August 1, 2014

Four-in-Art Challenge #4; Urban Contrast




Time for yet another reveal in the Four-in-Art Urban series. This quarter it was my turn to choose the topic within the overall urban theme. I must admit when urban was selected as the year's theme my first thought was what will I do? I'm a small town girl. Cities have always seemed like such a contrast to what I am used to and what I am comfortable with. So it just seemed appropriate to choose contrast as the topic for this quarter. Urban Contrast.

When I go to a big city I am always struck by how things contrast so much with what I'm most familiar with. I'm also struck by the contrast within the city itself.
  • Noisy vs quiet
  • Big vs small
  • Man-made vs natural
  • Fast vs slow
  • Differences in social/economic status

Here are some photos I took in Houston least fall while at Quilt Market. These images became the point of origin for my Contrast concept.







I fell in love with the trees in Houston. Such wonderful huge trees with branches spreading everywhere. The contrast between the trees and the buildings was beautiful. The trees made me feel at home amid the vast concrete urban environment. I much prefer a natural jungle over a concrete one. (Although I don't much like the humidity of a real live jungle. Been there in Belize and Guatemala and sweated way too much if you know what I mean.)

The contrast of the rigid concrete building and it's strong repetitive linear structure offset by the fluid lines of the tree was the perfect example of Urban Contrast for my mini. The contrast of man-made vs nature. Rigid and straight vs organic and curved. Perfect. 

I started by creating the building as my base. I wanted to mimic the strong vertical lines of the building in the photo. Two shades of cool gray plus a cool blue gray where used to keep the building rather cold and austere. Once it was pieced, I layered the top, backing and batting, stitched around the outer edge leaving an opening and then turned the whole thing right sides out. Then the opening was hand sewn closed. I chose this method over traditional binding because I wanted to allude to the building continuing beyond the actual frame. I quilted vertical lines in the ditch between all rows.




This became the foundation for the rest of my concept . . . the natural aspect with free form branches and leaves. The next step also became the hardest part for me. I know what I'm doing with a grid and structure but find myself less sure and less skilled at knowing how to achieve my vision when it comes to improv. I started by fusing brown fabric and cutting free form branches based on a loose sketch to get the scale and shape of the tree right. Even this wasn't easy for me. I wanted to draw it out precisely and then cut. Once I had the main trunk and a few branches cut, I tried various arrangements. Here is one of several I tried.




Next came figuring out how to create the leafy areas of the tree. I knew I wanted to add individual leaves as the final element but felt I needed to create clumps of color to indicate the mass of green areas before individual leaves were added. I tried cutting free form pieces of tulle in two different shades of green but once they were sewn on it was obvious this wasn't what I was after. Out came the ripper . . . away went the tulle.




Searching through my scrap bins, I grabbed a leafy green print and cut a large leaf shape. This seemed more like what I wanted. I used a darker leafy print for the base and added a few lighter ones here and there for highlights. I tried so hard to avoid the leaf shape for this underlying part of the tree only to find it was just right after all. Many times going against the obvious solution works and leads to better, more creative results . . . other times the obvious answer is the best after all.




Once the foundation leaves were positioned, I fused them and the branches in place and free motion quilted each one around the edges. Then medium sized leaves were positioned and quilted in the same way. These leaves were brighter in color and from a Kaffe print, a less traditional fabric than the larger leaves. The final layer was an even smaller leaf in an even brighter more modern print. These were stitched to allow the edges to be a bit more loose than the others and curl up. Here are the fabrics I used and a close up of all the leafy layers.






That was the process . . . now here's the end result. I'm quite happy with how it all turned out. Perhaps my favorite so far in this series. I haven't come up with a name yet. Any ideas?








As I worked on this project I came to realize the concept of Contrasts was at play not only within the Urban theme but also symbolically within my own quilting journey. 

  • I am a structured quilter. I rarely do improv or free form quilt designs. Planning and working with predetermined pieces and parts is more within my comfort zone and style. The building perfectly illustrates this love of structure and form.
  • The tree symbolizes the type of quilting I'd like to explore more . . . a looser more free style that I admire in art quilts. Perhaps my inner artist is breaking out a little.
  • The fabric choices also represent my journey from traditional to modern prints and solids. There was a time when I didn't own a solid and never envisioned using them let alone featuring them in a quilt. My fabric preferences have changed a lot in the past few years but I still love large scale Kaffe prints the most. 

I hope you've enjoyed my Urban series. You can see the first three quilts following these links:

There will be one more round in our Urban series and then we'll start the new year with a brand new direction. The quilters in this little group are all so very talented. It's a joy to see how they interpret each new theme. Follow the links below to see their work.

Amanda  at whatthebobbin.com
Betty at a Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/toot2
Elizabeth at opquilt.com
Leanne at shecanquilt.ca

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