If you’re like me, one of the things you admire with the arrival of spring are the beautiful shades of green as new growth emerges. I focused on green with this art quilt, which I titled “The Lady in the Garden” and featured four years ago on this blog. I wanted to revisit it and again share insights into my process for creating a fiber collage/art quilt.
Over the last few years I have worked a lot with batiks and batik panels, to the point where I think some of my newer customers don’t realize my first and true love: working with vintage items! Many times a vintage photo is all it takes to spark my imagination. The Lady in the Garden, currently on display in the shop, began with a vintage black and white photo that I found and instantly loved.
I scanned it and then modified in Photoshop (you could also use Photoshop Elements or any photo editing program), choosing to colorize the photo with a green hue. I could have left it as is, but since I had visualized wonderful spring green leaves, I wanted to work monochromatically. You can do the same using your own favorite color with any favorite black and white or sepia photo. Once I had colorized my image, I printed it onto Transfer Artist Paper (TAP, developed by fiber artist Lesley Riley — unfortunately due to manufacturing changes this product is no longer available) and then transferred it to 70 wt. Lutradur. You could also print directly onto the Lutradur, or use another of the many products available to print a photo onto fabric. My final colorized image, ready to sew, is shown above, as well as a hint of materials that I thought I would incorporate into this art quilt.
I begin my design process by tossing the fabric and embellishments around. I knew I wanted to work with my hand dyed fabrics, and my vintage Trims and Laces. I just pull materials and lay them in a sorted pile. Then I walk away from it. Thus when I come back it after a break, I make my next choice with fresh eyes. Sometimes I have to do this several times each, adding and subtracting new fabrics and trims, until I finally see an arrangement that “clicks” and makes me smile.
My next step is to finalize my choices of embellishments. Some materials are selected very early in my process, while others are chosen after my main fabrics have been selected. Pictured above I have pulled materials including a mixture of green beads, pearls, vintage millinery trims, and hand dyed vintage trims pulled from one of my Inspiration Packs. Artistic Artifacts sells some great ribbon, including the popular Web Weave seen at the top of the above photo — a great way to add texture and color to any fiber or mixed media project. A substitute for the leaf trim shown above could be our leaf vine ribbon, available in regular or jumbo sizes.And whenever possible I love to add some form of beading to my art quilts (detail of another project shown here). Beautiful beads add the perfect touch of color, shine and texture. The bead soup mixtures sold at Artistic Artifacts are the same ones that I use in my artwork and are an easy, inexpensive way to guarantee yourself a variety of bead sizes, styles and shades to enhance your jewelry, fiber and mixed media projects. These are favorites of Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution, author of First-Time Beading on Fabric: Learning to Bead in Nine Easy Lessons, my first recommendation for those who want to learn to embellish their quilts, decor and garments with beading. (Don’t let the “First Time” in the title fool you; this is a great resources even for those who have beading experience!) My favorite Tulip needles also come in beading versions of various sizes, flexible and easy to thread, with a rounded tip that does not split thread.
At the stage pictured above, I had worked on the focal point of the art quilt. At this point everything was stitched down in the center. My original decision was to not stitch the background, and I came to believe that I goofed by not doing so. Lesson learned, and I now know stitch the backing before layering my photo. In this project I did add quilting… but it would have been easier to do it earlier.
As I continued working, there ended up being differences from the materials I originally started with and thought I would use, which you can see in my completed art quilt photo at the beginning of this post. You can also view a larger image to see additional detail.
As pictured here, the vintage millinery used turned out to be beige, not peach. I used turquoise-colored beads, not green. The trims are darker than my original lighter choices. (Of course any unused materials aren’t discarded but go back into the stash, waiting for another project.)
I find that many times you can become paralyzed by the number of options possible when creating, and therefore end up completing nothing at all. There could have been a million options on how to create an art quilt with this —or any — photo as a a focal point. You just have to choose one and begin! As you see from my example, you may end up changing things along the way, but your end goal should simply be that you’re happy with your final product.
And I am! I like the essentially monochromatic color scheme, and The Lady in the Garden still makes me smile when I look at it. One of the key things I love about art quilts is that there are no rigid rules, except maybe just one: begin! Pick an inspiration point, take a look at your stash, and see where the creative process leads you.