Sunday, April 26, 2009

First Steps

No pictures today, but I have been giving a lot of consideration to this theme. First, the usual word association:
Identity Theft
Stolen Identity
Mistaken Identity
Secret Identity
Identity Card
Lack of identity
Identity Crisis
Corporate identity (logos, etc.)
Brand identity
Identity Crisis

Hmm, secret identity sounds fun! But I also live and die by my identity card, or more correctly, by my husband's identity card (him being in the military and all). Fingerprints and DNA are unique to each of our identities. Yet, for as singular as one's fingerprint or DNA is, one's identity can be quite multifaceted. Are you one person at home, and a different one at work? Does yet another side come out with close friends? Does one identity (such as being a parent) affect another (such as your pre-familial professional career)? Does the world see a different identity than you see in yourself?

I've been considering this multiplicity and I think I finally have a direction. I keep thinking of Heisenberg's microscope, but that's not quite it. Perceptual bias may be a more accurate term. I don't want to give too much away just yet though...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Identity Tease

When Helen announced the theme of identity, my mind went utterly blank. Self-portrait, collage of my various roles, what will I do? I am a bit in a rush because I leave for the SDA conference on May 22. I need to have my piece wrapped and ready to post. I also did not want to take the easy route that I did last time. So, I am earnestly at work on my piece which may be finished next week because I am having some fun with it.

The tease — it will use complements of colors in an Andy Warhol kind of way. I have hand-dyed some fabrics to give me more of a selection. See the photo above.

Here are some complements that I am considering.

Hope you are not suffering from identity theft and are enjoying this as much as I am.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Window Gazing

The Twelve by Twelve website has now been updated to display our window-themed quilts. It's fascinating to see how the colours and the grid motif create a unified mosaic image:
The updated artist gallery pages also make interesting viewing as you can see the nine works completed by each individual member of the group so far.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Theme

Ever since we started this process I have been casually mulling over what theme I would choose but for some reason thought there was one more person before me. So when Diane emailed to remind me to pick, of course, my mind went blank. I turned to my husband for help. He suggested 'The Pelopennesian Wars'. Right.

You will be glad to know that, I decided not to to avail myself of his assistance and, totally at random from the words circling round in my head, I have picked..... identity.

Have at it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Shibori Windows

I created these in my shibori class, yesterday. They will eventually be used in a larger version of what I might have done for this challenge. I just wanted to pop in and tell you all how excited I was to see each piece show up today. One person e-mailed me to say she thought this was our best group of pieces so far.

I have enjoyed reading all of the comments, but haven't had time to spend enough time with each piece to do my commenting as yet. I was away for 3 days and am up against a deadline for SDA conference work so have spent the day working on that. But, I wanted all of the twelves to know that you have turned out another fabulous group.

Dove in the Window

I had a heck of a time with this challenge. The "window" theme presented so many options, and while I had lists of ideas I just couldn't settle. I actually mapped out 3 different pieces, with full-size sketches and plans and all ... but couldn't seem to get myself into the fabric stage with any of them.

I kept coming back to the traditional quilt block called "Dove in the Window." During the weeks I was thinking about this project, Roger and I have been thinking about whether to remove our daughter from a traditional school setting, in favor of a non-traditional option. As we explored our feelings (and fear) of departing from a traditional path, I found myself drawn to this very traditional block. Probably not accidental, yes? I was craving the safety of something mapped out for me, and sewing these basic shapes was so comforting! My literal brain suggested setting doves on the window frame created by the block shapes, but as I was working on these, I started thinking about how one bird is resting comfortably in her nest, content to stay where she is, while the other is perched but ready to fly away.

So, all in all, this piece sums up the past two months of my life. And, just so you know, we have decided to leave the school and switch over to home-schooling to finish out the year. That perched bird has flown off into the unlimited blue sky!

The block is pieced. (Look, Gerrie! Points!) The doves, originally from photos, were painted and colored with colored pencils. I'm still not sure I'm thrilled with how the doves look -- but Terry, i have to say that when I was stuck I remembered how beautifully you use colored pencil to highlight your pieces, and I pulled mine out and was able to improve things considerably. The nest is dimensional -- fabric shreds -- as are the beady dove eyes (black seed beads).

To be honest, this result sort of surprises me. I mean, it just doesn't feel like me to me. But it pushed me a bit, to keep going on an idea when it was probably my life circumstances, and not the project, that were causing me to feel out-of-sorts with anything I tried. The deadline made me keep going even when I wasn't thrilled with it, and it came out better than I thought it would. So, it's not my favorite piece that I've done for these challenges, but given how well it fits my emotional life right now, I'm satisfied with it.

Windows to My Soul

Windows to My Soul

Windows to My Soul (detail)

I hadn't been thinking for too long about this new theme, when one day I was looking for something on the Internet and came across the saying "windows to my soul". I knew immediately what I would create for this theme.

My quilt is made with fabric, but details (eyes, mouth, shading and highlights) are stitched and/or painted. The frame around the face mimics the frame around a pane of glass, or window.

The eyes are the window to the soul

In the North of England there is a chain of bakeries called Greggs. It is a bit of a standing joke amongst colleagues who sit in court in my home town, but do not come from there, that the local populace have a bad habit of wandering around town eating Greggs' pasties from the paper bag. It is true and ( despite Dennis disapproving) I do it myself from time to time. It may not be elegant but they taste good and it is what people who live where I live do.

Now, there is a branch of that bakery in Blackburn. In fact their ventilation shaft empties into the air just outside court room number one in Blackburn County Court and it is nigh impossible to conduct a case there in the morning without having an overwhelming urge to purchase a pasty at lunchtime. But I particularly like queuing in this branch because Blackburn is a town with a significant Muslim population and it is possible to stand there, debating whether to choose potato and meat or cheese and onion and to be joined by ladies in all types of Islamic dress including those wearing the full face veil. (Although this may cease soon as there is much debate on line as to whether Greggs vegetarian food is in fact haram).

Personally I find this fascinating. I rejoice in the combination of the great difference in our dress and the shared heritage of going to Greggs. Others in my country however find it harder to see below the black fabric to find the humanity underneath. Difference for them relates to fear and overt religious practice is confused with terrorism. People ask, "why can't they be like us', the words, 'them' and 'us' speaking ( in my personal opinion) to a division based on ignorance and intolerance rather than an acceptance based on commonality and curiosity about diversity.

Even in the law there is debate. What if a woman wearing a full face veil is to give evidence for example? Is it possible to assess truthfulness if her facial expressions are masked? What if an advocate wanted to wear one? My experience as an advocate of talking to woman with full niqab is that with attention to the eyes and voice tone there is no difficulty interpreting meaning and demeanour. (For those interested the guidance given to Judges dealing with this issue is here).

Many complaints about the wearing of the veil focus on the 'hiding' of the face. The underlying assumption is that there is a lack of openness, a deception which is seen as incompatible with our (for which read White -Christian- British) culture. ( In fact it is more about modesty.) Ironically there is an old English Proverb The eyes are the window to the soul which is not dissimilar to the Biblical phrase The eyes are the light of the body is the eye. Is it not possible that by stripping away the (often incorrect) assumptions we make and the prejudices activated on seeing clothing choices, jewellery styles, body shape or art, and focusing on the eyes only, we come to the truest way of assessing personality?

Seeing Through

I really loved this theme. Thank you for picking such an inspiring image, Gerrie.

I wanted to explore layers, transparency and variety of texture. I've titled it "Seeing Through."

On a few of the daily pieces I've been doing for my Lent series, I've set small pieces on two layers wool felt. I like stitching through it and I like the additional border detail.

I did printing with paint using a Lego on the building on the left. The next building is some sheer-ish netting on which I did some hand embroidery. The next piece is hand painted and I cut all the windows out with an exacto knife. You can barely see the greenish building that is painted on the surface using a freezer paper stencil. The short navy building has a grid pattern that I printed with paint on plastic canvas. The wide purple building has lots of big cut out windows and the blue sheer building on the right is made with poly organza and stitched with more hand embroidery.
I machine quilted three building images in the background before I added all the buildings in the foreground.

Like Gerrie, I love the grid format of windows in big buildings. In fact, I love the grid in general. I really enjoyed exploring this design element for the windows theme.


I saw many beautiful window screens last year in China. I loved the simpler ones, based on squares and rectangles. They inspired me with drawing this grid, which also makes me think a little bit of a log cabin block, courthouse steps style. 
I burned two thermal screens from my drawing. I found the marks on the first one a bit too thin, so I did a second one with thicker lines. I finally used them both for printing the central square panel, using red, gold and blue paint.
Once I was happy with the printing, I added red and gold borders, with a touch of blue and green, because these are the colours I remember of Beijing. The piece is machine and hand quilted.
I'll post a few more pictures on my blog.
Working on this quilt has given me many ideas for other pieces. 
Thank you Gerrie for choosing this theme!


As I discussed with my family the many associations that we each have with windows...
...nothing inspired me! Until one day, as I was driving, the phrase "Window of Opportunity" came to me.

My sister, her husband, my brother and my husband and I are all self-employed these days. As we run our businesses, uppermost in our thoughts is the need to identify and make the most of each opportunity. We have had many conversations about the concept. Some opportunities are seemingly small, but lead to bigger things. Some are hard to make out; easy to overlook. Some are bright, clear and obvious.

My quilt didn't become anything startling or overwhelmingly original. I was a bit disappointed that it looked, well, too familiar. It's fairly quiet, subdued even, but it expresses what I wanted to convey and so, in the end I am satisfied.


Ì Chaluim Cille Fuinneog

I carry images in my head that I remember over and over, like the chairs in our last challenge. This photo was taken on the Island of Iona in 2003, when Mr C and I went on a hiking trip in the Scottish Highlands. Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland that has an important place in the history of Christianity in Scotland and is renowned for its tranquility and natural beauty. Ì Chaluim Cille is the Gaelic name for Iona. Fuinneog is window in Gaelic.

This photo of the ruins with the beautiful stones and the opening, looking out on the sea has stayed with me and begged to become a piece of fiber art.

Because of my hectic life this past month, I had to simplify my process. The stone structure was printed on lutradur that was coated with Golden Digital Ground. I created the surrounding landscape from my hand-dyed fabrics and machine quilting. I love the shape of this structure so much - the wonky, off kilter shape and that gorgeous diagonal line.


de-fen-es-tra-tion (de fen/i stra/shen), n. the act of throwing a person or thing out of a window: the defenestration of the commissioners at Prague. [DE- + L fenestr(a) a window + -ATION].

Defenestration is one of those words that just sounds interesting to me. Really, that's the reason I chose this interpretation of "Window." I like the word. Well, I like Prague too, and the word pretty much always refers to events in Prague in the 17th Century. 

Google defenestration and you will most likely find this engraving:

(via Wikipedia)

With this engraving as my inspiration, I opted not to try to reproduce it or anything period. But, I did want to reference it. So, I concentrated on the bull's eye glass windows. This was a great opportunity to try painting OVER my quilting. The technique was easy enough, but getting the right combination of colors proved more difficult. My first try was a dark brown over brick-ish fabric. Nice, but not very window like. My second try was bottle green over a milifiore-like brown fabric. It looked more like glass, but the bull's eye pattern was completely lost. So, I completed the quilt with the first fabric. However, once done, the brick-like fabric, warm yellow window and the arch shaped quilt looked less window and more furnace. I ended up with a scribbly looking brown and yellow fabric that gave both the dark needed for the window lead and a nice glow, painted a glowing yellow over it and ditched the furnace shape for the quilt itself. As a yellow window wouldn't work with a yellow quilt, I went for blue. It looks a little like the figure is falling into the building but not enough to make me change it, as i've pretty much run out of appropriate fabrics!


It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Swedish researchers* have even found that iris patterns may give important clues about our personality, ranging from how warm and trusting we are to whether we are impulsive or neurotic. If this is true, then biometric data collected from iris recognition systems could potentially be used to generate personality profiles which is kind of spooky.

All I know is that, in the late stages of this challenge, I had occasion to visit my optometrist to remove the remains of a torn contact lense that was stuck under my eyelid. While I was there, the optometrist shone a bright light into my eyes and took some photos. The magnified images of the iris and blood vessels obviously made a big impression on me. Later I was looking through the painted backgrounds I had made for rose window quilts with new eyes and was compelled to make this quilt even though I had already completed two other window themed pieces that I will display on my blog.
Introspection © 2009 Brenda Gael Smith
Introspection © 2009 Brenda Gael Smith

*See Associations between iris characteristics and personality in adulthood by Mats Larsen and others in Science Direct.

Day Dreaming

Okay, I'm a homebody. I'm a stay-at-home mom. I homeschool. I'm a housewife. I spend most of my time at home. So I spend my time looking out the windows--admiring the awesome mountains, appreciating the beautiful flowers, or just day dreaming about adventure. So naturally when I think of windows I get a little lost in my thoughts. For this quilt, I wanted to capture the chaos and craziness of my house full of kids and the quiet, peaceful place I can go when I'm gazing out the window. For the background I used dyed wool felt. I then added colorful ribbons. The window frame is made from fabric paper and the panes are thin sheets of mica. The paint texture and wavy surface of the mica capture the look of an old window. (Which of course my husband would say needs to be refinished, but I love.)

My one little window quilt quickly turned into a series. I experimented with using hand dyed shears for the window panes. I also added beads for a little extra sparkle or maybe just to capture the look of all the rain that has been dripping down our windows.

I also couldn't help trying different color combinations of windows. Each provides a different feel to the view outside or the mood of the viewer.

Window of Opportunity

They say that "timing is everything" in life. Knowing when the time is right is one thing, recognizing a brief period where everything could come together quite perfectly is another. And then leaping through that "window of opportunity"—buying the house before the interest rates jump, crossing the street before the big trucks bear down on you, saying "I love you" before the train pulls away and the opportunity is lost forever—could change the course of your life.
When the theme was announced I knew that I wanted to use the theme of windows in the metaphoric sense. Windows, as a source of light, especially sunlight, are such great symbols for opportunity and hope. There is a phrase that goes, "when God closes a door, He opens a window." Those windows of opportunity keep us going through the hardest times.
I have been making 2" blocks from scraps for a couple of years and just recently started putting them together in quilts. This piece is the third such combination of my little blocks. I felt the black background needed some texture, so I did a lot of hand stitching, which I hope is visible in the photo. It does add a lot to the piece, but honestly, it was a pain to do.