Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Angel Progress

I've been reticent to write more about my angel quilt project, partly because I'm still waffling a bit. Not that I didn't get excellent feedback as I polled various groups about background choices. On the contrary, the conversations that developed out of my simple, "Choose one and tell me why" question resulted in an epiphany of sorts that sent me back to the drawing board.

More on that in a minute, but first, these two backgrounds were the hands down favorites in my poll. It didn't seem to matter much whether I was asking my blog readers (many of whom are traditional or art quilters), my quilting friends back in Wisconsin who know me well and have seen my work in person, or the members of the church for which this quilt is being made. However, all were at a disadvantage because they were basing their opinion on photos only, and we all know how different a photo seen on a computer monitor or printed on paper can be from the real thing. So while I didn't disagree with this outcome, I had the advantage of seeing how these worked when actually viewing them. And something was still off.

The border options I'd laid out weren't very serious since I had no clue what was going to happen out there. A lot of you picked up on that, noting that these fabrics just weren't right, or at least not in the proportions I was showing. This generated some great suggestions, some of which were already percolating in the recesses of my mind. I suppose the real turning point came when I received several suggestions to use a greenish leafy background and consider some additional design details that would play on the meadows and trees that permeate this area. That's when I realized I'd been fighting the urge to do what I needed to in order to make this angel quilt specific to this church and this area.

Why the fight, you may ask. I knew I didn't want to duplicate the original quilt, partly because I simply don't enjoy making something twice and partly because I didn't think it appropriate for this setting. I also thought I didn't want to make anything very complicated. Quick and simple, was my thought, but I should know better. My track record has been to take a simple idea and before I know it, turn it into something complex and, usually, much more interesting. But no, I kept telling myself, this project is a sidetrack from my intended game plan for the year, so I need to do it well, but do it simply. Thus, anything beyond an angel on a plain background with a simple border kept getting pushed aside. But it was obviously making me uneasy and sapping any enthusiasm I might have for this quilt.

Then came the epiphany. I was starting to entertain some of these more complex ideas, and subsequently getting excited about the quilt at last. But I still felt I was blocked. While discussing this with a non-quilting friend, it occurred to me that perhaps I couldn't pin down where I was headed with this quilt because I was still unsure about what the space in which it will hang and what the church itself would come to represent once in its new surroundings. We have decided to change the church's name and are still struggling to come up with one we feel accurately represents our developing identity. No wonder that I too was struggling with the identity of this quilt. I was working with a blank concept, my design had no theme. But now I was developing one. This angel had to be The Angel of the Rock, since the new location is near Rocky Point, and needed to reside at the lake. The quilt would not be me of 5 years ago when the first angel was made, but would represent me today with my emphasis on nature. Ahhhh - inspiration at last!

I couldn't wait to get back in the studio, put away all the fabric that would not be in this quilt and start looking for new pieces as well as new ideas for the overall design. One of the first things that happened as I put fabric away was I ran across a piece of rock fabric. I think this was the color I was looking for to help balance the colors in the angel's tunic, and it solidified my theme of Angel of the Rock. I placed it such that the angel was kneeling on it - the rocky beach of the lake. Next I took the hardest step - making that first cut. The dark blue batik was set aside and I cut a piece of the ethereal lighter blue for the upper portion of the quilt. Next, I found a more muted blue for what would become the lake. This matches the tone of the sky better. This picture is a little uneven but gives you an idea of how these will work with the angel.

I also found a zingier green and blue batik that I think I'll run up the sides in some fashion. But I ran into a snag finding a proper green to represent mountains behind the angel. So things came to a screeching halt while I re-thought this part. Today I tried several greens out of my regular stash, tried netting to alter tones, and again, just happened to stumble upon a fabric that may work better than any I've tried so far. Still, there's a problem with contrast - the angel isn't standing out quite like it should. So I spent a lot of time pondering. Could I apply a glow of paint around the angel? Could I make it stand out with thread or quilting? Should I fuse it to another fabric that would then be trimmed back so just a bit of it showed? That seemed the most reliable option, but again, what fabric, what color? I played a bit with the nettings - no - and was about to give up for the day when I wondered, what about yellow. I glanced over at the crows feet blocks still up on my design wall and spotted one with a lovely muted yellow in it. This sent me to my reproduction stash once more - you just never know where inspiration will come from or what odd fabric will be perfect for the cause. I think one of those pre-1900 repro fabrics is going to give me the slight glow and definition that angel needs.

I'm a long way from having this all figured out, let alone finished, but I decided I needed to take that June 1st deadline off the table. The church itself thought it had to have the new name in place before the move but has since found out that isn't true. It is being encouraged to take its time and get it right, because it will be a name to be lived with for a very long time. I'm realizing the same applies to this quilt. I shouldn't rush it, I need to get it right, because I and the other church members will be living with it for a long time.

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