Sunday, November 16, 2008

Grave Rubbings Art Quilt

(Click on image to enlarge. Grave Rubbings: Patience. 23" x 29 1/2". Crayon on tea-stained muslin. Hand and machine embroidered.)

(Click on image to enlarge. Grave Rubbings: Patience, reverse.)

(Click on details above and below to enlarge.)

(Above: The verse was too faint to easily read, so I stitched the words over the ghostly impression: Weep not for me my kindred dear, For I'm not dead but sleeping here; Prepare yourselves to follow soon, For death you know must be your doom.)

While in Maine for six weeks I noticed small, family cemeteries all over the place. Several were within easy walking distance from the MacNamara Foundation. I'd never made a grave rubbing before and I might not have thought of it at all except that I was reading Jeanne Williamson's The Uncommon Quilter which I picked up at the fabulous Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta on "laundry day".

On page 85 I read, "When you were a child, did you ever make gravestone rubbings?.....rubbing a big crayon over the surface....This same basic technique can be used to create textures on fabric. To make the design permanent simply iron it in place." The book went on to suggest other textures for mark making but I was instantly inspired to actually take fabric and crayons to the nearby burial sites. How could I resist "Lost at Sea", weeping willows, urns, 18th c. dates, and quiet moments reaching out to touch the remains of history?

My first attempts were done on a piece of tea-stained muslin. I started stitching right away...all the way home while Steve drove, and over the next week of evenings. I've just finished. A piece of vintage linen for used for the reverse. It had been a summer spread for a child's bed but was damaged. Variegated pearl cotton blanket stitches created the edge.

I came home with yards of grave rubbing material. These were done on silk, a much more receptive material for the rubbings. (For a photo, click here.) Yesterday, I put together another "art quilt" and started stitching again.

I've never actually considered myself a quilter but this format seems perfect for these rubbings. Maybe my anxiety about quilting stems from the seemingly required rules for perfect piecing, even machine stitches, careful measurement, and traditional construction methods. I just can't make myself conform. Yet, I was also reading Robert Shaw's The Art Quilt while in Maine....and learning how others have successfully broken all these rules. Many of the works in this volume closely follow ideal, perfect, traditional construction. They scare me. Yet, many don't. They excite me! The more I read, the more I understood that there's plenty of exploration in this field....even for someone like me!

Okay, I also learned what a "journal quilt" is and what the definition for "art quilt" is! I've been reading these terms on blogs for over a year but really didn't "get it". My abilities with free motion machine embroidery aren't the greatest. My hand stitching isn't ideal. Together, though, unique textures are achieved. This I can do very well. The results give the impression of being crafted by loving hands and almost a sign of well worn age. I like this. Who knows, I might become an art quilter now!

Below is a photo of one of the graves. The name "Tommy" is in high relief on the top of the stone.


Karen said...

Love these! Welcome to the dark side of quilting!! No rules here,no perfect measurements, just inspirations and explorations! How freeing it is to just create what is in your heart and soul. I love fabric. it is texture and color. art quilting covers such a wide expanse of works. and yours fits within its realm nicely!!

Dale Anne Potter said...

FABULOUS piece!!!

Wanda said...

I think it's funny that you don't consider yourself a quilter. You TAUGHT ME!! And, other than a very short lesson that one year at your house, you've taught me ONLINE!!! Well, I'm sure I'm forgetting about a few "panic calls" as well. And...don't you or didn't you have a quilt in a traveling show or something like that? You're the BEST!~

Micki said...

Love this piece!

artisbliss said...

I love these. What a great idea.

Tenar said...

This looks so great. You make me want to try this rubbing thing, and possibly even quilting. I feel just the same about traditional quilting as you, so I never tried it.