Ode to the dragon fly

Last October, I was given the opportunity to be a featured artist at LiquidAmbar Art Gallery in Pittsboro, NC. In preparation for the show, I spent my summer creating new pieces. I made 2 rather large art quilts (~40” x 50”) as focal points. Not many people have wall space large enough to accommodate a piece this size, so frequently it takes awhile for them to sell. I found that my¬†“Odanata Serenade” (aka “the dragon fly” quilt) sold yesterday. Wow!

An art piece like this has a birthing process. From concept to construction, to final finishing details, it’s not simple. Today in honor of the sale of this quilt I thought I would share with you the techniques I used to create the background. Over the last 6 months of public display, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the background. Is it commercial fabric or a painted canvas? My answer is yes, both actually.

I started with large pieces of ordinary cream and tan colored fabrics and sewed them to a muslin foundation in a crazy patch construction process. One piece, then the next, placed around an off-center piece. A very traditional “quilterly” technique.

Once the background was constructed, that’s when I went crazy with the paint. I tried solar painting the fabric with diluted acrylic paints. I laid cheese cloth, that had been saturate in paint solution, on the pieced top and let it dry in the hot summer sun. If you like a controlled process with guaranteed results, this is not the technique to use. Although the resulting cheese cloth fabric is pretty cool, the background colors are blotchy and if you’re not careful can turn to mud (dark grey or brown).

As I worked adding color, I found that my paint solution didn’t have enough pigment, which resulted in very faded colors on the fabric. The hot sun and 100 degree temps didn’t help very much either. Over the course of a week or 2, I repeated the process a couple of times, sometimes adding some crushed sea salt or using paint filled squirt bottles to apply the colors.

The color saturation still didn’t meet my expectations, so I continued adding more layers of paint. I used spray misters filled with paint solution to control the placement of color in areas that needed it most and let it dry indoors so that the sun wouldn’t fade it. Eventually, I got the colors I wanted and then added sparkle with touches of metallic paint placed here and there. Once the background was finished, I appliqued my thread-painted dragon fly and the commercial batik fabric leaves.

My concrete drive way is permanently stained with the paint from this summer painting adventure. The paint is there as a reminder of my ode to the dragon fly and the summer that kicked started me into finding my muse.