Saturday, August 11, 2007

July Journal Quilt

Thursday was distraction free, so I got to work on my July journal quilt. The studio felt like a haven, a sanctuary for a change, and with all my pre-planning (see previous post), I could concentrate on process with very little decision making. The calendar theme for the month of July was "Journey" with a quotation from Henry Miller: "There is only one great adventure and that is inward toward the self." I have been working my way through some writing exercises that in hindsight have been just what this quotation refers to - a journey inward. Julia Cameron's morning pages in particular have been a peeling back of the outward facade to face the turmoil within and gain control over it. I envisioned a journal quilt with a top layer peeling back to reveal words describing how I really feel inside at times. I'm getting more intrigued by layers of text, letters, words lying beneath the surface in artwork so here was a place to try that out. I've had Tyvek lying around waiting to try what everyone else seems to have tried already. I thought it could be my peeling layer. And it was about time I painted with some Dye-na-flo paint I purchased a long time ago.

I started by making a list of "inner" words and themes that appeared in my June & July morning pages. These are the things I think of as my true self that most people don't see - fear, insecurity, worry, etc. I like to print all the information about each journal on my backing fabric, and had hung on to one that hadn't turned out well enough to use. I decided to make this my base for stamping my inner words, using an alphabet rubber stamp set. By the time I was finished carefully stamping each letter on, it felt like I had banished all those negative feelings from within me and onto the cloth. I wanted this layer to be dark & mysterious, the words readable but just. So I painted over the entire piece with two different colors of Dye-Na-Flo paint. Unfortunately, I was so fixated on the stamped letters that I didn't notice I'd pretty much obliterated the printed text underneath.

Before & After

I painted a Tyvek envelope with Dye-na-flo as well, in a bright yellow to represent that bright & cheery exterior that I usually present to the world The yellow had more of an orange undertone in the bottle so I was surprised that on the Tyvek it looked so different, but it was the yellow I had in mind. Since I was recycling the Tyvek envelop, it had some creases in it, which I thought played nicely into the theme - even the sanitized selves we present to the world have their flaws, hinting to what lies beneath. Next I made a list of "outer" words, things I think everyone thinks I am, and that even I believe at times, and programmed them into my sewing machine. I layered the Tyvek over the stamped fabric, Thermore batting and muslin before stitching the words randomly over the surface.

I usually wait to compose and print out my label backing until everything but turning the edge finish to the back is done, and then I fuse it into place. But with the heat sensitive Tyvek on the front, I'd run the risk of distressing it in a way I didn't want. Steam-a-Seam2 Lite fusible works with a lower temperature, so I tried fusing a bit of muslin with it to the back of a sample using a silk setting on my iron. It wasn't the best bond but for this purpose it worked fine. I also wanted to run a line of decorative stitching next to the binding before "peeling" back parts of the Tyvek, and this could also secure the binding to the back. So the label had to be printed and fused next. Then I finished the edges with butted single fold binding, adding that decorative stitch all around that I think brings a little more tension to that outer layer.

Now for the leap of faith. I'd practiced using a soldering iron to melt back the Tyvek, but now I had to do it on the real thing, judging just how much to remove without overdoing it. And since all the stamping and stitching of words had been done randomly, would I even unveil anything recognizable? Had I even put the two layers together in the same orientation? Would I expose that inner self I've been journeying to and coming to terms with upside down?

To my relief I had place both layers the same direction, and although not many words were exposed in their entirety, I think enough can be seen to get the idea. (Click on any picture for a larger view. You may have to up the brightness on your monitor to see the exposed lettering.) I didn't want it to be blatant anyway. One has to look hard to understand what's going on inside a person, and I know what's lurking there.

Anyone who knows my work, knows how unlike me this quilt is. And to be honest, I'm not sure any of what I learned here will make it into my regular work. But that's what journal quilts are for - all part of the one great adventure!


Liz said...

Great experimentation, Sheila. It's come out really well. I hadn't thought of using a soldering iron - it's good because it distresses it without distorting which is useful if you want to keep it flat!

margaret said...

Fab! Looking at the previous post, the original tyvek sums it up: "reliable & durable" - !