Friday, 20 October 2017

Firefly Dance - An Epic Story!

One year ago, a client commissioned a sizeable art piece as a surprise for his wife.

Their space was under construction so there was no particular deadline, which was a very good thing from my perspective. The piece is eight feet tall, which would have been a problem in my previous studio - not enough ceiling height to accommodate a design wall that large!

Luckily my new studio has a bit more head room. :-)

Firefly Dance ©2017 Carole Gold

After our initial consultation, I knew the desired size of the piece, and that it should definitely feature a tree and some fireflies.

As part of our discussion, my client shared ideas and artwork that appealed to him (and his beloved) so I could get a feel for their aesthetic and design sensibility. This insight helped guide my decisions as the piece developed.

I didn't get much sleep for about a month after that, as my brain exploded with possibilities!

Discharge experiment - can I retain the edges of shapes that overlap?

I drew thumbnail sketches, took pictures of trees, and considered techniques for accomplishing my mission. My notebook filled up, and I decided to work with discharge spray to produce the texture and glow I wanted.

This decision called for an experiment on a small scale before starting the large piece. Once I was satisfied that things would work the way I'd hoped, I started piecing the background for the big guy.

Starting with strips

About two months ago, I did a full sized charcoal sketch of my idea. The dancers were on a separate paper so I could move them around, as were the dogs. (I scratched out dogs of all sizes, moving things around until I landed on a composition I liked.)

Charcoal sketch on design wall

At this point, my client had a look and gave the go-ahead on the design . . . excitement took over and we finally set a tentative deadline! (Almost made it, too! Ha!)

From the charcoal drawing, I made a "pattern" by tracing the scene onto a plastic overlay. At that point, I made sure the dogs looked like the couple's actual pets.

Making the pattern

Once the background was together, I used the plastic pattern to make a giant freezer paper template for the tree.

Positioning the template so it could be ironed in place

The freezer paper was ironed to the front of the piece and then a discharge product was used to remove colour, creating the image of the tree on the background.

The same process was used for the dancers and dogs.

More freezer paper templates

Mountain ash leaves became "ferns" in the foreground, and real maple leaves were "stamped" into the tree's canopy.

Leaves as a mask

Fireflies were next. Colour coded pins helped with their placement, and then it was a matter of adding the foil for sparkle.

Making fireflies - glue, foil, heat!


Standing back to ponder was a big part of the process.

Pondering my next move

Shortly before the quilt was due, my client's family grew by one! I figured their new baby also needed representation in this piece, so I added her Virgo constellation in the stars.

Virgo constellation

In glow in the dark thread!

Semi-darkness and you can already see the glow!

If you've lasted this long, congratulations! I'm starting to fade, but want to finish, so...

On to the quilting!

Basting every six inches was step one.

"Sketchy stitching" the branches and leaves with black thread gave them definition while retaining an organic feel.

The dancers were defined using the same "sketchy stitching" technique, but with more precision.

Stitching the figures

I filled the sky with wavy lines that roughly echoed the direction of the piecing, and stitched in the ditch in the tree, dogs, and dancers (with monofilament thread) to secure the layers.

The visual texture of the discharged fabric was so wonderful on its own that I feared additional stitching would detract from its beauty.

Yes. Every ditch. Totally worth the effort!

A jagged stipple seemed appropriate for the shrubbery, and simple straight lines that recede toward the horizon secured the foreground.

Expressive quilting

The piece is faced for a clean finish.

A hidden hanging rod will hold the weight of the piece, and laced grommets will appear to be the hanging system when the piece is installed - a cool idea floated by my client!

(Sure . . . why wouldn't I want to cut holes in the finished quilt? Ha!)

Cuttin' holes in the quilt!

With the lacing idea in mind, I placed the grommets in pairs along the top edge of the quilt.

The final touch.

Just imagine - this is the condensed version of the story! (Told ya it was epic!)

As always,

Try, Learn, & Grow!

Thursday, 28 September 2017


Good Golly, it's been a while since my last post! How does time slip by so quickly???

Oh, that's, studio time, more travel, family time, secret projects that I can't blog about...whoosh! There goes a month!

Studio Time
In 2013 this challenge piece was cast aside a mere week before its deadline because --- Mexico!
(Stay home and meet the deadline, or go on a trip with hubby?)

Obviously, my priorities were bang on, but gosh! It was so close - all it needed was the quilting.

"Sunshine and Vines" was the challenge theme, and the fabrics were provided.
Theme interpretation and use of said fabric were entirely up to me.
Feeling at loose ends one day - not enough time to start anything big, but enough to do something - I dug it out and finished the darn thing! Yay!

Just for fun, I've also made a handful of postcards featuring some bee fabric I bought in Saskatoon last month.

And then I made a butterfly for good measure!

That's all I can show from my studio - for now!

Travel - Vancouver!
Mid month I headed west for a visit with Derrick and Brynne. Oh, how I've missed those two!
(And, boy, is that a long drive. Next time, I fly!)

Derrick and Brynne on the Capilano Cliff Walk

One morning I hopped the Skytrain with them to get downtown. They went to work and university, and I bused to Granville Island. It's been 30 years since I've ridden a city bus! (No such thing where we live!)

I had a ticket for an evening lecture by embroidery artist Tilleke Schwarz, and the whole day for exploration of the island - how exciting!

Found a silk shop - an entire shop devoted to silk! Imagine!
A weaver was working a scarf on her loom, and she kindly allowed me to observe and take her picture.

Loom in action!

In another part of the shop, these guys were quietly munching leaves - silk worms! According to the sign on their basket, they were 3 weeks old when I took this picture.

Basket o' worms

Another Granville Island surprise was The Craft Council of British Columbia gallery. As it happened, their featured artist was exhibiting textiles and stitchery - perfect! No photos allowed, but I wanted to mention the place so you can put it on your "to snoop" list if you're ever in the area!

The broom shop featured handmade brooms of all sorts and sizes - the air smelled delightfully aromatic and the broom maker was plying her trade as people browsed around her. She says she makes about 20 brooms a day!

Magical transportation?

Needless to say, I entertained myself quite well that day!

Another day, we visited the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the Monet exhibit. There were only a couple of his earlier works on display.

Taking a Walk Near Argenteuil, 1875 (Monet)
Most were far more abstract and "expressive" in nature, with muddier colours. They were painted later in Monet's life, and not nearly what we expected.

Weeping Willow, 1921-22 (Monet)
(Brynne interpreted what she saw in the painting - performance art?)

My son commented facetiously that "maybe he needed glasses", and as it turns out . . . he was RIGHT! (Oh, dear!)

If only they'd had cataract surgery back then.

No matter. Monet's work definitely continued to push the envelope in the art world, and he remained an explorer to the end  - an accomplishment to be respected, for sure.

This was probably my favourite piece in the exhibit - water lilies, of course!

Water Lilies, 1916-19 (Monet)

Home, Finished Home!
Our backsplash arrived! Now things feel finished.

We paired a retro-feeling glass tile (featuring a mix of brown, silver, black, and white) in a "subway" layout with the white countertops . . .

. . . and a coordinating tile in a different configuration with the brown countertops.

The camera doesn't pick up the colours the way I see them, but whatever. They look pretty great in person!

Our closet organizers also arrived. Am I the only one who gets excited about organizing closets???

Ordering shallow shelves for my cleaning supplies raised some eyebrows at the store,  but I love being able to see everything at a glance, and - more importantly - I can grab what I need without having to move twelve things first!

All that's left to finish on the main floor is a single mirror in our guest bath. That's it!

Not to say there's nothing left to do - I have yet to hang a picture, and we are still skirting around boxes here and there. We also need a few key pieces of furniture, like seating for the living room, but all in good time!

Try, Learn, & Grow!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Art Quilt Campus 2017

Working shoulder to shoulder with other art quilters is usually inspiring and motivating, and this year's AQC group did not disappoint! Amazingly creative people gathered from across Canada for a chance to share in this camaraderie, and it was a beautiful thing. :)

Anna Hergert facilitated the experience, and I'm grateful to have been a participant in this "invitation only" event.
(Follow this link to Anna's blog for photos of various goings on!)

St. Peter's Abbey - our home away from home for the week. (I took this photo last year - we had sunnier skies this year!)

Out of respect, I kept my camera pointed at my own work. Unfortunately, my project is currently in "stealth mode", but rest assured - I'll blab about it later!

In the meantime, I'll share some pictures I made after Anna introduced the idea of  Nalanda Miksang photography.

Anna led an exercise in recognizing "Moments of Perception".

Right up my alley!

I had fun making abstract compositions for the rest of the week!

Light and shadows, reflection and glow, lines and angles, oh my!

I felt something click in my brain when I read the Miksang book I'd borrowed from Anna.

I could feel myself moving from "documenting" to "art making".

It matters not what the subject is, but what we see when noticing those moments of perception.

Moments are fleeting - there, and gone - as the light changes.

Rather like life.

It's up to us to grab those beautiful moments before they disappear!

Fresh off the Frame

We are 100% moved and I'm pleased to announce that my new studio is officially up and running, full speed ahead!

Youth Challenge - 2nd Place Winner!

I'm pleased to report that my granddaughter's quilt won second place in the judged competition for her age group!

The P R Bridge, by Laina

The challenge theme was "Your Place in Canada", and the challenge fabric was the red batik Laina used for her speedboat.

Congratulations on your accomplishment, Laina!!!

Try, Learn, & Grow!

Friday, 14 July 2017

"Down and Dirty" Custom Quilting

My client requested quilting around - rather than over top of - the curved block centers. This idea spearheaded the entire quilting plan.

I'd originally decided to outline the centers with stitch, but hated the look of the first one. Instead I decided to use fillers to pop them up.

Much better!

Swirls and wavy lines in this block...

To keep the budget in check, there is no ditching in the quilt AT ALL.

Instead, the quilting fills the space right up to, or over, the seams so they are effectively secured. I call this approach to custom quilting, Down and Dirty! (aka - Fast and FUN!)

Alternating swirls and pebbles in the blocks added interest - swirly designs seemed to work with the space theme of the quilt!

Pebbles in the next...and so on!

Even though the quilting in each block varies, framing all of them with wishbones makes them feel like they belong together!

Swirls and wishbones from the blocks are repeated in the borders - larger in scale - but they further unify the parts of the quilt.

Repeating motifs in a different scale adds a sense of unity

Simple S-curves were used in the striped sashing...they are impossible to see from the front of the quilt - but they're there, I promise!

Quilt back


Ready to quilt



Try, Learn, & Grow!