This is a photo of a Great Spangled Fritillary I took in June of 2010. I loved the rich colors of this butterfly, even though it is a common one in the Northeast and Midwest. I've been meaning to do something with it since I took the photo.
I have to say that I have a little Devil or Angel who periodically sits on my shoulder and gives me a shove. Her name is Vivien Zepf. Vivien has strongly urged me to do items to enter into SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) exhibitions. Hmm.
Currently, SAQA is collecting little quilts that they will mat and put into a trunk show. The title is "This is a Quilt" and the goal is to explain art quilts and yet connect them with the folk art tradition. Why do we choose to do this type of art? A question I often ask myself as art quilts are not often accepted as "fine art" but are often classified as "craft" (with a negative connotation).
I struggle with this because I love to paint and indeed many of my art quilts have painting in them if they aren't done completely in paint. If I painted the image, I would be finished much more quickly than if I quilted the same image. I wouldn't have to quilt and bind and hand sew in a hanging sleeve. I would just have to wait until it dries, maybe slap a coat of varnish on it, and frame it. Much easier than quilting and certainly a ton less time consuming. Paintings regularly get into shows easier and also command higher prices. Phyllis Cullen has written a blog post on this topic (Is it Art ) . Hopefully the pieces put together with their artist statements will help explain quilts as art. In fact, the matting will make the point even stronger.
First, I selected a piece of rust dyed fabric as it seemed very similar to the background of the quilt. Then I drew the butterfly freehand with Derwent Inktense pencils. I think I need to learn how to get the pencil darker as it just doesn't get the richness that I know these pencils are capable of.
Here's what I ended up with. It is more of a collage as when I drew it, all I could think of is the 19th century specimen collections. I used specialty papers that I layered and wrote the Latin name for the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele cybele) and burned the edges of the mulberry paper. This is partly because most people who think "quilts" wouldn't dream of having paper on their quilts, yet paper IS a fiber. the green ribbon is a wired organdy ribbon which came wrapped around a pile of fat quarters. I'm sorry I can't show you a close up as the only ones I took ended up being a bit blurry (it WAS early morning and I am decidedly NOT a morning person.) The other writing is in Pigma pen and is "Great Spangled Fritillary." The long whitish piece on the left is on a scrap of cotton grabbed from the waste basket at our quilting group and reads "Lepidoptera" the name of the order of Butterflies and moths.
I outline quilted the butterfly in a metallic/rust/dark brown thread and closely quilted the background to make it lay pretty flat. Why? Well, the reason I think I like quilting images is texture. Lots of texture. You can get texture in oilpaintings by impasto and a palette knife...but that's about it. With quilting the whole world is opened up with texture: the choice of fabrics, what you do with the fabrics (fraying, manipulating, etc.), the quilting itself, and then the myriad of embellishments such as beads, buttons, sticks, metal. You name it and you can do it. Art Quilting, unlike traditional quilting opens the world of materials. Things you wouldn't dream of incorporating into a traditional quilt all of a sudden becomes fodder for an art quilt.
I debated doing this piece for a while after I saw Terry Hartzell's Luna moth at the November SAQA show. I intended to do something with my photo, but Terry has done a couple of pieces with rust dyed fabric and a Luna moth as well as a Buckeye Butterfly. Was I using her idea? Did it influence me too much? I decided that that concept was ridiculous as many people do similar topics and even use similar materials, but each individuals vision creates a different piece. Take a look at Terry's work here and you can see how different they are....and hers are down right gorgeous!
It feels good to get something done and out on the road.