Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New work: Maple flowers and sand ripples

Both of them brought me great joy at their inception and launching.  But both also continued on to an adolescence so fraught with challenge that they almost didn't see their way to maturity.  As artist in chief, I was able to push through these challenges and complete these latest two projects.

The first one is called "Maple Flowers:  Nothing Gold can Stay". It's an illustration and interpretation of the Robert Frost poem.  I'm convinced that Frost was looking at maple flowers when he wrote, in the first line of the poem, "Nature's first green is gold."  The flowers, which precede the leaves, are tiny, fleeting, and yes, gold.  
"Then leaf subsides to leaf" and the tiny flowers shrivel and fall off and the tiny budding green leaves appear.  Nothing gold can stay.

Looking up at the sky, in early spring, when maple trees are fleetingly in flower.
I constructed the background image with hand-painted fabric, fabric confetti entrapment, achine applique, and machine embroidery. 
Next I found, printed on fabric, and quilted a photo of maple flowers.   I also printed the poem on fabric and joined that printed section to the quilted image of the maple flowers.  Then I replicated more maple flowers with three-dimensional knitting, using very fine Koigu merino yarn and tiny #1 double pointed needles. The result was this:

The stormy adolescence of this one was the meaning, and placement, of the panel with the image and the poem.  Some advised that I leave the work as an abstract image and forget about the poem and the knitted flowers because those elements made it too busy, and more to the point, they seemed to bear no relation to the tall trees in the background.  But I was able to stick to my idea that the image in the foreground is a close-up of that in the background, and that the poem brings the two together by explaining the scene.

I think it works, and I'm especially proud of those flowers, which are wired.

In my other new piece, I printed out a photo of some ripples in the sand, traced it, enlarged the tracing, and made a full-size pattern of the image of ripples.  I used the pattern to make this corded quilt, using a technique called trapunto.  In this quilt, the photo inset is a background view; the corded ripples are a close-up.
 I drew cords through the fabric, painted the result with Jacquard Pearlex Pigments, then gingerly began to drizzle it with sand, ground shells, and even tiny beads. 
Here's where this piece got out of hand.  I had vowed to observe the KISS rule when adding the tactile embellishments, and I violated that rule.  The result is far more encrusted than any sand ripple I would ever want to step on. That's the stormy adolescence.

Even though the embellishment got out of hand, I have to admit that the result looks pretty cool.
Even if it isn't the foot-friendly image I had in my mind when I set out.  If I do it again, I'll make it in a tactile fabric like velour and forget about the ground up shells.

When I added those embellishments, I was experimenting with new materials...something every artist should do.  I even made little test squares with all the different glued-on embellishments.  The result is not as planned or envisioned. 
Must be the same way some people feel when they see a beloved child come home with piercings or tattoos.


  1. VERY interesting visual imagery...I'm looking forward to seeing them.

  2. Maple Flowers is one of my all time favorites! I've spend many an hour hiking in the New England woods and the way you captured looking up at the canopy to the sky is fantastic!I'd like my bedroom ceiling painted like it! Also, love the embellishment on the rippled sand... it's good to get "out of hand"!

  3. Thanks both for reaing my blog and making comments! Diane, I'll have to show you the piece and hear your thoughts on tulle. Carol, thanks for loving Maple Flowers!