November 1, 2013

Four-in-Art: Maps

It's time for the big reveal of our Map quilts as part of the Four-in-Art small art group I was recently invited to join.

I posted a couple of weeks ago about how I've always wanted to explore making art quilts but have just never taken the plunge. This fun little group has given me that chance and I'm looking forward to experimenting and learning about my personal style.

Our overall concept for the year is Urban with this particular topic being Maps. Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend Quilt Market in Houston and got to see several quilts made as part of a special exhibit entitled Maps sponsored by Quilts on the Wall. Here are two of my favorites.

Gone By Laura Bisagna, Winchester, CA
Laura's quilt depicts her home and others that are "gone" after a wildfire.
It's difficult to see but the black spaces are actually cut away to create holes in the quilt
representing houses that were destroyed by the fire.

Layered Marks From the Sky by Carol Nilsen of Laguna Beach, CA
An aerial photograph of a runway and taxiway inspired Carols' quilt.

Notice a common theme? Aerial views. That's essentially what maps are all about isn't it? An overview of a place or thing that helps us get our bearings in relationship to ourselves and our location . . . some maps even help us find the bearings of our lives. You can "put something on the map" thereby bringing it to prominence. Or you can "wipe something off the map" thereby obliterating it entirely.

For my map quilt, I chose something personally meaningful that I hope will never be wiped off the map. Something that will always be a part of the map in my mind and hopefully that of my children as well.

Now I am not an urban person by any means. Never have been and never really want to be. I'm a small town girl through and through. So I decided to express my urban map by depicting what was urban to me growing up. My hometown . . . Kentland, Indiana . . . a map as I still see it in my memory.

I love the loose improvisational style that so many art quilters do so freely but also realize that doesn't come easy to me, so rather than fight it too much on this first quilt, I just went with what does comes naturally to me. Structure and grids. I'm a planner and inherently a pretty structured person and the idea of a grid lends itself perfectly to the rural farmland around my hometown. The fields and rural roads are all pretty well laid out on a grid.

With this underlying structure in mind, I started cutting and piecing little bits of fabric into a grid. I chose not to be too literal with my interpretation, but rather to work from my general memory. I pieced and ripped out and pieced some more.

Finally my base "map" came together. I used an variety of greens to represent the fields surrounding town. Grays created the general town plan with three darker squares representing the significant places in my life . . . the business my Dad ran, where Mom worked and where my first job was, my church/elementary school . . . and of course HOME.

Then I stitched in more detail. The intersection of the two main highways in town, the railroad, the ditch, the downtown area . . . all two blocks worth. The main streets in town. The park across the street from our house. The dark gray color of our house along with the red flowers Mom always planted.

The last step was bringing my own personal story into the picture.  I selectively cut words and phrases from a piece of Madrona Road fabric to tell my story. The front of the quilt was purposely kept simple to reinforce the simple life of living in a small town. These words were hand stitched in place to again reinforce the simple ways of small town life.

The final step was binding. Since Kentland is surrounded by cornfields I chose a corn print from my stash to surround my map. But once it was sewn on I didn't like the look. It was too distracting from the town itself and the main concept. So I painted the corn green along three edges leaving just one side yellow to represent the corn hybrid test plots on the edge of town.

Here is my finished Urban-Maps quilt. I'm calling it "My Urban - A Place to Call Home"

"My Urban - A Place to Call Home" front
"My Urban - A Place to Call Home" back

On the quilt back I pieced together a narrative that tells my story . . .

Once upon a time, a baby girl was born
the family settled in a little house
And as she grew, she explored and roamed
and filled her deep well with knowledge.

But the road beckoned . . . 
All grown up, she traveled across the land
stitch by stitch she pieced her soul together
the winds led to her soulmate
they were deeply in love
eventually settling in the Old West
to raise their littles 
in a steadfast place . . .  to call home.

I grew up in this small midwest town where farming was pretty much the only industry. But even in a rural farming area, I was a town kid, not a country kid. Living in Kentland was my "urban" for the first 18 years of my life. Since those early years I've lived in several smaller cities and states but am happily back in a relatively small town. Different state but similar small town feel. Ten times the size of my hometown but still small.

But in the bigger scheme of life, Kentland will always be "HOME" to me.

Everyone in the group came up with wonderful ideas. It's going to be so much fun making this art journey with all of them. Take a look at their mini maps by following the links below.

Amanda - What the Bobbin
Betty - Flickr page
Carla - Lollyquiltz
Elizabeth - Occasional Piece Quilt
Nancy - Patchwork Breeze
Leanne - She Can Quilt
Rachel - The Life of Riley

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  1. Oh Anne! I'm in love with your quilt and the story and love how you depicted this all in the way you constructed your piece, manipulated the fabric and yes, even painted the quilt. I loved the story behind your quilt--how the small town informed your outlook for the rest of your life, and how you've carried that with you all your life.

    I was quite intrigued by the "ribbons" of water and roads and wondered what you'd used to create those--I love their organic quality. The representation of your home is perfect, even down to the flower beds. Funny how our memories can be so crystal-clear on certain details, isn't it?

    A hugely successful first art quilt--I look forward to many many more!

    Elizabeth E.

  2. Love the piecing. Those must be pretty tiny squares to fit into 12x12! Its amazing to me how personal the map quilts turned out to be for so many of the group members. And I will have to remember the painting trick on a bad binding! So glad you are a part of the group.

  3. Wow, this little quilt is so interesting. I think every time you look at it you'll find something new to appreciate. I really love that you painted the corn binding but left that little bit unpainted on the front. The texture of the stitches are such a nice addition too. I love the story on the back, it brings it all together. Nice work :)

  4. Every thing about this quilt speaks to me, Anne! It is just wonderful. I also grew up in Smalltown, America, so totally "get it". You are a good story teller on your own but using the words from Madrona Road is extra special. I love how you painted the binding...would never have thought of that but it just goes to show how necessity is the author of invention! (I also saw a few other little dabs of green paint that really added a nice touch.) Your big stash of green fabrics really came in handy, didn't it! You are inspiring!!

  5. It's a wonderful quilt. I love the ariel views of fields from a plane, and your quilt captures that so nicely. The red flowers are wonderful, as is the story. It is a beautiful piece, I am so glad you are in our group.

  6. Your mini quilt is so expressive. I appreciate knowing the background of your work. There is more to it than a simple aerial view. Your solutions to make it better (ie. painting the 3 sides of corn binding) are clever. These Four in Art challenges are going to be wonderful experiences for all of us.

  7. Anne, your story is artfully depicted in this mini quilt!!! I enjoyed reading through your process along the way. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Anne, this is the most lovely tribute! I love everything about it and especially all the thought you put into YOUR interpretation. I'm a sucker for green fields and just love your grid and how it aligns and then plays with the town structure. Just perfect!

  9. Your creativity, skill and craftmanship are a welcome addition to this group! I love everything about this Anne! And that red flower being the heart and home of the quilt...perfect!

  10. this is wonderful - the storytelling, the piecing, everything. Truly inspiring.

  11. This was fascinating. I loved reading every single word. I grew up in cities (Phoenix, Seattle). Mark's hometown had a population of 600. So when we moved to western Kansas (pop 5,000) I felt stifled and he felt he was in a totally urban city. Funny how our perspective colors our thoughts about places. This is a beautiful piece of art. What a wonderful job you did in every single detail. I immensely enjoyed reading about it and watching the quilt grow through the photographs.


WaHoo!!! You're leaving me a comment. Thanks for stopping by and do come back again. Quilt on, Anne.