Thursday, February 21, 2008

Can You Guess?

My piece for the February Take It Further Challenge is far enough along for me to show. The color palette for the month was very tempting, but only because it immediately reminded me of the colors predominant in Civil War era quilts. It made me want to dive into my stash of reproduction fabrics and whip up a little traditional quilt typical of the mid to late 1800's. But then, that wouldn't be taking if further, now would it?

So I considered the key concept with a sigh: What are you old enough to remember? Lots of suggestions were made, mostly involving technology, but also about lifestyles and world events. I'm old enough to remember a lot. I sighed because the mention of all these things left me stuck with a mental image of photo-collaging again. Also not in keeping with the take it further spirit of the challenge. There's gotta be a better way to interpret this stuff. Or maybe I should just go back to the palette.

But lo and behold, while messing around on the computer, these thoughts on the back burner simmering, an image flashed into my head. A thing had surfaced as what I wanted to work with, and along with it, an abstract way of presenting it. Now I'm excited! So have you guessed yet from the picture above what it is that I'm old enough to remember?

I'm really hoping it's not totally obvious that my thing is the rotary phone. Back in the late 1950's, your phone was provide by and the property of the phone company. It came in one style and one color: basic black. It had no switch for silencing the rings, or volume control for the earpiece. It was permanently wired into the wall - no little clippy thing to unplug. I seem to remember my father referring to it as "the black monster." He hated that thing - I think because the ring was so loud and startling. He didn't do well with suddenly sharp noises because of his work underground in the mines. Down there, a sudden sharp noise could be the sign of a cave-in or air-blast, and survival meant reacting quickly. So the phone set off that flight adrenaline just when he was trying to decompress from a harrowing day's work. I also suspect he hated it because the phone calls were seldom for him - a little jealousy there.

When the idea of a rotary phone came to mind, it was that dial that flashed across my imagination, floating off into space. I have to admit, I miss dials. I rather dislike all this punching of buttons to adjust things where you want them. A nice turn of a dial so easily controls where you want to go with your adjustment. Even though there is no dial on today's phone, we still say "dial the number" and "wait for the dial tone." Give me back my dial!

I decided to work just with the circles - the finger holes - of the dial. I wanted to capture a little perspective by showing the dial at various angles. I went in search of pictures of rotary phones (I hate to admit, but it's been so long since I've seen one, I was a little unclear as to the configuration) and was delighted to find a good variety shot at the different angles I needed. Here are three I downloaded from the web:

I took them into software to reduce them to line drawings, printed them out, then used my printer to enlarge by 150, 175 and 200 percent. I figured that should give me plenty of sizes to work with.

Reverse applique seemed the easiest way to approach my design idea. I traced the different sizes and angles of dials onto freezer paper and cut out the finger holes to make templates.

Then I took a big piece of newsprint and started arranging my dials, tracing from the templates. When I got an arrangement I liked, I went over the pencil lines with a Sharpie pen, picked out my top fabric and transferred the design. Here you can see I used my big window in my studio as a lightbox.

I cleaned up the tracings where necessary, fused Misty Fuse to the back and cut out the circles. This was time consuming, but not nearly as time consuming as hand appliqueing would have been. It was not an unpleasant task.

I auditioned several fabrics for underneath - what would show through the holes in the top - but kept coming back to this wild batik. You can see my cut-up top with the Misty Fuse on the back scrunched up there at the top ready for tryouts. I really love doing reverse applique over a multi-color fabric like this. If you don't cut openings before layering, then the result is a surprise, as in this piece I reverse appliqued by hand. In this case, I had a little more control because I could move the top over the fabric to find the effect I liked best, but still, there's that element of surprise. I suppose I like having so much of the color placement decision making done by the fabric and not me!

Once I was happy with the placement, I fused the two layers together and began contemplating a quilting pattern. Since I had a full size pattern at my disposal, I played around with it today, drawing potential quilting lines across it. The ideas have flowed so nicely with this project, which is why the joy is back.

To see the February palette and full explanation of the key concept, go here.


The WestCountryBuddha said...

Gosh what an interesting post. You have indeed Taken It Further. I love the idea of the telephone; you have managed to make something beautiful from it.

Featheronawire Sally Bramald said...

I love it and it's not obvious. I'd thought it was horses walking by.(hoof prints)