Empty Bed

This came out of the Vitamin T book.

Morrill R, Elderton L and Imizcoz C (eds) 2019, Vitamin T: Threads and Textiles in Contemporary Art, Phaidon, New York, p 231

Photograph of an artwork : Raedecker M 2018, Metamood, acrylic, pigment and thread on canvas, 130 cm x 191 cm

This is a large blue work on a mounted canvas in landscape format. There is a solitary row of white chairs which dominate the centre of the image and these are surrounded by shadow and light without obvious form. The situation being depicted is unclear but mood is lonely, being both devoid of people and somewhat dark. Dense grid lines cut across the work. The graphic monotone chair image is reminiscent of photograms or a high contrast photograph and suggests that I may be able to produce a clearer evocative image by using a single large image rather than my multiple small and more cluttered imagery.

The above work prompted me to try separating a single image into segments in photoshop and then individually editing them to increase contrast across the whole image. I was thinking that those grid lines I can see in the photo of Raedecker’s work are probably not sewing lines but they may be and they are noticeable without interfering with the imagery too much.

Knauer T 2019, Why We Quilt: Contemporary Makers Speak Out, Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA, USA, p vi

Knauer T 2015, Tea and Skittles, 40 x 48 inches, fabric and thread

This is a work with a stark message and the figure is depicted in suitably stark yellow, collaged on to a deep red background. With a target over the heart of the figure there is little room for ambiguity and the work is clearly making a point about gun violence in the guise of a child’s quilt. This use of quilts for activism has a long history but it is not the path I want to take in my work with quilts. In regard to this quilt, I am interested in the more subtle stitched text which is doing dual duty here – further enhancing the message but also acting as quilting to hold the quilt together. Executed in delicate stitch, the text doesn’t yell at you from the surface, and may suit my quieter quilts.

And now the quilt that I made using elements from the above two works.

Empty Bed

Here I haven’t sewn down the binding but it is otherwise finished. I have taken a single photo and divided it into nine. Edited and printed each patch individually and then sewn together.

The work is roughly 30 in x 24 in, landscape orientation, photograph of a bed created from nine patches which are each a different colour. Overlaying the photo is stitched words and quilting both straight line and stipple quilting.

The mood of the photo is reasonably evocative but the colours are a bit contrasty and distracting. They are muted enough but I could have tried to keep all the colours essentially the same. There would have been variation as artefact of the printing process anyway, especially if I am mixing colours. Think it would have been better to go with all one cool colour. Texture will be more visible I expect after I wash this, but I think reflecting the bedspread texture with the stipple quilting probably works. I thought to alter the size of the stippling to try and bring the picture plane towards the viewer at the bottom and I think this works. Composition could be a bit central and boring. This is largely a result of taking whatever framing the pinhole camera gives me. I’m hoping using the pinhole camera inserts a sense of time passing and memory. The unusual lighting is because of the pinhole camera softening the play of light over the several hours it was exposing. Will think about how I can better exploit this in future photos. The text is big in relation to the image and I wouldn’t do this if expanding to a bed quilt size which is my plan. I would like it to be more subtle, as in the Thomas Knauer quilt, which could be achieved by bringing the letters closer together and smaller in relation to the imagery. The other possibility is to make the letters very large with possibly just a different style of quilting within them to distinguish background from text. I’ll also be looking to spend the time to more closely match the thread to the fabric in the different parts of the work. There is text in the yellow jacket in the Knauer quilt but you can barely see it because of the use of matching thread.

Positives from this quilt is the relative success of stitched text – turned out to be much easier than I expected- and the clarity of a larger photo with segments individually edited. To date other things I also know from all those previous experiments is that flannel is a nice flat batting that doesn’t interfere with the image too much, raw edges are not for me, piecing and binding is my preference, straying too far from traditional quilt appearance dilutes the use of my work as a quilt, which I want to be front and centre. The jury is still out on the use of commercial printed fabric. I have used it for the binding here and that is fine but I would like to see if I could do a quilt with more integration of commercial fabric, as that would offer further points of recognition of the quilt as medium. Things I need to work on include the photo. So much work goes in to creating a large quilt that it is important that the photo is the right one.

I have a number of thoughts in regard to where to from here. I would consider a contrived photo, such as a still life with kids toys in some sort of lonely situation. I’d also like to consider a quilt with no photos but an abstract pattern with symbolism and text only. Thinking of the concept of ‘almost walking together’ and how that might be displayed in contrasty strips slowly coming together and softening colour over the surface of the quilt. I could put photos in the final strips but not necessarily.

So research now is going to be on photos, maybe still life photos, quilts without photos but abstract ideas underpinning the pattern. Also need to read more around motherhood guilt and regret, creativity and health. Will bail out of collage I think.

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