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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Aullwood 2011 Melani Kane Brewer

Melani Kane Brewer, Awaiting the Tide18.5" x 21.5"  $500.

Melani Kane Brewer "Awaiting the Tide" detail.
 Melani Kane Brewer is another regular at the Aullwood Nature Center.  Melani does a lot of quilts inspired by nature and I love them.  I think because texture is as important to her as it is to me.  Melani is from Cooper City, Florida and I discussed her work last here here.

Melani chose oysters for her subject here.  Here's her label:

"Eastern Oysters are marine organisms that live in intertidal and subtidal areas.  I found the intertidal reefs the most interesting because the reefs are exposed to the air at low tide.  The oysters survive by tightly closing their shells until high tide returns.  Here the exposed reef shows the oyster awaiting the tide's return.   Beginning as a traditional quilter, I realized that it was much too restrictive.  I did a series of abstract works allowing me more freedom with fabric.  I found it interesting, my art being so realistic, that it took the step of creating abstract work to transition to what I do now."

Here, I practically had to stand on my head so that you get see the dimensional work on her quilt. The oyster shells actually stand off from the quilt.  I love how she used various speciality yarns to make the mossy "beards" on the oysters.  Her quilting adds another dimension and even more texture.

She made each oyster individually, cutting the oyster fabric (top and bottom) then making little sandwiches with Warm and Natural. The quilted it, then applied them to the quilt.  

You can see more of Melani's work at her website here.
Melani Kane Brewer "Awaiting the Tide" detail.

Melani Kane Brewer "After the Storm", 27" x 39" $563.00
Melani Kane Brewer, "After the Storm" detail.

Her second piece in the show is called "After the Storm" and it shows a colony of Man-o-war jellyfish.  This particular piece is a little more abstracted in a way than her oysters, although she deftly handles the transluscent quality of the "combs" of the Portugese Man-O-War.  The colors are extremely calming...belying the danger of the Man-O-War which has a viscious sting.

"Having spent many summers at the beach in Florida with my daughter, we are all too familiar with the Portugese man-o-war.  It is actually a colony of jellyfish, not a single creature.  While they are beautiful to look at with their beautiful colors of violet, teal and magenta, they can inflict a very painful sting when you touch them.  Their long and numerous tentacles are hidden underwater when they brush up against unsuspecting swimmers.  They are most visible after one of our numerous storms in the summer, hence the name of the piece. 

I have been a studio artist since 1994.  I have been working on my Earth-Air-Water series for almost thirteen years.  This series incorporates my careers as a biology teacher, anthropologist and artist.  I have been studying nature all my life."

Here you can see a little of how she managed to get the transparent, yet glistening aspect of the Portugese man-o-war.  I'm afraid that the photo doesn't show it as well as I'd like, but in real life, it left three of us art quilters wondering "how did she do that???"  Was it an overlay? We didn't think so. 

I asked Melani how she managed to achieve this perfect effect on her man-o-war.  Here's what she had to say:

"No it's  not an overlay.  It is actually Aquafilm.  I just did not dissolve it.  If you are not familiar with the product it can be used to stitch threads, and yarns together creating objects and then it is dissolved with water.  Generally you use two layers of the Aquafilm and place it in a hoop to stitch on the machine.

In this case I used it as if it were a piece of fabric. In After the Storm the Aquafilm was placed over hand dyed organza to create the colors of the man o' war, a few stitches gave it shape and the bubble effect of them floating on the surface of the water.  I tried a number of ways to create them, including using just the dyed organza but nothing said jellyfish to me.

I was using the Aquafilm for another project and it hit me that it was exactly how the jellyfish look in the water, kind of like a shiny balloon.  So I just started playing with the Aquafilm and it worked.
Threads and yarns were placed along the bottom edge of the jellyfish before stitching the entire man o' war to the background. Just have to hope the Aquafilm never gets wet or that will be the end of the jellyfish."

Amen to that! 

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