Monday, September 21, 2009

Bishop's Close From Afar

"Bishop's Close From Afar"
copyright 2009 Sheila Mahanke Barnes

After fits and starts, distractions and diversions, I have finished my second textile piece inspired by June Underwood's challenge painting, "Sunbreaks at Bishop's Close". It breaks two of my rules - being a somewhat predictable response given a play-on-words title - but I love it anyway. And it's really not like my usual work. I don't think this necessarily represents a new direction, but it has been a bit of fresh air to work on.

I promised a bit of blow-by-blow recapping of my process complete with pictures, but I managed to delete the majority of them from the camera before they got downloaded to the computer. You'll just have to have good imaginations while I explain a few of the techniques I employed. I started with June's painting above right, the photo above left taken at Eagle Rock Gardens at Bishop's Close (is this where June did her plein air painting?) and my rough drawing, which I finalized and darkened with a Sharpie. (You can see the beginnings of this idea - a quick sketch on a transparency centered over a print out of the fabric - here.) I taped that master to the patio door window, and moved the second piece of tissue sunprinted fabric over it until the colors fell in the best places of the design. Taped over the master with the light coming through, now I could trace my design directly on it with pencil. Then I added the "water" using a machine reverse applique technique. The batik was placed right side up under the painted fabric and pinned along the pencil lines. I stitched along those lines, then carefully cut away the top layer close to the stitching to reveal the blue batik.

I was pretty sure that just quilting the lines of the trees and bushes would not give me a heavy enough line, and that I would need to stabilize the top before satin stitching along the raw edges of the reverse applique so I ironed Sulky Totally Stable to the back of the entire top. Once the satin stitching was done, I trimmed away the excess batik from the back, set my machine for free motion embroidery and stitched in the trees and bushes using a zig zag setting. and moving the fabric side to side. The outlines of the bench were done with a straight stitch with the feed dogs up - I know, but I wasn't secure enough about sewing straight lines free motion.

And then it was time to remove the stabilizer, layer and quilt. I went back over each of the embroidered lines and added the shading to the bench. The water got the usual wavy lines mixed with jagged ones emulating leaves floating on the surface as in the photograph.

My absolute favorite part of the quilting is this bridge. I spotted it in the background of that photo above and thought it would add some depth as well as mystery to the design. The bench, admittedly a bit quirky in its angling, was incorporated after spotting benches in other pictures of the Close. I'd told June at one point that I wanted to get across the meditative aspect of these gardens, and the bench is my way of inviting the viewer to sit a spell and contemplate.

After steaming and marking the outer edge of the quilt, I applied binding as I did to Bishop's Close Meditations. (see this post) I'm treating these as companion pieces and I wanted the same fabric to bind them both for consistency sake, even though a dark binding would have set this off perfectly while being too much for Meditations. My compromise was to couch a navy decorative braid along the binding to create a faux piping. The special braiding foot was a great help.

Of course, I didn't come to this decision easily. I laid the two quilts out together and considered how the second one would look without the faux piping. Okay, but ever so much better when the braid was laid along the binding. So the real question was, do I add the same to Meditations? Yes, I really had to, which actually improved it a lot, I think. It's binding was already turned and sewn to the back, so it was harder to couch the braid evenly right next to the binding. Definitely do the couching before turning the binding to the back.

"Bishop's Close Meditations"
copyright 2009 Sheila Mahanke Barnes

Here is "Bishop's Close Meditations" in its revised state (see this post for specifics of its development)
. Both Bishop's Close quilts and June's painting are 16 x 12 inches. As always, clicking on any picture will open a larger version showing more detail.


Chris said...

Oh, I really love this post. What great quilts. Thanks so much for sharing. As it happens, I have a couple of paintings in mind that I want to... I don't know the word... interpret? Yes, interpret my way. You have given me ideas about how to approach it, yet I doubt mine would in any way resemble yours. Two things: I really like the idea of drawing on a transparency over the fabric, and I am so taken with the navy braid couched around the edge of the piece. That is just delicious.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks so much, Chris. I always hope the information I'm sharing will be helpful to someone, because I glean so much helpful information from the blogs I follow.

I've been stumbling around for the right term to describe this process, settling for "inspired by" and "based on" but neither tells the whole story. I like your idea of "interpret" for this particular piece. Each medium indeed interprets subject matter in a unique way because of its restraints and properties plus the vision of the artist. June's oil painting was less detailed than the photo, and my textile piece even less detailed. It felt like a very minimalist interpretation, really a sketch done with fabric and thread rather than paper and pen. Very liberating. Good luck pursuing your own path to interpretation.