Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Confections and Confetti

I didn't set out to create an image of a rich, calorie-free chocolate confection.  Instead, I set out to do a riff on a  favorite painting by Paul Klee.  But if the project also turns out to imagine and create some guilt free deluxe confections, I'm not gonna fudge it.

Here's the painting by Klee. 
To Klee, this is an image of suspended fruit (Hangende Fruchte).  But to me, the shapes in the lower half, especially the lower left and right corners, look ike layered chocolate truffles.  This kind:

Klee's shapes don't look anything like fruit to me.  Still, I love the painting and its simple, offbeat shapes, its rich browns, and the velvety green of its border.

Brown brings nothing but good association:  Not only chocolate, but coffee, rich garden earth, and Franciscans.

I've been wanting to reproduce that painting, or a portion of it, or a version of it, for years.  Now I have the chance, because one of my quilt groups, Women Against the Grain, is running a challenge activity in which participants reproduce or play on a painting by one of five artists, including Klee, I now have the chance/excuse I've been waiting for:  the opportunity to re-imagine Klee's shapes as rich, layered chocolate truffles.  Without calories.

What I'm doing right now it experimenting with the components of the layers for the truffles.  Some are simple stuffed shapes, created from fabrics that  remind me of rich chocolate:

Others are knitted, based on a pattern in Nicky Epstein's Knitted Embellishments:

I've been having a lot of trouble getting the edges of these knitted shapes to get, and stay, crisp and crisply defined.  The ones above, despite my extensive efforts, still look shaggy and irregular to me.  These were stiffened by first being sewn down to gridded interfacing, then, when the interfacing turned out not to be stiff enough, bonded to a thicker, stiffer project called Pellon Craft-Fuse.  But the fusing process, which involved pressure and a hot iron, somewhat tamped down the knitted texture, while not doing enough to bring crisp uniformity to the edges:

The piece on the right shows the back side of the knitted shape, sewn and bonded to two different ineffective stiffeners.  The piece on the left shows the knitted texture somewhat diminished and the edges of the shape lacking in definition.

Today I discovered a better alternative:  get out a piece of thick foam, get out a piece of interfacing with a grid, pin the interfacing to the foam, trace a uniform shape onto the gridded interfacing, then pin each yarn shape along the traced lines, so each knitted diamond follows the same exact outline:

Once I had those shapes pinioned, I baptized them with a mixture of fabric stiffener and water, applied with a foam brush, and left to dry over night:

The result was a stiffened shape that still retained its knitted texture, especially around its slightly raised edge:

I like this approach much better.

People tell me they think I'm so talented, but my response is that what looks to them like talent is instead a result of my dogged determination to reify the images in my head.  I want so badly to bring my ideas into being that I'll try and try and try and keep trying until I reach as close as I can to a parity between my imagination and its tangible expression.  I haven't even told you how many of those stuffed fabric shapes I made before I found the process that made the best one.  I've been keeping on keeping on with this particular project, off and on, for weeks.

Now that I know how best to stiffen these knitted shapes, I'll be adding these little smooches to them:

These little circular numbers are known as yo-yos, and I've stuffed them to give the appearance of whorls of chocolate.  I think I'll top each whorl off with a yummy-looking bead of some kind.

As I work on these, I think about the name of the piece.  I'm not going to call it "Suspended Fruit" or "Hangende Fruchte".  I'm going to call it Chocolate Confections by Paul Klee, or, in Klee's native German, Schokoladenkonfekt von Paul Klee. Doesn't that sound important?

Once I get 10 or 12 of these  diamond shapes layered together, I'll put them on a rich green velvet background and call them a box of confections.

Confetti.  In addition to confections, I've also been working on confetti lately.  Specifically, I've been using a technique called entrapment to bond confetti-like scraps of fabric to a background.  First the fabric is cut up into confetti-like strips:

then the confetti is bonded to the background with a product called Misty-Fuse, topped with a piece of tulle to hold the confetti down.

Here I am trying to cut some tulle, a process made difficult by its insubstantiality and near-invisibility .
When a hot iron is applied to the tulle, the Misty Fuse underneath it melts, trapping the confetti between the tulle and the background.

I'm using this confetti to embellish a photo of an iconic fence in the Litchfield County town of Norfolk.  This is for a show at the Norfolk Public Library, presented by the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective and called The Northwest Corner, after the section of the state that includes Litchfield County and Norfolk.  The librarians in that lovely town tell us that many library patrons, who may also patronize our show, have weekend and vacation homes there, and love images of their bucolic town.  Thus, this image of an iconic fence in the town, which the librarians named in their list of notable Norfolk scenes.

Here's a look at that piece, which is now completed, along with its entrapped confetti:

So, confetti and confections.  Those two words are related.  Did you know that?  They both come from the Latin root conficere, to make.  Every once in a great while, my five years of Latin come in handy.