Monday, October 8, 2007

What Inspires Me...

Many things inspire me to create. I have been playing around recently with making my own fabric as well as exploring ways to incorporate old family portraits into my art quilts. My grandfather inherited family tin-types that were photographed in the mid-1800s and early 1900s. My ancestors were free Blacks who lived in pre-Civil War Newark, NJ. According to historical records, they owned property on Broad Street in downtown Newark in the early 1800s and lived somewhat prosperous lives. They also intermarried with both the Dutch and German immigrants who came to the States during that time.

I was inspired to start making quilts using these old tin-type photographs. My Ancestor Quilt #1 quilt, a true work-in-progress, is the first in a series. I started by transferring a photo of my maternal great-great grandmother, Laura Thompson Green, and her son, my great-grandfather, Richard Green, onto a transparency. I then embellished sari yarn into black acrylic felt (using my Babylock Embellisher) and added a layer of chiffon. I machine stitched over the chiffon and then took a heat tool and distressed it. From there, I sewed the transparency onto this fabric and added additional beadwork. On the right side of the piece, I made some Angelina fiber fabric and added a piece of embossed colored metal shim with the lyrics to the gospel song, Take my Hand, Precious Lord.

When I look at the quilt, I am reminded of a story my grandmother told me about my Granpa Green who lived with my grandparents toward the end of his life. One day when my grandfather was overseeing a funeral (he was a funeral director), Granpa Green cut some pieces of medicinal tape and wrote the names of all his relatives on individual pieces. He then put the names onto the respective tin-types very much to my grandparents dismay. Looking back, I am so glad that he did that. Many times we lose connections to the past like pictures without names. Without his foresight, we might have lost our connection to our direct ancestors.

Granpa Green was also a deeply religious man. He was raised in the church and stayed there until his dying days. According to my grandmother, he passed away (or went home as we say) singing, "Take my hand, precious Lord..

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Making My Own Fabric

I took a class taught by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn (aka Double Trouble) a few months ago. I also had the pleasure of taking the class with my sister quilters, Aleeda Crawley and Dindga McCannon. We learned how to make our own fabric using water-soluble film and various fibers/yarns. We made small samples in class and then continued to experiment at home. I have to admit our samples were fierce! LOL

My Me, Myself and I art quilt was my first "real" experiment using their techniques. I first sandwiched sari yarn between a layer of Aquabond water-soluble film (bottom layer) and then covered with Solvay water-soluble film. Aquabond has an adhesive on one side so it was easy to lay the grid down. Once I had my sari yarn sandwich, I then proceeded to sew vertically along the grid which allowed me to connect the yarn. I then dipped this grid in water to dissolve the film.

After this was done, I took the sewn grid and layed it over a piece of felt I had covered with copper foil. I cut up some silk snippets and spinkled them over the top of the grid and machine quilted like crazy using metallic thread. The final touches included adding some scrap pieces of dupioni silk, 3 mask and a lot of beadwork.

Beaney and Littlejohn have written numerous booklets on surface design (including painting, bonding, distressing fabric, etc.) and embroidery techniques that are a must-read for quilters who want to create their own unique fabric.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Black Butterfly

I am putting the finally touches on my Black Butterfly quilt. It was made using fabric paper, chiffon, organza, and cotton fabrics, felt, lace, beads, transparencies, rubber stamps, metal, and painted Tyvek. I have to admit that I had fun painting and distressing the Tyvek on the border. I am also becoming quite the mini-pyromaniac with my heat tool.
Deniece Williams' Black Butterfly song inspired me to make the quilt, especially the lyrics 'cause now that you are free and the world has come to see how proud and beautiful you are....
Butterflies have always represented beauty and freedom to me. By the way, I hope I am not the only one who loved that song!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Playing with Lutrador

For the past few weeks I have been playing around with a Lutradur, a non-woven polyester material. You can paint Lutradur with all sorts of materials, sew it, burn and distress it, sew it, and transfer images to it. There have been several articles on Lutradur in Cloth, Scissors, Paper, Quilting Art Magazine, Fibre&Stitch, and Workshops on the Web. Since I teach mixed-media art quilt techniques, I figured that I better start using it.
My She Was Beautiful quilt featured a photo of my great-grandmother back in the day (like back in the early 1900s!) that was transferred onto Lutradur. I ran the Lutrudur directly through my ink jet printer. I then backed the Lutradur with a piece of copper ArtEmboss metal to mimac a tin-type print. The other photo was the beginning of a Fiber&Stitch Lutradur and Lace challenge piece. I actually added chesscloth (scrim), lace to the Lutradur and painted it using Stewart Gill paints. I then made a small quilt called "Flutter by, Butterfly(not featured).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Our Golden Aviator

Earlier this year I had the great opportunity to accompany my great uncle, James H. Fischer, to Washington, DC to witness the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor being given to the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. My uncle is an Original Tuskegee Airmen who was shot down over Yugoslavia during WWII. He also received a Purple Heart and 3 Bronze Medals for his bravery. Like a lot of Tuskegee Airmen, he had mixed feeling about attending given their shabby treatment during the war. However, I had to remind him that there is something called family honor and we needed to witness this long overdue historical event. Needless to say, we had a wonderful time. He was able to re-connect with old friends and got the hero treatment he so deserved, including a bronze replica medal.

I had to teach a fabric book class over the summer at The City Quilter so I decided to commemorate the trip by making a book. The title of the book is Golden Aviator in honor of my uncle. We are so proud of him!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Black Madonna Comes Home Again

Back in 2004, I read Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees . I loved the book so much that I made a Black Madonna quilt. In October 2005, I was at the American Folk Art Museum in NYC representing Quilters of Color Network of NY for their annual quilt day. I just so happened to have another quilt on display that day. A woman came up to my quilt and inquired about it. We got to talking and she explained that she was a writer from South Carolina. She indicated that she planned to write a future book set in the ante-bellum South that would deal with slaves and have something to do with quilting. She then asked me if I would mind if she could contact me in the future. Of course, I said yes. I then asked her for her name and she said Sue Monk Kidd!

Needless to say, I told her how I loved her book and I was happy to show her a photograph of my Black Madonna quilt that I had with me. I later mailed her a full photo of the quilt which she then bought. I couldn't think of a better person to buy my quilt! Never in a million years would I have expected that the person who inspired me to make the quilt would actually buy it one day. Some things are just meant to be.

I have to admit that I missed seeing that quilt when I walked into my studio. However, my good buddy and sister quilter, Catherine Lamkin, of Charleston, SC, later presented me with a poster size framed photograph of Sue Monk Kidd holding my quilt. She also quilted a border for the photo. This photograph hangs in my studio now.

Last week, I finally decided to make a shrine. I had read an article on doors in the premiere issue of Fibre&Stich by Ruth Rae and was inspired to bring my Black Madonna home again.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Summertime Fun

This past summer was a very busy one. I was able to finish several new pieces as well as teach a few classes. The largest piece that I finished was one I titled Madre de Agua in honor of the Yoruba Goddess of the Ocean, Yemaya. Yemaya is often depicted as a beautiful mermaid. I used several mixed media techniques to construct the quilt. Media used included dyed and painted canvas, water-soluble wax pastels, Shiva Oil Paintsticks, embellished felt, Angelina fiber, beads and charms, cotton fabrics, sequins, pearl cotton, metallic threads, and other fibers. The piece utilized hand and machine work.