.  The pattern is from Sew Sweetness, it's from the Greenbacks Wallet Trio.  I love her patterns, they're really fun.  I made one for me a few years ago and gave it to my sister, and not too long ago my mom saw it and asked for one for herself.  She's always loved hippos and yellow which is probably why I bought this fabric many years ago, but I've never done anything with it.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity!!

Assembling always feels like it will be tricky, but is fairly straightforward as long as you take your time and go slow!

Aren't those hippos adorable!  

Thursday, June 10, 2021

I Like #216

 Welcome to another week of things to like!

The best part of this week was a wonderful weekend with Anna and Becky.  We went swimming and water sliding, then Anna and I went to the OKC Philharmonic, and then we all three went down and did the big six story ropes course in the riversports district.  It was super fun and I'm continually amazed by Anna!

New to me artists this week include Benjamin Shine (via) who makes portraits out of tulle.  They remind me a little of the glorious work of Mary Pal who is well-known for her amazing cheesecloth portraits.

I was also amazed by the work of Paulus Architect (via) whose incredibly realistic portraits are all done with ballpoint pen.  How cool is that!

I also love my new laptop sticker.  My mom has been doing a lot of digital design and has started working on a redbubble store so you can get her designs printed on stuff like t-shirts and coffee mugs.  She sent me a picture of her quilt called "Best Beloved" on a cool sticker so I added it to my laptop!  The quilt is great, it features her silk screens of many of our beloved pups from over the decades.  If you're interested, you can find her redbubble store here.  Each design is shown on only one item in the main link, but just click the design you're interested in and you can see all the things it can be printed on.

Spooky got neutered on Tuesday, so far he's recovering well.  Keep your fingers crossed for him!!

I love my plants!  The flowers are growing slowly but this pumpkin plant is taking over the world.  Excitingly, it has several flowers on it, so I hope that means pumpkins later in the year.

I love Cotton the rat!  She is staying with me while Becky's family is on vacation.  She had a tumor removed last week so she has a funny bandage on but she's doing well and is such a sweetie.

I also love having less hair!  I got a whole bunch cut off this week and it's so much lighter now.  Much better for summer.

I hope you're all having a good week!  Click over to LeeAnna's for more things to like!