Monday, January 25, 2016

Masks - In The Nick of Time

Masks: We All Wear Them, Especially With Family - 26" w x 31" l    Sheila Mahanke Barnes ©2016
Masks is truly done now, complete with dangles, sleeve and label! And no sooner did I get those dangles on than I got notice of the exhibit I knew was coming that I wanted to have it ready for. Actually, the hanging date is about a month earlier than I anticipated so it is a good feeling to be ahead of the game rather than under pressure, racing to meet a deadline. I could get used to this!

This quilt has always been about mystery, from the moment I unfolded the cloth I'd applied paint to and saw images that spoke to me of tribal masks... the use of quilting lines, and then beads, that followed the suggestions of eyes and noses and hats... a voice (certainly not mine) that kept insisting I add cross-stitches across the eyes of one mask and the mouth of the other, implying some deeper meaning in stitching them closed...

...and the idea of adding squares printed with images of family members' eyes, the prying and sometimes disapproving eyes that make us want to don our masks...

The beading proceeded in much the same way, the bare skeleton of a plan evolving as mysteriously as every other step on the quilt. Realizing I didn't begin to have enough beads on hand and the very first store popping up on a google search having these unusual African trade beads so perfect for my needs. Realizing I had a large decorative button stashed away for use on a bag that would make the perfect focal point for one of the hats.

I'd been collecting antler buttons for as long as I'd had Masks on my mind, because I was seeing faces in them too. Now it was time to see if they would play with where Masks had progressed...and they did, filling in some open areas and adding to the theme.

I'd also bought some wood beads with Masks in mind - the color, the feel - I was sure they could be used on it. They became the finishing touch, the dangles along the bottom that lent balance to the piece and made the final statement toward the African Tribal theme. And I mustn't forget that edge finish, the decision to leave the soft frayed edges exposed and secure them with more cross stitches. Through every step of this quilt, it has been telling me things and I've done my best to listen. Some things I understood; others I'm still pondering. A few I fought for what I later realized were poor reasons and there were revelations in the process.

I promised Hilary pictures and a little explanation on how I did those dangles. I'd considered a decorative thread or jute that could be knotted and frayed at the last bead, but worried about that thickness causing problems at the other end and that it might be too thick for some of the beads. Also, worried about strength as a dangle feels more vulnerable - wouldn't want it giving way. So I reverted back to my standard Nymo beading thread. I hesitate to show my method as I'm thinking it may be unorthodox, but by stringing each dangle separately off the quilt, I felt I'd have more flexibility when it came to getting the arrangement and spacing right. That's run the thread through the beads and then back through to the top. The last bead becomes the stop holding the others on the thread and by coming back through the first bead from the opposite direction, it became the stop at the top. I knotted the thread ends over the top bead to secure the string of beads, leaving generous tails for attaching to the quilt.

It was a bit fiddly, but I was glad I opted for this method. The dangles ended up about an inch and a half apart - a little far for traveling the thread from one dangle to the next, had I tried doing them right on the quilt, and again, should a thread fail, more than one dangle would have been involved. I took a stitch through the backing edge, through the bead and back through the backing, pulling it up snug, then did the same with the other tail going in the opposite direction. I let the dangle hang down and tied a square knot that snugged up at the top of the bead, then traveled the tails away from the edge before securing with a beading knot. Good thing I never plan to enter this in a show that judges the back of the quilt as well as the front!

Granted, that red bead at the top doesn't show from the front as it is hidden by the fringe of the top, but I'm ok with that. I did consider sewing the dangles on top with them starting in the cross-stitching but decided that would make it look added on as opposed to integrated.

Oh, I cannot express how pleased I am with the outcome of this quilt. It's hanging in the living room at the moment, and I can't think of another thing it needs, nor something I should have done differently. There were frustrating moments when I didn't know how to proceed, others when the path was clear, and always the sense to stay open and seeking for whatever it needed to grow from a simple idea to a complex whole. How long does it take to make a quilt? As long as it needs to feel complete.         


Living to work - working to live said...

Oh Sheila - this is just stunning.

And thanks for the tutorial on hanging those beads at the bottom. I think I would also have done it that way (if it had been me). A strong nylon beading thread and each 'dangle' created individually. I love the little colour spacer beads. Everything works just perfectly.

Oh and 'bother' the damn quilt gestapo! Who looks at the back of a quilt anyways? Do pottery experts demand to look inside a Grayson Perry pot? No they do not. Its about what you can see - not what might be lurking beneath!

The Inside Stori said...

Perfect design for this fabric……you’ve incorporated all the elements so well….a very successful piece!!!!

Wil said...

Well done!! I admit I had my doubts when you were working on it, but the quilt turned out wonderful. Very intrigueing!

Christine Staver said...

I have watched you struggle with this quilt from the beginning. I think it was almost like giving birth. I am happy for you that after all that it came out wonderful and you are pleased with it. Also good to have something ready ahead of time. Congrats on a quilt well done.

Cate Rose said...

Amazing work, Sheila!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks everyone for these generous comments and big thumbs up for my quilt. Wil, really? You doubted me? lol Trust me, I too had my doubts more than once during the process. Thus, your saying it turned out wonderfully means a great deal. Just wish you all could see it in person.

Mary D said...

lovely and work is so beautifully done

Michele Matucheski said...

It's done! Congratulations! It can be extra difficult to finish a piece someone else's started ... I think of the composers and/or writers who finish the unfinished works of great artists like Mozart. Would they have made the same choices? Perhaps there were reasons they didn't finish it ... Just wasn't working for them, or the right inspiration hadn't struck, or maybe they lost interest.

In any case, you've definitely made MASKS your own. Well done! And thanks for sharing every step of the design process along the way. Always interesting to hear the voices in your head, Sheila.