This was my first big commission and a rather prestigious one for the Healing Arts Collection for Cottage Hospital Santa Barbara. The first step was to create the image I would be working from. I had taken several photos of the view I wanted to use. Fortunately the owner of the property that has this amazing view and yard is a friend and had a few photos of her own that I was able to use with mine. There were a total of 5 images merged into this one. There were trees from one photo, clouds from another, etc. that were combined until I had the elements I wanted for the final working image.
I had Hunter, owner of Pixels & Ink do the digital work for me and create this 2’x3’ color print of the art. Then I placed clear plastic sheets over it and drew a grid, which would be the basis of my transferring the image to the fabric.
Since it would be the only textile piece in the exhibit, there were some particulars that had to be handled: the piece had to be treated with fire-retardant before framing. Since I wasn’t sure how the fabric would behave – I decided to treat each piece of fabric first and then assemble it so if it ran or behaved poorly it wouldn’t be in the quilt and require removal.
This first stage was to treat the muslin piece, which was the base that the entire quilt was to be built on. I had to soak it in a toxic fire-retardant substance and then let it dry outdoors, so I waited for a sunny day in July and the process began.
Due to the size of the piece (5’x7. 5’) I moved my studio to a large family room I have and for the next 4 months we lived around it. I had my 8’ tables placed together and from there I began to draw out the parts of the design on the muslin.
In order to make the design work, I can to create the order in which each part would be added. The first area to do was the sky. I enlisted a friend with an airbrush to put the sky on with textile paints. I mixed the colors as I wanted and she blew the paint onto the fabric. After getting the blue portion on we realized that the grid pencil lines I had drawn were not being covered, and they were not erasing well either. A second issue presented itself: the edges of the cloud forms I had masked out weren’t being covered up nicely at all by the colors for the clouds. The edges were standing out in a bad way.
A decision had to be made.
Since the clouds were in lighter colors, we decided to paint those areas in an opaque white in hopes the pencil lines and blue sky edges would disappear. They did. However, the colors I wanted in the clouds wouldn’t work now over this opaque white!
I was distraught.
After an entire weekend of making cloud forms of Frisket® and masking the cloud sections to make the blue sky, I couldn’t achieve the colorful clouds by airbrushing as I wanted. Neither of us could come up with a solution. Finally on that Sunday night after about 13 hours of dealing with this sky without the results I had to figure out a solution.
This was one of those moments when you have to really figure out your options. I had 4 months to produce this piece to meet the deadline I was given. I didn’t want to waste any time.
I sat on the floor and asked outloud, “What are my options here?”
The answers we:
1. Scrap the entire job and return the deposit payment and quit.
2. Scrap this fabric, or at least the top portion, order more and start all over
3. Find a way to use what I had and make it better than I planned
Well, I’m not a quitter, so #1 was eliminated.
I didn’t want to risk the time waste of ordering more fabric and starting again as about 18 hours had already been sunk into the piece and I wanted to see if there was another option.
I decided to find a way to use what I had. I realized I could go back to my original, original idea of hand painting the sky, but now it would just be the cloud forms. Yes! This was what I wanted to do. I had already mixed the colors for the sky…and since I used to paint and blend color, it was a reasonable solution.
Piece by piece I cut and painted each cloud form and then after treating the piece with the fire-retardant, and letting it dry, I adhered it to the background piece.
The cloud forms gave this piece it’s life. The colors were bold and different – not the white puffy clouds we think of and expect. I left the puffy fringe from the airbrushing to peek behind the cloud forms I painted to help them lift off the background a little more and it gave them an effect I couldn’t have planned.
***A funny little anecdote: the small cloud form on the left shown here had a very interesting path to it’s final form. When I created and painted it and left it to dry outside, I placed two glasses upside down over the ends to keep it from flying away in the breeze. Each piece needed a couple of hours to dry before I could adhere it to the background. So it dries, and due to the condensation that welled up inside the glass “rings” from the edge of the glass were present on both ends of the small cloud form. I didn’t think it would present a problem until some friends and myself viewed it a few feet away and it looked like a double-headed penis! It was hilarious and everyone who looked at it noticed it. It wasn’t obvious to me right away as I was looking at it more closely, but when I positioned it on the piece and stood back, well…it looked like a flying double-headed penis. After toying with the idea of leaving it as a conversation piece, I remade the cloud form and it is appropriate and matching the rest of the clouds.
Once the sky was complete, the islands in the background were the next to be placed. These were meticulously created, as they are very distinct and recognizable formations, so I made sure they were accurate. After this came the water in the foreground, which was the same color basically as the islands, and finally the water pieces.
Each piece of fabric was treated, backed with adhesive and carefully ironed into place layered in the correct order to create the dimension I was aiming for.
This view shows my set-up. My photograph was above my worktable and available to reference every step of the way. Fabrics were being auditioned constantly for the correct hue, color, pattern, and texture. The background was taking shape and the process was becoming fun.
The focal point of the arched wall was made separately from the rest of the quilt. Due to the detail and the location on the piece, there was no way I could have achieved the results I sought without doing this entirely separate.
I layered and did a lot of thread work on this and put it all on a muslin base, which I later transferred and stitched onto the main piece after the background foliage was in position. This is a detail image showing the thread work on the small trees I layered over the wall piece. The shadows are all very small pieces cut and sewn into position to give the area depth and detail.
The foliage was next. After placing the background pieces down and then the arched wall I continued to add a wide variety of green fabrics to create the lush garden I was to depict. I used many Bali Batiks and fossil prints for this part to give the area depth and texture. I knew I would be doing a lot of thread work over this place, so getting the base color and shape down was the first step.
The flowerbeds took lots of time in order to create the colorful look and depth I was aiming for. I strived to come up with the perfect fabric to depict the grass area without it being a grass print. While I copied the actual design of the yard, I ended up redesigned it to create better balance overall. I added many more flowers and decreased some of the larger bushes. The quilting over this area was done with an assortment of thread colors including some variegated threads to give more color and interest for the eye.
By this time I had templates on one 8’ table, the quilt top on another 8’ table, and the ironing board always ready for adhering more parts onto the puzzle.
The Palm Trees were particularly fun to create. Each palm frond was hand cut with precision scissors from batik fabrics that had the perfect colors in them. The tree trunks were created from other fabrics that had a pattern that worked and then a collage type process was done to create the tops. It took two weeks of daily work just to create the palm fronds due to the tedious work to create them.
After the palm fronds were made they were carefully placed over the tops of the tree trunk and over the background to bring them to the foreground. There were the last items placed on the quilt piece.
Far away view of the palm trees on the left side over the clouds and background.
In order to be sure I had the proportion and perspective accurate I viewed the piece from my second story loft. I did this numerous times during the creation of the quilt to be sure that color, scale, and proportion was being managed as I had envisioned.
Once the piece was quilted on a friend’s long-arm machine I brought it over to the dry cleaners where I had it professionally pressed to be sure it was wrinkle free. It had to be immediately transported, without folding it, to the framer. Since we knew in advance that it was going to be stretched over a large canvas and framed behind glass, I had to create this without batting or it would have puckered and been too ‘puffy’ for the manner in which it was to be displayed. This was decided mid-way through the production, so there is only a backing fabric to add stability and give some cushion from the top in order to make sure it would hold up well. It took the framer and I over an hour to stretch and level this out and make it ready for the frame and glass.
The finished piece shown here without the frame.
Cima Linda Vista, ©2011
Framed and hanging in the permanent Healing Arts Collection at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, California