As 2015 drew to a close, I felt the energy of new life stirring. I’d wanted to get back into the studio after having finished my Tree and Rock series, but until the holidays had passed I just didn’t seem to have the time or energy for it. Just two days before year’s end, as I listened to Midsomer Murders, I was inspired. I pulled out my sketch pad and got to work.
The challenge I had in this quilt, which I’ve faced in others as well, was in getting some of the shapes just right. I’ve used the old Sunny-day, glass window tracing method before where you tape what you want to trace to a sunny window then hold the fabric over it and trace the image onto the fabric using the sun’s light. It’s a cheap but challenging technique that works well when you’ve got a sunny window. Oregon in winter isn’t exactly a sunny place, and my little home doesn’t exactly have sunny windows when it is.
I got lucky. The light box I’ve been wanting for ages went on sale on Amazon. I snapped it up gleefully. While I waited for them to ship it out to me, I dug through my stash for the fabrics I wanted to use. As it turns out, I got everything I needed in my stash, making this my second quilting project in my “Use that Stash 2016” project series. By the time my lightbox showed up, I was ready to go.
- Size: 9 inches x 12 inches (23 cm x 31 cm)
- Materials: Commercial cotton fabric, cotton/polyester thread, ink
- Completed: 2016
- Series: American Village, #1
- Current location: Private Collection, NFS
My Thought on the Work
In American Village I, I set out to express my experience of being on my own block. I wanted to combine the feeling of the Coburg Ridge and the Douglas-fir in my front yard with the busy, distracting, unsettling feeling of the busy city street on which I live. In my own yard, I often feel bombarded by the noise of the city, yet when I get centered and focus on those huge, natural spirits of the mountains and my friend the Douglas-fir, I can find balance. For me, living in an American village is all about finding balance from minute to minute, day to day.
I like how the abstract, flat, two-dimensional nature of the city street and the crazy-patch pieces create a feeling of dissonance or unbalance. The line where the crazy patch pushed into the boundaries of the central house’s yard added a lovely feeling of that ever present push of city energy, commercialism, and business. They’re not comfortable, but I think I could have potentially pushed that discomfort level further. I like how the billboards in the background add to the dissonance, like they’re up there shouting for attention.
I liked the off-balance nature of the house. It’s somewhat primitive piecing structure speaks to the way in which our natural selves are often seen as childlike and unrefined in the context of the greater city and civilized culture. I love the tree’s form and motion, but I wish I’d found a way to help him stand out more brightly. Against the mountains, he fades into the background. That, perhaps, is exactly how the natural world lives within the context of American village culture, but it makes me ache. I want the mountains and trees to dominate the landscape, or at least to hold a place that brings balance to the overall piece. Here, they’re more of a backdrop to city life.
In reviewing this piece, I’m seeing city culture dominating the picture. The colors of the city, the odd shapes and sizes, the artificially flat road…all of these distract from the beauty and serenity that is represented in the mountains, tree, and sky. As a commentary on the balance of bustle and calm, moving and rooted, doing and being, I think American Village I speaks to the unbalanced nature of life in America’s villages.