In the spring my thoughts turn towards Hawaii -- which should surprise no one who has lived through the Maine winter of 2014. I have recently done some dyeing for my Hawaiian Pillow Kits and these are photographs of the brightest ones I have; the Sunflowers and Le'ia. As you can see the Sunflowers come with leaves in the middle, leaves in the corners, black background or white background. They are available for sale on my Etsy Site by clicking on Sunflower for this one or on Leia Study for the Palm leaf design which also comes with either a white or black background. These pillow were designed as small practice or study pieces for the larger quilts. The sunflowers were for La Bella Familia and the palm leaves were a study for Leia. You can read about those quilts by clicking on the quilt section in the sidebar. But being a practical woman I work up the study pieces into pillows which are currently sitting on my yellow sofa in the studio lighting up the room and making my life sunny and spring like. They are providing some psychological relief for the Snow Storm that we are expecting.....again.....this Saturday.
Last January my much loved brother-in-law died after a long and gallant struggle with a powerful illness. He left this world while surrounded by his wife, his children, and his deeply loved grand children. My sister, the grandmother of these children, wanted to give them some token to hold his memories. We came up with the idea of using Papa's shirts to make quilts for each child, incorporating a pocket into each one so that small tokens could be tucked in, or little surprise gifts. This is the first of the quilts and I am making them in order of age -- oldest to youngest. I just finished making up the top and am now ready to move onto the quilting phase. I'll update the blog as I go along but this is a long term project -- there are nearly a dozen grand children.
At the first part of the year I taught a Hawaiian Applique Class at OLLI (Osher Livelong Learning Institute) here in Portland. I love teaching these classes because the students are older (have to be 50+ to join OLLI) and they invariably teach me things I didn't know so the learning goes both ways. Also the venue is only steps away from my house and they pay me in class vouchers and Longfellow Books gift certificates. And you can't get better pay then free classes and free books -- at least not if you're me. This beautiful picture is of Carol Jenkins finished Hawaiian Applique quilt block. I hand dye these designs onto cotton fabric, and then I offered the option of using an off white linen for the background fabric. Carol did an elegant job of stitching here and the combination of the natural colored linen and the hand dyed leaves looks very Old World Hawaiian to me.
Here I've folded back the corner of the wall hanging to show the batik fabric that Carol pulled from her stash to use for backing. I am very taken with this choice. The batik enhances the "something old" feeling of this piece. Carol and I are calling this way of finishing a wall hanging but this simple square is very flexible in how you can use it. You can hang it on a wall, certainly. But it is also very beautiful in the middle of a table with a vase of flowers in the center. This is really a lovely look that the centered symmetry of the Hawaiian design really enhances. You can put it on the back of your wingback chair -- sort of like a lovely tropical kind of Victorian antimacassar (those doilies that Victorian ladies put on the backs of their upholstered chairs to protect them from gentlemen's macassar hair oil. I also have been known to hang this sort of thing in a window.
As the Maine winter goes on, and on, and on I find myself longing for spring. The fact that I have been working up Hawaiian Applique designs for my upcoming OLLI class has intensified the longing. These images are not, strictly speaking, Hawaiian Applique but rather a use of some of the techniques to work up a Maine crocus. The title of this screen is Merrymeeting Spring and was co-created with my father 12 years ago. He designed and built the frame in Maine while I made the panels in Arizona. They came together for a show at Scott Potter's gallery in Portland Maine.
These crocus flowers are the first green things to poke their heads up through the snow at this time of year and I lived, for several years, in a house that my father built on Merrymeeting Bay in Topsham. I was thinking about those years when I made the panels. And now, when I look at the screen in my studio I think of my father. Having a piece like this that we created together is almost like having him in my studio. I remember his hands and how they looked working with his tools. The work that his hands did, that my hands do, the work that any of us create contains a whisper of who we are and can hold and pass on that whisper indefinitely.
Here is the latest quilt, Rae's Sun on Mary's Iris, freshly laundered and photographed this morning. This one is on the smaller side...about 45 inches square. I made it for the above named Rae. She inherited a bolt of muslin from Mary, who was her much loved, much older friend and neighbor. Mary was a seamstress, a gardener, a cook, and an inspiration to the young girl who lived next door during the summers. Rae was by Mary's bedside during her last long illness and Mary gave her some of the things that symbolized the time that they had spent together. Among these things was a bolt of muslin originally intended, I believe, for lining curtains. It was of no particular value but Rae wanted me to use it in a quilt -- maybe on the back we thought.
This beautiful saturated yellow was the result. The muslin took up the dye with an almost grateful intensity. Also the texture of the muslin was transformed into a beautiful almost papery feel. Rae and I had a design in mind, involving Cherry Trees I believe, but this yellow wasn't going to work with that. On the other hand we loved the yellow so much that it seemed easier to change our minds than to change the color -- so we waited. Last spring I visited Rae at her summer cottage and this is what I saw.
This is one of the many irises that were growing in the 3 foot wide strip of garden between Rae's house and Mary's. They used to weed and plant that garden together, one on each side, and then break for lemonade when the sun got too intense. And the day that I visited was one of the first really hot days when the intense sunlight just beats down. This is the time of year when Mainer's get sunburns because we just can't believe how warm, how bright, how wonderful the sun feels to the people, the plants and the animals who were buried in snow just 6 weeks earlier. That's how the Irises came into the picture -- that day.
I'm showing you the back of the quilt in this picture so you can see the yellow without the Iris design. I also wanted to show you how I make the sleeves (one on each side of the quilt for this one) and bind the edge at the same time. You can slip a rod through the green sleeve on any side of this piece and hang it. But I also wanted to show you that this quilt is one where it is really all about the background....the flowers are just there to call attention to it really. This is a quilt about sunlight and growing things, and the old woman and young girl who got together in the side yard to celebrate that. And as a consequence something incredibly valuable grew between the two of them -- a friendship.
And just for fun here is another close up of the Iris. As you can see it doesn't really look that much like the iris in the picture, but that is the get out of jail free card of the artist -- it doesn't have to look like what you are depicting. It just has to communicate the essence and the feeling of what you are seeing. This is a very happy, sunny quilt. You can feel the love.