Friday, May 27, 2011

Charles Otis, A Grave Rubbing Art Quilt

(Above: Charles Otis, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series. 46" x 38". Crayon grave rubbing, hand and free motion machine embroidery, vintage crochet, vintage damask and doily for reverse, assorted buttons. Click on image to enlarge.)

Before Valentine's Day, I got permission from the Unitarian Church in Charleston to make a grave rubbing of Otis Charles' tombstone. This was a really big deal because almost all the downtown cemeteries have posted rules prohibiting rubbings. (I blogged about it here.)

(Photo from February in Charleston's Unitarian Churchyard. My fabric and completed rubbing are still draping the tombstone.)

This is the first time I've ever made a rubbing from an entire grave. It is also the first time that I've included a full name with dates too. Thus, it seemed fitting to title the art quilt with the deceased's name ... Charles Otis.

(Above: Charles Otis, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt, detail. Click on image to enlarge for reading all the words ... right down to the last line of the epitaph that was only about an inch from the ground.)

(Charles Otis, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

The crochet pieces were once a bedspread. It seems that the person making it accidentally used a different thread half way through the production which probably discolored/bleached out once it was washed. The result was a strange two-toned off white thing that looked dreadful. It had several holes. I had Olivia, my studio assistant last semester, carefully cut all the pieces apart. (She even made a necklace from a few pieces!) I really liked have two shades of crochet for the embellishments. They are all attached using French knots.

(Above and below: A comparison between the actual tombstone and the quilted grave rubbing. Click on images to enlarge.)

(Charles Otis, detail. Click on image to enlarge.)

All the letters have been outlined in free motion embroidery ... including all the strange letters that replace some of the letter "s". They sort of resemble an "f" but the horizontal, crossing line only appears on the right side. There must be a name of this once used alphabet symbol. If anyone knows it, please let me know too!

(Above: Charles Otis, reverse. Click on image to enlarge.)

The back of this art quilt is a piece of a vintage damask tablecloth. I have no idea who owned it, how many times it was washed, or at which auction I bought it. I cannot, however, put into words the FEEL of it. There's a sense of childhood ... of line dried, heavy cotton sheets on a crisp Austrian summer night ... soft but firm, used but so very, very clean! It made my legs tingle when I stitched the French knots that hold it to the front and added the blanket stitch edging.

I will be framing a photo of this piece for the Unitarian Church. I hope the congregation likes the results.

1 comment:

Dee's Diary said...

This is so beautiful. I know just what you mean in your last paragraph. My Nan (who turned 100 this year) still has some linens sewn by her mother. I never met her, and yet to touch them is somehow to know how her hands pressed and folded them.

The 'f' is called 'long s' by the way.