Archive for June, 2008

This Is Me… In Fabric And Thread

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Hi Bev.

Well, this is it. My first quilt is done. Can you believe we’re actually doing this?! I’m so glad you were willing to take me up on this challenge. If you had dismissed me as crazy, it’s doubtful that I would have went through with the project on my own.

My strategy for this first quilt was to do a lot of thinking. I mulled over my ideas until midway through the month. So I didn’t actually start stitching until about two weeks from our deadline. This was a little scary considering the fact that I’ve never made an art quilt before. Thankfully, once I started stitching it came together fast. It helped that I spent about two weeks leading up to that first stitch thinking about this project and what I was going to try to do. I find working this way so much better than trying to create something on the fly.

Here is the process that led me to my finished piece:

I started by taking a self-portrait using the camera on my MacBook. Then I used a light box to transfer the image to fabric.

I used a paper piecing technique to applique the hand.

Then I started stitching like mad. The hair was easy. The eyes were tough. The nose proved to be the most difficult.

I kept stitching and stitching, and when the front was done I decided to do the back, too. Here’s how that came out.

I made a paper template by tracing around my hand and used a piece of apple fabric from my stash to balance the “treat” fabric on the front of the quilt. I cut the butterfly from one of the swatches you sent.

This quilt could be interpreted a number of ways. Perhaps I’m saying “no” to sweets and “yes” to healthy eating.

I don’t know about you, Bev, but I surprised myself with this one. I wasn’t sure I’d be successful embroidering a likeness of myself and I’m delighted with the outcome. What a kick to have my first art quilt out of the way!



Looking and thinking, thinking and looking…

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Hi Jennifer,

Holbein the Younger, Portrait of a Member of the Wedigh Family, 1532I got an idea for the self portrait! Somewhere across Europe, in a gallery (yes, I am being vague – er, I forget which one), I saw a portrait of a man, painted during the Renaissance, which had an enormous sense of life to it. ‘Wow’, I thought, standing in front of it; ‘That man’s character glows. He was so alive.’

I realised that the artist had used a trick of the eye to set his portrait apart: he’d painted a window ledge into the front of the painting, and in the picture, the man’s arm was leaning on the ledge. Simple, but effective – I think it makes it look as if the person in the painting is about to lean forward out of the picture. So that’s my borrowed idea: I’m going to do my self portrait leaning on a ledge.

- – - -

But at first I can’t quite reconcile the fabric in the pack you sent me with the classic colours of a renaissance portrait. The funny thing is that while I’m working on it, everyone who sees the final portrait says to me, ‘Oh, that’s your blue’, pointing to the bright blue I used for my shirt. Somehow they assume that you knew. But we’ve never met!

I sketched on trains and pulled your fabric pack out of my rucksack a hundred times before I got an idea. People must have thought I was – odd – sitting on the train going across Denmark or the UK, staring hard at a bunch of scraps of fabric. Suddenly I got it: I need to celebrate the bright colours! It’s obvious – I need this portrait to be playful, too, and the fabrics you sent are perfect for that!

There will be applique, beads, and embellishment. Oh yes, I like the chenille ribbon you sent, mmm, it’s so fuzzy. I’m inspired by a Melbourne quilter I once met, Olga Walters. Her quilts are fun and loosely collaged. I’m going to try for that look. I’ll let myself break the ‘rules’…

Detail of face

The face was the hardest part, and in the end, I took a photo my husband had taken of me, and with the photo on my laptop and a borrowed scrap of notepaper from a friend, I tried to draw the outline of my face and to map in my features.

When it was close enough, I pricked holes through the drawing at regular intervals and dotted through the holes onto the fabric with a mechanical pencil. This gave me a faint dotted line to trace, and then to stitch around.

Does it look like me? I don’t know. Most people recognise it right away, but I still think it’s a little off. But I do like it: this little quilt came right around the world with me, and it’s tied to so many memories as I stitched away in several countries and cities. Mirror of the world and my memories.


Where to Begin?

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

First parcel: Self-portrait

Hi Bev,

While you’re off on a fabulous globe-trotting adventure, I’m here in West Michigan going about my normal life and trying to figure out how I will make my 10×10″ self-portrait quilt.

Who am I anyway? It’s amazing how seriously I considered this question as I studied the fabric you sent, trying to figure out to capture my essence in a piece of fiber art that includes a swatch of fabric with baked goods all over it.

For days I’ve turned over ideas in my head, taking stock of my daily routines and personality traits. I work. I interview. I talk (a lot). I write. I swim. I run. I bike. I team up with my wonderful husband to take care of our two daughters. I try not to eat junk food or drink too much pop. (Do you call it soda where you live?) I try to have at least one good laugh a day, and I don’t get too caught up with appearances. (Translation: I don’t usually fuss around with hair and make-up.) I absolutely have to make stuff. Art and craft are two of the ways I breathe. I must create. I must.

When I opened the package you sent for the June “self-portrait” theme I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull off creating a recognizable likeness of myself. Opening the package meant that I officially accepted my own challenge and was really in this thing. Game on, sister.

While the most amazing doodles flow out of your pen, my artistic strengths rest in other areas. I knew I would not be happy if I attempted to sketch myself, so I had to make use of every resource. Enter technology.

Ever since I got my MacBook which came equipped with a built-in camera, I have been snapping semi-regular photos of yours truly at the keyboard using the Photo Booth program. I usually do this when I’m suffering from writer’s block or looking to entertain my children. (We LOVE making funny faces in front of the camera.) I scrolled back through my photos and didn’t find anything “quilt-worthy,” so I decided to take a few “artsy” shots sitting at my kitchen table.

For some reason the thought entered my head to put my hand up to block part of my face. I still don’t know exactly why I did that. Perhaps, I reasoned that if I couldn’t see my whole face in the photo, I would not have to stitch it. (See I’m already trying to take a short cut.)

I quickly settled on one of the photos, printed it and traced the image onto a piece of cotton muslin. Stay tuned for the 10×10″ fiber version. Things are about to get interesting.



The mirror of the world

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Self Portrait in my gardenWhen Jennifer and I agreed to make the first of our monthly themes a self portrait, it sounded like a great way to introduce the project and ourselves. Trouble is, when you sit down to create a portrait of yourself, you’ve got to decide exactly who you are (today), and who you want to portray.

So, I was on the road when this project began. In Italy, I woke up in Rome after a long dream-like dark night flight from Australia, to Bangkok, and finally to Rome.

Monday morning, 7AM, and we are pushing through rush-hour traffic from the airport; the streets get narrower, our taxi gets lost, and finally we get out to walk in golden-stuccoed streets to the hotel, which we’ve spied down a one-way lane. In Rome.

Jet lag is confusing at the best of times. I’m up at 4AM in this city of myths and legends, Family Portrait cartoonancient hero-city, full of images. I’m trying to sketch an idea for a portrait: it’s daunting. Should I draw my features as close as possible to reality? Do I do one of my cartoon Bev-portraits, a familiar thing but not exactly challenging? What about a theme-portrait: an image that represents all the things I am and that make up me, at the moment: my stitching, my writing, my love for my husband and family, my dog, the fun of travel, and art – always art.

When I travel, the things around me that make it easy to define who I am – they fall away. What’s left is the bubble that I carry around: if it’s constant everywhere, it must be me.

I decide that somehow, this is what I will sew: a portrait of the person who is always there, looking out, all the time.

I’m going to find her by traveling, looking at new places while keeping an internal eye open for what remains the same. Using the world as my mirror. I’m curious to see who will turn up!

Introducing Posted Stitches: A Monthly Art Challenge

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Hello Everyone!

Hi. I’m Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood and I’m very pleased to introduce a project my new friend, Bev Laing, and I have been working on in stealth mode for almost three months now. It’s a monthly art challenge called Posted Stitches. Each month we swap a parcel of fabric, beads, buttons and other notions and challenge each other to make a 10″x10″ art quilt.Sew for the post!

Every month there’s a mutually agreed upon theme that we use as our guide to create our quilts. Our plan is to document this year-long project on this blog and post photos of our progress. You can read more about the two of us and our project on our “about” page.

We appreciate your feedback, so feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks for stopping by.