I’m often asked where do I find my materials for my art quilts, and just about every place that people suggest, the answer is yes! I find supplies at yard sales, on eBay, through wholesale accounts, in stores, and sometimes, wonderfully, in somebody’s grandmother’s button jar. I’ve even been known to pick things up off the street, if the look of it suits my fancy. So, while creating the Wines of the World series of quilts, I began collecting in earnest….and you have no idea how intense I can be when I’m on the prowl.
Yes, it’s the thrill of the hunt that keeps me digging through old boxes and dusty bins in the backs of old store or at flea markets. When people find that I’m really interested, they pull out old worn cases from underneath tables. Such a find is the costume jewelry brooch in the center of the photo above. While the grapes are a little too pink for any grapes that I know of, the image is identifiable, so it got used in this art quilt based on wine.
I’ve always said that any material that has a hole in it or can have a hole put through it is fair game for inclusion on my quilt tops. The two holes in the top of the gold colored metal stamping of a grape cluster had to be drilled with a metal bit. There was a block of wood underneath the stamping so that when the drill bit pierced the metal surface, the stamping didn’t collapse inwards around the hole. Then, the burr left from the drill bit had to be filed flat with a metal file, so that the rough edges wouldn’t cut the thread used to attach the piece to the surface of the quilt. Sometimes, if I know that the piece will be handled a lot, I’ll use clear nylon thread first to fasten down the stamping, and then cover the nylon with the whole six strands of colored embroidery floss that comes out of the package, as I did in this photo. That way, as gravity pulls downwards on a piece hanging on a wall, there is less likelihood that the threads will be cut.
Sometimes, I’ll combine beads to suggest the theme of the piece, as I did with the lavender enamel on metal beads in the lower middle of this detail photo. There are some gold, low luster beads scattered in with the lavender ones, because, just as in a real grape cluster, not all the grapes are ripe at the same time. You can also see some of the shiny purple buttons scattered around that I added to play along with the grape theme. In the very middle of the photo are some magenta circles on black velour that I cut in circles. I wrote about this fabric on another blog awhile back in Dec, 2011, called “Laughter“. In the second photo on that earlier page, you can see that same fabric used in a more pastel setting.
Sometimes a find is fine for the theme of an art quilt, but the size is way too big. These glass grape Christmas ornaments are 3.75″ T x 2″ W or 9.5 cm T x 5 cm W. For the scale that I was working on, the entire cluster would have been way too big. However, each “grape” is a bead that has a loop on it that could be secured individually or cut into smaller groupings. When I’m looking to cut something apart, I look at the cost/unit. Since the entire cluster cost $3 US, I could have made at least three smaller groupings out of the larger one, so the $1 US for each section is within my price range when considering materials for a piece. Glass is always a nice shiny addition for my work… ah the glitter and gleam!
One of the unknown factors in creating a series of art quilts is how many you’re going to want to make before you’re ready to move on to a new theme. Being rather fanatic when I start collecting, I now have enough grape elements for several more quilts still in containers in my studio. Perhaps another good bottle of wine will spur my thoughts back to great wines paired with great art and another quilt based on wine will be created.
How do you go about gathering materials for a new artistic endeavor. Do you choose the theme first, and then obtain the design elements, or do the materials themselves tell you how they want to be arranged?
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