Friday, 25 April 2014

Studio Series: Insight Quilt Before and After

Shadow: Insight © Karen Thiessen, 2006
Shadow: Insight is proof that duds can be rehabilitated. It's a large quilt that I enjoy napping under on cold winter Sunday afternoons. Most of my work is for walls, but I have three that I actually use to sleep under. Two are on beds and Shadow: Insight is in the family room ready for Sunday sofa naps. Using my quilts is a relatively new experience that I still find novel and pleasing.

In its previous life, Shadow: Insight was called Fog/Denial. I made it while I was a NSCAD student. At the time I was trying to change how I used colour and with this quilt I eliminated dark colours from my palette and once I pieced the top, I hand-quilted the whole thing... and it didn't work. Not at all. This large double-sized hand-quilted quilt was a dud, a complete failure.
Fog/Denial © Karen Thiessen, 1998
Failures are part of any creative process. I tucked it away and carried on. My colour palette did change radically and the Journey series, Red series, are evidence of this, so in the end I succeeded. I graduated, moved to Ontario, became an artist-in-residence in the Textiles studio at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto where I worked in a safe dye studio. So, I took Fog/Denial and brushed liberal amounts of black Procion dye onto it, let it dry, steamed it and then washed it. Dyeing a large quilt in this way wasn't easy but I got the job done. Then I stitched a white grid onto it and added white pearlescent buttons. I love how each fabric absorbed the dye differently. In the old days, I used cotton/polyester fabrics occasionally and that is what those blue strips of fabric in Shadow: Insight are. I've since removed all fabric made with polyester from my stash, given that it contains formaldehyde, a carcinogen. 

I've written about problem children (failed artworks) before. I still believe that they are necessary for any long-term studio practice to evolve. Problem children push me to reinvent them, to problem-solve, to consider solutions outside my regular way of working. This year I look forward to reinventing a few quilts that don't meet my standards.


Judy Martin said...

This story and the quilt that goes with are very nurturing.


Judy Martin said...

I just went to your website and saw the shadow series there. Love the phrase "difficult beauty" in your artist statement.