In this panel, I’ve put dinosaurs with shadows on a background of green, leafy plants set against a branching structure. I’m hoping to convey the complexity in evolution, as time passed. The outlines represent extinction.
I know some time has elapsed since I posted about the last panel, but fear not, I have been working away! I finished panel IV this week. I’m calling it “The Oceans are Teeming.”
This is a story told in stroboscopic post hole moments. I hope the leaps I’m making aren’t too grand. In this panel, there are some small fish at the bottom, but as your gaze travels upwards, the number and complexity of organisms increases. Note that the fish don’t fit tidily. They are pushing out of the boundaries of the space they are allotted.
Most of the fish on this panel were cut out (during my daughter’s swim lessons, which I found rather apropos), but I did create a trio of jellyfish, one lone octopus, and a little squad of cuttlefish. A treat for someone who stays to linger a moment or two extra.
Next up: dinosaurs and an abstract allusion to evolution. Hopefully that will be done much more quickly.
I was reminded the other day that I had not posted this yet. Sorry! Family life overtook me for a while there and I forgot to blog.
This panel represents black smokers, where early life was thought to have originated. I felted roving on top of silk to create the black smokers which I then appliqued onto the background. Then there was white silk sticking out, so I painted around the edges with a metallic blue fabric paint. I also put a big plume of smoke in the middle, its base hidden.
The ribbon that is couched on represents streams of smoke or bubbles. I fused some very small metallic pieces I picked up at Scrap DC to represent those early single celled organisms. They start out small in number, but as they rise to the top, they become much more numerous. Look for this theme in future panels, as populations rise and create tension over habitat space.
These are tweets of the black smoker in progress:
— Dragon Smith (@artcollisions) May 11, 2015
— Dragon Smith (@artcollisions) May 20, 2015
— Dragon Smith (@artcollisions) June 2, 2015
— Dragon Smith (@artcollisions) June 16, 2015
When Juan first approached me about the dragon quilt I finally finished this year, I was surprised that someone was interested in such a highly personal piece for themself. In fact, I asked him what it was he was interested in. He told me that dragons were really significant for him and his wife, who died two years ago. He was also interested in the spirals.
So, I told him that I could probably modify the design and put it in an affordable price range and off we went! This was truly a co-mission. Juan gave me lots of personal details and I tried to weave them into this piece.
At the beginning, I was thinking of this as Beth’s dragon, but as time went on, I realized it was Beth’s garden. Beth was a gardener (and quilter), and I wanted the base to be produce prints. I checked with Juan to make sure there were none she hated or if there were any that needed to be included. Beth loved potatoes (and Juan still does), so I had to include those. I didn’t have any in my stash, but when I asked around in the quilting community, someone generously sent me more than I needed so I was able to make the back with potatoes too.
— Dragon Smith (@artcollisions) June 15, 2015
I used the same stencil for the dragon, but arranged it differently. You can see that I started with a more similar layout in the first tweet, but felt the second layout was much better. Juan’s dragon is in a garden, not a field. It’s much more intimate than mine.
— Dragon Smith (@artcollisions) June 18, 2015
— Dragon Smith (@artcollisions) June 29, 2015
I am pretty sure the dragon comprises both Juan and Beth. It is gold for the sun because Beth was Juan’s sun, but the tail is all Juan, with the sharp, glittery black band and dots. The head is Beth, with the circlet of stars and all the bejeweled flowers (that she probably grew in her garden). Also, Juan told me they met because she lived across a field from him. There is already wheat and flowers in the background, but I wanted to bring the feeling of the field more to the forefront.
— Dragon Smith (@artcollisions) July 16, 2015
— Dragon Smith (@artcollisions) July 15, 2015
I wanted to include a yin yang in this dragon and when I went to put it together, I placed the two pieces separated. To me, they represent Juan’s broken heart. He carries her in his belly. But also, I think she’s in his throat (the bejeweled flowered piece).
Although there are many spirals in this quilt, the three central spirals represent their children. The youngest is the shiny spiral at the bottom and the two on top of that are his sons.
I feel honored to have been chosen to bring this dragon to life. It was pure joy to work on and helped me find my mojo again.
Sometimes you just need to go back to the basics. April and May have been incredibly busy and incredibly stressful. I was able to finish projects that just needed grunt work, but the creative part of me was inaccessible. That’s when I remembered “strip therapy.” At this point, I can’t remember who talked about it, but I’m pretty sure it was one of my internet quilting friends. I thought to myself, I can’t organize my thoughts around anything, but I can sew strips together. Furthermore, I was recently inspired by Carolyn Friedlander and Mark Lipinski to try Modern Quilting and focus on “Slow Stitching.”
Strips sewn in pairs and arranged for inspection
So, I dug into my scrap drawer of strips I’d already cut and sorted them by color and then by size since I don’t always use the same width. Then I started sewing colors together that I liked. I paired strips and arranged and dragged some more strips out and sewed them together and voila, I had a quilt top big enough for a baby (which I told my friend I’d make last year).
So, I’ve made my first practical quilt in two years. And it helped me break that block to some extent as I have started phase three of Trajectory: Escape Velocity.
What do you do when you have a creative block? How do you get back to work when your mind is just spinning?
In 2011, my local quilt guild ran a challenge based on food. I got bread. I thought bread was awfully pedestrian and asked if I could do some free associating. I was told yes and off I went.
Bread, I reasoned, is made from wheat. Wheat is a crop and there are these things called crop circles (I was thinking corn mazes), so I went home and googled crop circles. Boy was I blown away. They were awesome. I found a great serpent one and that got me thinking about my favorite lizards: dragons! I have yet to learn how to draw, so I asked around and a friend offered to draw me a crop circle inspired dragon.
This is what I had to work with. I figured out how to get it the size I wanted and set to work making it into a stencil. Because of the way it was designed, I figured I would adapt it some for fabric and embellish with beads. I didn’t realize what I was committing to when I started this project, which is why it took so long to complete.
So, the dragon is in the middle, surrounded by fields (made with the Bargello method, for those who know what that is). There are flowers at the edges because you find flowers at the boundaries. The binding is blue for the sky. The last touch is the glittering red spirals at the corners because what’s a dragon without a little magic?
Last month I brought you the Big Bang. The next phase in my story is a little quieter, but equally as dramatic. Primordial Soup is where elements appear and combine and DNA pops out! The DNA is made of wire and beads and really does stand out from the quilt base. All the crystals represent different elements and some molecules. I lost count of how many crystals I used, but I’m pretty sure it’s over 400.
I have started a new project I’m calling Trajectory: Escape Velocity. It is a story of evolution, beginning at the very beginning (let’s ignore what quantum physics tells us in favor of telling a more linear story for now) and ending with people leaving the planet. I don’t know all the steps in between. I won’t know until I’ve created them. I post pictures of things in progress, if you are interested in those. I am going to attempt to post as each phase is completed. So, here is phase 1.
In the beginning, there was darkness:
And then there was light:
Next up: The Primordial Soup. See a teaser DNA picture on Twitter.
For International Women’s Day, I like to talk about some women who inspire me. I am sorry I do not have pictures for this entry. Please click on the links and see what joys await you!
Jen Athanas is someone I’ve known for almost 20 years. She helped me when I started sewing clothes. Any time I had a question, she’s always been available. Her support has been invaluable, so you can see why she’s important in my life, but she also works incredibly hard, has very high standards (something she helped instill in me), and is tenacious.
Athanas set out to get a degree in textiles at Rochester Institute of Technology. They axed her program before she finished, so she left. In the meantime, she moved to the Washington DC metro area and determined to finish her bachelors. She went to Marymount University and got a degree in fashion design. For her senior project, she used upcycled fabrics, something she continues to do today. She has been making beautiful bags for over 10 years and is just branching out into non-functional art.
Athanas does not just sit in her studio and create, she also a vital part of the art scene. She was juried into the Torpedo Factory last year and is now on the board. She teaches classes in the area and also volunteers at Scrap DC. She reminds me that all work and no play makes a dull gal. She finds time for yoga and other social activities too! Visit her at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria VA or check her out online at her website jenafusion.com
In my last entry, I mentioned friends I’ve made on Twitter. Immy Smith is one of them. She is an artist who has left the lab. Her work is stunning and thought provoking. I love seeing her trials and works in progress. Smith seeks out collaborations with labs and other artists. Her work aims to communicate science. I think she does this brilliantly, both as a fine artist and a cartoonist! Check her out on Twitter (drimmysmith or cartoon_neuron) or find her website and browse immysmith.com
I met Megan McGlynn at SfN14 and was privileged to have a booth next to hers. We shared inspirational images with each other all week. McGlynn went to art school and studied neuroscience at U Penn concurrently with getting an art degree at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She’s interested in architecture and often couches neuroscience in this perspective. She works with ink and paper as well as sculptural elements. I cannot tell you how awesome it was to sit next to a booth with a 4 foot pyramidal neuron that everyone who walked by was drawn to. She also teaches sometimes. I wish I could take a class with her! If you are in the Philadelphia area, see if you can find her work. It’s worth seeing. You can read more about her on meganmcglynn.com.
Last, but not least, I met Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle last summer. They sing together and create amazing, intense crankie shows. Their beautiful harmonies complement the art that scrolls past, no matter if they are hand sewn, lino cut, or even shadow puppets. Their material ranges from somber to hilarious. They also have a radio show, somewhat in the style of Prairie Home Companion, that they organize on a monthly basis. They perform, they teach, they invite people to collaborate. They live their passion and inspire. Check them out at annaandelizabeth.com.
Best of all, even if you can’t see these amazing women in person, you can purchase some of their work.