Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Win some, lose some

I recently submitted an application to a group exhibition at a local art gallery. As you can tell from the title, I was not successful in my attempt to enter the exhibition, but that is the name of the game.  Although there is some feeling of disappointment, my more pragmatic side said "yes, but you only answer calls for submissions when it is a win-win for you, don't you?".

What, then, constitutes "win-win", when my entry was not accepted? Learning and growth, trying something new, refining a technique... all of those are pluses in my book, and all took place while I worked on this piece.

Here is the story of the creation of the work submitted to the call for entries.

My husband and I took a walk in a different town during our summer holidays and came upon this scene:

It took us a minute to realize what we were seeing, and then we did a quick double-take. What a mixed message! As we continued on our walk, I wondered how this could be made into an artwork -- would I quilt it? Would I paint it? Would I somehow create a 3D work and incorporate fabric figures?

The idea was added to my list of prospective projects (which is very long, let me tell you!), and I continued with other priorities and obligations, like making a birch bark basket for a fundraiser. Not even a  month later, however, a call for submissions came out and the them was... Fences!

The photo was retrieved and discussions were lively around the dinner table and at other times. My husband had as much to add to the concept as I did and we finally agreed to create a joint piece. He would do the carpentry and I would do the quilting.

He set to work right away, and we consulted back and forth on the wooden fence -- how should it look? What were the mechanics for storage and set-up? How could we make it look old, but well-cared for? The sawdust flew, the hammer rang, and before I knew it, the fence was assembled.

It was at that point that I realized what I'd let myself in for. My art quilts thus far had been rather modest in size, with the largest being my Geschichten quilt from a few years ago. When we discussed the Fences project, I had expressed the desire to finally create a large-scale quilt, something that would stand taller than me and perhaps spread out onto the floor. With the birch bark basket out of the way and the wooden fence made, I was ready to spread out.

And spread out I did! I had to actually purchase large expanses of fabric on which to build my scene, as my stash did not hold large enough pieces in the correct colours. The quilt-in-progress filled up my entire studio.

The first real challenge was the fence, don't ask me why. I drew and re-drew that silly thing until it finally came together. I wanted it to continue on fabric where the wooden fence left off.

Then it was time to start cutting fabric and piecing things together.  My new friend is a product called "Wonder Under" which allowed me to fuse the separate pieces to hold them in place without pins -- handy when you have a quilt that is over 8 feet long!  Things got a bit messy as I cut, placed, discarded and cut again.

I decided to keep the format simple, due to time constraints and so that the focus could be on the fence.

At long last, things finally came together and I could start to quilt. That's when the pins came in handy, to baste the layers so they would not slide as I rolled, bunched, smoothed and manipulated the quilt sandwich in the sewing machine. As you can see, I used a few extra tables to help support the weight of the fabric as I sewed.

Some hand stitching was applied, too, for the flowers in the grass and under the porch, and then it was time to assemble the piece and make it picture-worthy for the submission (the deadline was quickly approaching).

Luckily, my studio ceiling was just tall enough to accommodate the quilted part!

I think we achieved the concept of the mixed message, and spun our yarn wrote our artist statement to examine the metaphorical fences or barriers we build around ourselves, to keep ourselves safe from others and, perhaps more importantly, to keep other safe from that which lies within ourselves.  The bottom of the "Beware of" sign has fallen off. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to flip over the fallen piece to see what it says?

Now that we know the result of our submission, I am looking at the quilted part and rubbing my hands in glee, as there is more that I would like to do there, playing and experimenting with other techniques I did not have time to try while racing to beat the clock.  For myself, the rejection is secondary to the learning I gained in creating this piece, so perhaps  the title for this blog is somewhat inaccurate.  Perhaps it should be "Win some, Learn some".