In the early 90s, I decided to make some art quilts based on a subject that I knew well, good wine. My ex-husband and I traveled quite a bit and went to tastings to collect for our wine cellar, so I had lots of experience at tasting with the best in the field. The particular night on which this quilt is based was at a champagne tasting in the DC area by a representative from Moet & Chandon, Robert Gourdin. He was quite the showman, “sabering” the neck of a bottle of the bubbly with a Napoleonic era sword so that the cork and neck would go flying out at 650 pounds/sq. in (295.5 kg/ 2.5 cm). However, having been to a lot of champagne tastings by that time, I began to doodle on my tasting notes. Later, when we were driving home, the night was crisp and clear, as only a December night in DC can be. I often forget how many stars there are in the skies as it’s so humid in the summer or most places in the area have so much light pollution. Since, Dom Perignon, whose statute is outside of the headquarters of Moet & Chandon in Epernay, France, is credited with inventing the cork “to keep the stars in his wine”, I used my sketch from the tasting combined with the stars in the sky from that nigth for the theme for this art quilt, “Champagne Nights”.
In the detail shot on the left, you can see some of the thousands of clear seed beads that I used to simulate the bubbles or “bead” in good champagne. The smaller the bead in the wine, the more refined it will be on the palate, and so I decided to emulate that concept….lots of little tiny seed beads. Larger white buttons and small shi sha mirrors add to the sparkle, much as champagne lights up the crystal flute into which it’s poured. Spiral motifs from printed fabric were machine stitched on to the surface of the top layer of the art quilt sandwich, but the whole piece was hand quilted. The laborious hand quilting shows up here as patterns in the sky. What I was trying to duplicate with the subtle navy thread on navy cloth is what you seem to see just out of focus when you stare at the night sky. There are whole universes with intricate patterns out there in space, and there are some here in my quilt, behind the scenes.
Many of the fabrics are navy and white, which duplicate Sashiko, a traditional form of Japanese quilting that employed white thread on indigo fabric. Some of the pieces that were used in this quilt are lengths of obi fabric, the large sash around the waist of a kimono. They were usually woven is narrow widths, so they could just be cut and tied in place without much effort by farmers. As I only had a few pieces of these fabrics, it was hard to cut into them, as I knew that I would probably not get another chance to replace them. However, since champagne is one of my favorite wines, the sacrifice was made.
Creating a theme for a series of quilts can be a fun process, as I begin to start looking for materials and embellishments to fit the concept. The thrill of the hunt begins and suddenly I start to see possibilities everywhere. Limiting myself to navy and white was a bit hard to do for this piece, but since my experience with champagne has been mostly at night, the color combination seemed obvious.
What themes have you used for some of your creations? Were there any difficulties in acquiring what you needed to pull off the effect you wanted?
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