Sunday, October 13, 2019

Second Marriage

(Above: Second Marriage, 46" x 57". Antique double wedding ring quilt section altered with acrylics, staples, metal washers and nails.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

No!  I am definitely NOT leaving my fabulously supportive, super intelligent, hard-working best friend for another man ... but I could think of no better title for this altered, antique double wedding ring quilt than "second marriage".  Without Steve's willingness to go along with another hair-brained idea, this piece wouldn't exist.  It's been one of those slow moving projects, a plan of action that didn't progress daily but over time.  Steve didn't push for action but did suggest that the results might be worthy of submission to Art Quilt Elements. He also kept me aware of the pending deadline ... which is today.  Whether the work is accepted or not doesn't matter.  It was an adventure; it has inspired all sorts of ideas for other work; and it was entered on time!

(Above:  Second Marriage, detail.)

The project started months ago in two entirely different places.  First, I visited the Milwaukee Art Museum while conducting a workshop for the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts.  I went with a friend, Linda Sweek.  I don't even remember which of the permanent collections included a contemporary work on which paint covered staples, but I remarked, "They look like stitches."  Even then, I knew I'd seen other, prior work that gave me this impression, but it was the first time I said the words out loud.  Sharing this seemed to make a deeper impression.  I remembered all the boxes of half-inch staples back at home.  I'd owned for nearly twenty years.  They fit into a heavy-duty staple gun I rarely use.  (I regularly use a smaller, lighter weight staple gun.)  Somehow or the other, a seed got planted right there in the museum ... Use the staples on an old quilt and paint over it!

(Above:  Second Marriage, detail.)

A month later while at Bill Mishoe's auction, a lovely but slightly tattered, totally hand stitched double wedding ring quilt was offered for sale.  The bidding stopped with my $17.50 offer.  I knew even then, it was the right piece for the staples.  I told Steve about my idea that night.  He liked it right away but nothing happened for weeks.

(Above:  The antique double wedding ring quilt before being altered.)

I'm guessing that this quilt wasn't highly valued for a couple of minor reasons.  First, it had an ugly green binding.  Second, a couple pieces were worn through to the batting.  Third, there were several pieces of a bright red material scattered haphazardly over the surface.  Yet for my purposes, none of it mattered.

(Above:  The double wedding ring quilt on my dry mount machine in the process of being cut.)

I'd finally thought about my ideas, the necessary equipment and supplies, and an action plan long enough.  It was time to start!  (Perhaps I delayed because cutting this piece seemed almost sacrilegious ... but even my own TEDx talk mentions the fact that sometime drastic action is the only way to save something for a future life in another generation.)

 (Above:  The outer rings, cut away from the quilt.)

Out came the scissors.  Off came the outer ring of the quilt, including the ugly green binding.  I have no idea what I'll do ... if anything ... with this large scrap!

 (Above:  The saved section on silicone-coated paper being painted with GAC 400 fabric stiffener.)

I placed pieces of silicone-coated paper on the floor.  This is a product I use in my dry mount machine.  The saved section of the quilt was placed on top and painted with Golden acrylic's GAC 400, a fabric stiffener that I buy by the gallon.

 (Above:  Steve helping to square up the damp quilt.)

In order to keep the piece as square as possible, Steve built a stretcher bar to the approximate outer measurement.  We pulled, stretched, and arranged the quilt inside the frame to assure it would dry in the right shape.  GAC 400 looks milky when wet.  It is crystal clear when it dries. 

Another product from the picture framing industry is this fabric adhesive.  It's acid free, water soluble, and must be some other acrylic solution.  It is generally used to attach fabric to wooden liners but that's not what I did!

 (Above:  Spreading the fabric adhesive to a 1" thick piece of plywood.)

After cutting a 4' x 8' one-inch thick piece of premium plywood to about 4' x 5', I spread the fabric adhesive over the surface, positioned the now stiff quilt on top, and put weights along the edges.  It dried for two days.

The rest of the project happened outside in our back parking lot.  First, I used a jigsaw to cut away around the circular edges.  Steve even shot a video.  CLICK HERE to see it!

Then, I got out the heavy-duty stapler and all the boxes of half-inch staples which still sported the $2.79 price tag per box.  (They now cost $3.99 at Home Depot.) I stapled every quarter to three-eighth of an inch around the outside of every ring.  It didn't happen all at once.  I could only staple about four rings at a time before my hands were stressed.  It sort of felt like training for American Ninja Warrior's grip stretch obstacles.  (We LOVE this show!)  Steve shot a video of my stapling too.  CLICK HERE to see it.  To the center of each ring, I hammered in a fender washer with a 1" roofing nail.  Other nails were added too.
 (Above:  Painting in progress.)

After careful consultation with the Golden Acrylic website, I settled on a sixteen ounce container of heavy-body zinc white paint.  My reasoning was sound.  This paint is rather transparent.  Thus, it would allow some sense of the original fabric's coloring to show.  It is also thick enough that it wouldn't flow down into every crevice and fold in the stiffened quilt.  I wanted a surface that still alluded to the original quilt.  I wanted to see some of the color.  I was hoping for a wonderfully textured surface that hinted at yesteryear but was decidedly modern.  So, I applied the paint.  

I liked all the detail images that I shot.  I like the texture.  I liked the color. I liked that my reasoning seemed sound, that the paint worked the way I wanted.

I just didn't like the overall impression.  As a whole, it was rather "crusty" and uninteresting.  The application of staples and paint were too obvious.  Something was wrong, and Steve thought so too ... even though he is smart enough not to say anything like, "I don't like it." LOL!

Sitting on a pair of work horses in our parking lot, the piece just looked like a scallop-edged piece of white wood.  It took a few days to decide how best to address the problem.  Finally, the Golden website helped again.  I got a small container of fluid Titan Buff to paint all the muslim a solid off-white color.  The fluid paint seeped into all the crevices and folds without totally eradicating the hand stitching.  It united the fender washers and nails to the shapes on which they were nailed.  I used GAC 100, the basic fluid polymer emulsion of acrylic paints, to thin the heavy-bodied zinc white and painted the rings.  This concoction didn't totally flood the fabric but eliminated most of the original colors and patters.  There's just enough peeking now.  The contrast between the rings and the background is perfect too.  The old quilt has been given new life!  There is still enough of the original left but the overall effect is decidedly new.  The staples do look like stitches.

Of course photographing a white/buff tone-on-tone piece is difficult.  I erected a temporary dark grey fabric on the garage door, hung the work, and waited until this morning for overcast lighting.  All in all, this has been a great project.  In the future, I hope to explore some of the options that occurred to me during the various design stages.


Shannon said...

It's so cool to hear about your process!! I love the effect with the beige-- adds a lot of depth. I hope it gets into AQE! Where do you buy the large size of GAC 400?

Linda Sweek said...

I LOVE it! Wow, what a process. The finished effect is stunning and the staples do look like stitches. I'm glad you found a product that filled all the creases, etc., I think that was key. It's nice knowing I was there when the inspiration began.

Ann Scott said...

Wow, this is quite a project and I really enjoyed reading the process you and Steve went through to get to a happy place with it.