Monday, December 1, 2008

Fractal Tree

What an excellent theme! As I am sure we all discovered, you can go any direction at all with the concept of "mathematics." There is math everywhere. (At least that's what I keep telling my kids when they are complaining about homework.)

I decided to focus on fractals. A fractal is generally a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole (according to wikipedia). I looked at some images of fractal trees and felt like I was going in the right direction. Trees appear regularly in my work, so that brought me closer to my comfort zone. Math is not anywhere near my comfort zone.

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I started by picking a background fabric that made me think of a brisk winter day, a good setting for a tree full of bare branches. I stamped some brownish blackish yellowish shapes on the green fabric to represent all the leaves that might have fallen off the tree. I free motioned quilted leaf shapes on the hillside and swirly windy motifs in the sky area.

I cut the basic fractal shape for the trunk and large limbs, fused and then started stitching. Tons and tons of Y stitches. It's not an exact fractal since some limbs go off in just one direction. But I was amazed by the lovely fan shape that developed just by following the repetitive pattern. I started with three strands of floss just off the fused branches and switched to just one strand for the outer twigs.


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After all that stitching, I thought it might need something more. I posted my in progress quilt on my blog and asked for opinions. Usually we don't post our work until our big "reveal" date, but it was really interesting to read what people thought. Some said, "It's done!" Some thought it needed a little something. I thought it needed something too. I suppose that's why I didn't yet feel content with it. I appreciated the validation from my artist friends.
I decided to add a small Asian-style chop. Others had suggested a small bird, a single leaf or a snowflake, but I really wanted something unexpected. And the traditional red color of the chop seemed like just the right complement. Now what to put on the chop?! I searched for mathematical symbols meaning fractal or repeat, but I couldn't find anything. I suppose I could have looked for a Chinese translation, but I didn't want my chop to be too literally Chinese, nor did I want to stray that far from the math theme.

With my daughter's help, we remembered the musical symbol for "repeat," a colon followed by two parallel lines. I added the Y stitch followed by the repeat symbol. So, that seemed appropriate and emphasized the theme. Don't you think?

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18 comments:

Diane said...

What a perfect way to use math AND incorporate an image that is your own. I love how beautiful the tree looks -- I'll have to remember the fractal concept for creating trees in the future. I also like how you made the chop your own. Brilliant of Claire to think of the repeat symbol!! And you did this in 5 days? With houseguests?!

Kristin L said...

I love the chop!! It's a great little counter balance to the tree. And, as I said before, the tree is just beautiful. This is the one I wish I had made (to borrow a theme from Kirsten).

Nikki said...

I love your fractal tree! The repeating Ys capture the idea perfectly. What a beautiful, blustery day.

Donna said...

The chop is the perfect finishing touch. Great job! D~~~~

Terry said...

I agree, the chop is a great little counterpoint! The fractal approach to the tree made it so beautifully graceful--I think you have really taught us something here. One of the things that makes me cringe are stitched tree images that are awkward and clunky-looking. This is SO not!

Karen said...

Deborah, the machine stitching on this is wonderful and I really love the branches on the tree. I am so amazed at the way you took the mathmatics theme and made something so calming and peaceful from it!

Helen Conway said...

I rejected fractals as being too big a concept for such a small quilt so I am in awe! And also at your patience with all that small precise quilting. Adn what a great design lesson you have taught me with that little chop. (And an strange co-incidence too as I only learned that word last week as I read a guide book to Hong Kong!)

Susan Brubaker Knapp said...

One of the things I really like about your piece is the binding, and the way it uses the same fabrics, but appears out of focus, almost like the "depth of field" (a photographic term) has changed somehow. It really frames the central image of the tree and the hill. The quilted wind and leaves are fantastic.

I think the red chop is a wonderful addition. Adds a touch of mystery, and it is a perfect example of how a small element in a strong color can be placed to visually balance a much larger object in a composition.

The way you did your branches reminds me of some of the Post Oaks here where I live, near Charlotte, NC. I love them best in winter, when their branches seem electrified, and every bare twig stands out against the winter sky.

Your piece makes me feel really chilly!

Gerrie said...

I am so glad you added that red chop - I think it is just the bit of "acid" that was needed. I love trees and I love this tree. It is what the trees look like in my neighborhood, now. BTW, the quilting is beautiful.

kirsty said...

Oh, yes, that chop is perfect! Absolutely perfect. And I just love the tree (I do love trees!). This is the first fractal I have seen that really appeals to me very much indeed.

StegArt said...

I love everything about your quilt Deborah. First the tree and all it's wonderful branches going every which way, then the leaves that have fallen off the tree and are on the ground...and then the swirly stitched lines creating movement. Oh and of course the chop is the icing on the cake!

Brenda said...

How brave of you to create a beautiful ground and sky background and THEN embark upon fractal thread drawing. I'd be so worried that I would muck it up!

The chop is a perfect complement.

Taccolina said...

Very, very cool. I especially like your chop and the way you thought through the symbol for it. Beautiful.

Françoise said...

Simply beautiful!
I love the last picture, with the chop and the close-up view of the quilted leaves.
Great quilt.

Deborah Boschert said...

Thank you so much for your enthusiastic and generous comments! I really appreciate each of you taking time to notice all the details on my Fractal Tree.

teri springer said...

Perfection!

teri

corryna said...

The design is simple and strong! I love your quilting. It is so neat and beautful. Lovely quilt!

Helen from Hobart said...

Simple.
But such an effective expression of a supposedly complicated mathematical concept that it has to be a world shattering discovery.
I hope someone has the guts to publish your quilt as a maths text book illustration.