Here be monsters.

There have been many a thing on my plate as of late. To begin with I’d like to talk a little about my time at the M&T Deli. There I spent the last couple weeks sitting pretty in the window, picking away at a painted art quilt. It was a wonderful experience, and I even got fed delicious soups and sandwiches. Wish it were my day-job :)
I thought I would feel tension at being watched while at work, but on the contrary it relieved pressure. I was not tempted to become distracted, to have a nap, to stare blankly at the piece, waiting for inspiration to come.  I just kept plugging away with a smile on my face until the whole thing came together. There was plenty of people-watching to occupy that part of my brain which likes to blabber in my ear, and I met a lot of interesting and interested people. Someday I will find my very own downtown window studio.

I would have to say this is the largest piece I have every accomplished, 48 x 36″. I decided spur of the moment to create a giant map. I’ve always wanted a giant map, and I love pouring over old ones. I ran down to the Owl’s Nest book store, a trip which never disappoints, and picked up some books.

After some deliberation I chose an area in Cape Breton. I have a lot of roots there, but truly I chose the particular spot only because of the composition and the little islands to the right. I blew up the map with the photocopier, and believe me when I say this was the hardest part of the project. I can’t get on the computers at school again until next year, so I had to blow it up in a number of steps to get it as large as needed.

Once I had printed it off I followed essentially the same steps as my train bridge quilt. I transferred the photocopy onto cotton muslin:

Mixed my colours (inspired by another map in a very beautiful french map book, seen here ripped out mercilessly onto the floor):

Mixed with textile medium and painted onto the cloth:

Stuck with spray-baste to some extra-loft quilt batting (which I will forever use henceforth, despite the moderate price increase), and quilted with a variety of threads:

This is where the main differences lie with this project. While the train bridge piece was from a photo, and therefore required much less decision-making, the details of this piece are mostly from my head. It took me a little time to decide on a quilting scheme. It is also entirely curvilinear and thus I had to use the free-motion presser foot. This form of quilting was best described to me in a how-to video; it is just like drawing but you have to learn to move the paper, not the pencil. This was a bit daunting at first but I quickly came around and will never shy from curves again.

First I sewed a line around all of the landmasses. Then I began on the waves, only because I had an easier time deciding what to do with them. I made repetitive wave forms in a variety of directions, sizes, and colours, mostly trying not to overlap. I am most happy with how they turned out. This dense quilting had the effect of tamping down the batting where the water is so that the landmasses rise above it. And so very undulate-y.

I used quite a bit of metallic thread to make the water sparkle. I found out very quickly that a special needle is necessary. Not sure exactly what it was that I used but it had a groove all the way up and a decent hole. This put an end to all the breakage.

I decided to split up the land along intuitive lines that vaguely followed the splotches of colour. This protected the raised quality of the land but added some interest.

At this point I had finished the quilting and flipped the piece over to take some extra stuffing.  I put little slits in some of the land segments and squished in some fiberfill. A sort of barbaric trapunto.

This makes for little mountains of land when the whole thing is stapled onto MDF. If I had it to do over though I would rub glue over the entire back of the quilt so that the water would stay totally flat. Very pleased with the outcome at any rate.

I thought I would be finished here but looking at the piece I felt it lacked a narrative element. The boy had recommended giant squid and I now thought more seriously about the idea. I love the old maps with their pictorial warnings.

I made little sepia ink drawings on muslin and sewed them on here and there. The piece may have benefited from additional little drawings but I thought it looked crowded when I tested them out. I didn’t want them to be the entire focus. I was originally going to apply them as a folded-edge appliqué but time was running thin and they were looking a little too prominent. So I cut them right to the edge and whipstitched them on with transparent nylon thread (my best friend).

I love the fray around the edge, and how they lie completely flat. The boy commented that it seemed like the map had been made first and then as monsters were discovered they were tacked on in the appropriate places. I like the idea of a map as a work in progress.

In my first day of art history we made a map of our initial understanding of the subject. One could as easily make a map of their internal environment, or their life experiences. You could tack on little drawings as events occurred, or sew on whole new continents as time passed. I think I might start one today.

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