Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dyeing for Passion

Here are the results from my dyeing session last week. Now to work out what to do with it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Hmm. One of these things does not look like the other. Back to the drawing board...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Passionate Word Play

For the last week, I have been sharing a joy for quiltmaking with other creators and enthusiasts at the Sydney Quilt Show. Now it's time to start thinking about the next challenge theme - Passion.
  1. A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
    1. Ardent love.
    2. Strong sexual desire; lust.
    3. The object of such love or desire.
    1. Boundless enthusiasm: His skills as a player don't quite match his passion for the game.
    2. The object of such enthusiasm: Soccer is her passion.
  2. An abandoned display of emotion, especially of anger: He's been known to fly into a passion without warning.
  3. Passion
    1. The sufferings of Jesus in the period following the Last Supper and including the Crucifixion, as related in the New Testament.
    2. A narrative, musical setting, or pictorial representation of Jesus's sufferings.
  4. Archaic. Martyrdom.
  5. Archaic. Passivity.
Synonyms include:
  • strong emotion - affection, affectivity, agony, anger, animation, ardor, dedication, devotion, distress, dolor, eagerness, ecstasy, excitement, feeling, fervor, fire, fit, flare-up, frenzy, fury, heat, hurrah, indignation, intensity, ire, joy, misery, outbreak, outburst, paroxysm, rage, rapture, resentment, sentiment, spirit, storm, suffering, temper, transport, vehemence, warmth, wrath, zeal, zest
  • adoration, love - affection, amorousness, amour, appetite, ardor, attachment, concupiscence, craving, crush, desire, emoting, eroticism, excitement, fondness, infatuation, keenness, lust, prurience, urge, weakness, yen
  • strong interest - craving, craze, drive, enthusiasm, fad, fancy, fascination, idol, infatuation, mania, obsession
  • powerful, intense emotion - ardor, fervency, fervor, fire
I can see that I may have to dye some more reds and oranges...

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Since moving to Hawai'i, the word passion makes me think of this:

Lilikoi is the Hawaiian word for passion fruit (apparently named for the first place where it was planted (it's an introduced plant). Passion fruit juices, jellies, teas, and more. It's possible that research for this theme could be as tasty as it was for our chocolate theme. There's apparently a lot of passion here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Twelve by Twelve Website Update

The latest website update is complete:

Not only can you see all of our identity-themed art quilts, but look at how the individual artist galleries are shaping up too. Don't forget to come back and leave a comment on the blog!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The man from Afghanistan

People keep asking me what happened to the man who inspired my quilt so I thought I'd so a public response... only the answer is that I don't know! I didn't do all of his case, just sat in on the interview as agents for his solicitors who were elsewhere in the country so I never got to the end of the story. Sorry folks. I can tell you though that he didn't know the telephone code for Kabul because he didn't have a telephone or any need to ring Kabul.

I would not be surprised however if he was refused and had to go through the appeal stage. At the time I also acted for the Home Office in these cases and was dealing with an appeal where an MDC activist had left Zimbabwe and claimed asylum immediately she was through immigration having told the immigration officer, quite truthfully that she had been invited to a wedding. Despite the clear danger MDC activists were in at the time, she was refused and I had to put the Home Office case. Which would have been fine save the main reasons she was refused is that when she was searched she did not have with her a pair of shoes the staff deemed suitable for a wedding ( she agreed saying she was going to buy here) and also had a note in her bag about plumbers in Harare. I was instructed to say that this (old crumpled note) indicated she was not in fear because she was planning house renovation. I did my duty in putting this argument but decided not to press the matter when the immigration Judge said,
"Miss Conway, there is all kinds of rubbish at the bottom of my handbag. How about yours?"


A little later the Home Secretary John Reid declared the Home Office "Unfit for purpose"

Monday, June 1, 2009

And the winner is...

Have you been wondering what's next?! Me too!
I have agonised over the choice of this theme. At the beginning of our journey together I imagined that I would choose a quote of some kind. Something pithy and clever and obscure that made me appear learned and well-read. But everyone else has provided one word and so now I feel some need to follow suit.

I decided a few weeks ago that my theme would be an abstract. I finally narrowed it to three. I won't tell you the other two, in case we end up doing one of those next time!

The one that I have chosen is Passion.

Go to it, chickadees! This should be a fun ride!

Scrambled Identity

Can you guess which Twelve made each of the following identity quilts? Read on and do leave a comment!

Face Value

This subject of Identity has hit a nerve with me. I suspect that I am currently experiencing a mid-life Identity Crisis. Or is it just another of those Identity Reassessments that I seem to experience from time to time? Either way, my quilt has inspired more questions in me than answers...

The original idea was to convey various "identities" by using textiles that conjure immediate images. It looked crap. Really, really crap. The only one I liked was the suit, shirt and tie. I liked that a lot. So I made more. And a few others.

When we first meet a person, we make immediate judgments about who they are based on their appearance.

Why do we trust a man in a suit? (DO we trust a man in a suit?!)Is it safer to trust an old lady than a soldier?

Is choosing a tie the only way a man in a suit can express his individuality?

Is a man in a uniform more or less trustworthy/authoritative than a man in a suit?

Is the Australian soldier more to be trusted than soldier of another country?

Why do most of us feel a need to acquiesce to conventions of 'good taste'?

Is adopting a uniform of jeans and safety pins any different from adopting a uniform of a suit?

How strongly do you identify with your country's flag?

At what point did the Australian psyche shift from allegiance to England to allegiance to Australia? Some Australians haven't. Is that why we aren't yet a Republic?

Shouldn't we always question judgments made at face value?

Will I ever work out who I am?

Latent Color

Well, after all of the talk about fingerprints, you'll not be surprised to see this. For the idea of "identity," I fiddled with a lot of different ideas -- identity documents, the aspects of our lives that help define who we are ... but I kept returning to the fingerprint. I liked the simple graphic aspect of doing it large, and I knew I'd have fun doing a reverse applique technique with it.

So, that's what I did. I layered a piece of multicolored, hand-dyed fabic over a piece of white cotton (I figured my hand-dyed fabric incorporated another aspect of my own identity), then I layered those over the batting and backing. I placed a drawing of a fingerprint on top, and sewed through all layers.

I love the cut-away part of reverse applique -- it's fussy work, but it's a good tv-listening chore, AND I love how the picture emerges. I finished this with a pillowcase finish.

I've called it Latent Color. We're all familiar with the phrase "latent fingerprints" (which describes how fingerprints are left behind invisibly everywhere) and I decided that love of color is a big piece of my identity.

Brenda, I was dismayed but loved to find those Barbara Watler quilts. Dismayed because her set of "painters prints" used this very same idea, with a multicolored print, even -- but I really enjoyed her quilts and hadn't seen them before. So thanks for posting them! I was glad I'd finished mine by then, or that would have thrown me into a "what do I do now?" tizzy!

Weaving new threads

I became a grandmother just a few weeks ago, and I am absolutely delighted about this new identity!
I chose a picture of me holding the brand-new baby, and I did a simple line drawing from it. I then screenprinted the drawing on fabric. 
Of course, there had to be a heart somewhere on my quilt. Then, a list of things I would like to share some day with this little being (there was not enough space on the piece of fabric for the whole list...). 
I thought adding a few beads here and there was very appropriate for a little girl.
I chose almost the same colour scheme for this quilt as for my previous 12x12 quilt... Did you say "Identity"?
There will be more pictures on my blog a little later today.

Simply ME

My identity has always been a bit of a struggle. I've never quite fit into any of the categories. I failed the personality tests. When given two words to describe myself I always answered both. Finally, I took a Facebook quiz that summed up my identity struggle -- "Walking Contradiction!" Perfect! I finally know who I am and can embrace the craziness. I can be the mathematical artist, the feminist who willingly submits to her husband, the homeschooling mom who hates teaching, the logical dreamer. There is nothing wrong with embracing the whole spectrum and no need to simplify myself.

For my quilt, I explored all the words I could use to describe myself. Often I used opposites like both happy and sad, perfect and imperfect, trapped and free. Each of these, I printed on a paint rag and tore apart. I then free motion stitched them onto dyed felt. I used irregular stitches and left the threads hanging to emphasise the messiness of life. I then added ME with sheer fabric and beaded around the letters. The backing is hand dyed and torn to size to frame the piece like life, with rough edges.

Unlike my typical photography, I took the photo out in the bright sun. The harsh light signifies the way the world looks at someone. Often one can feel the spotlight, even if only in one's perceptions.

I found this quilt to be a very educational experience. I'm not sure if it is the change in weather from dreary cold and wet to summer like that has happened over the last few weeks, but I feel much more at peace with myself after making this quilt and exploring the theme. Thanks Helen for pushing me in a direction I needed to go.

What is the telephone code for Kabul?

Sometime ago I practiced immigration law. One of my roles was to sit in on interviews with asylum seekers as the Home Office representative, through an interpreter questioned them about the stories they had given in their initial applications for political asylum.
I remember well one man, a small, weather beaten man with hands wrinkled from hard manual work who claimed to be a hill-farming Pashtun from a remote village in Afghanistan. His story related to fear of persecution from the Taliban. The problem was that his tribal area spans the border with Pakistan and the Home Office were suspicious that he was actually an economic migrant just pretending to be Afghan and trying to take advantage of a political situation.

So how do you establish the true identity of such a man in those circumstances? On that day the fresh faced twenty-something civil servant tapped his pen on the desk, leaned forward and, somewhat smugly asked,
"What is the telephone code for Kabul?"

Supposedly this was something every Afghan and no rehearsed Pakistani would know. Unless of course this Afghan lived in a village with no electricity and had never used a telephone.
So, when I began to think about this theme I started with the thought that part of our identity is about where we live and also about what we know about where we live. I also thought about how you prove your identity - here we show bank statements, utility bills and so on, but how do you become identified in a community where none of that matters? I imagine it is much more about kinship and individual characteristics.

So, my quilt features photocopied pages from my journal - a documents which details my more private identity - rolled up and encased in an outer shell of my public identity documents - photocopies of sections of bank and credit card statements etc. They are painted with Stewart Gill Byzantium paints - mostly because they are pretty and I wanted to play with them but also because they were bought for me by my husband but chosen and ordered by my Best Quilting Buddy -and so represent the kinship element of identity. I then signed them.

The resulting beads are distributed between segments of strips taken from a street map of the area I live in. Woven around the beads is a fabric strip printed with phone codes for significant places and people in my life.

The quilt itself is about law, travel and textile art - three activities which themselves form a large part of my self-identity

Oh and by the way, if you call someone in Kabul the number will start with 93 and then one of the numbers fron 20 - 24.

Pop Art Identity

I guess you already know that I chose my fingerprint for my identity — actually, my thumb print. I had not seen other fingerprint quilts until I had finished mine. I became very intrigued by the patterns created by my thumbprint as I zoomed in closer and closer. I noticed that I had a scar which has altered my finger print. I reversed the thumbprint for two of the blocks because I like the additional patterning that was created by the juxtaposition of the reverse images. I hand-dyed fabric for this, and I tried to get the complements which would give it that pop art feel.

Here is a detail.

Here is my initial finger print using a stamp pad and my thumb.

I selected the least smudged version which I played with in Photoshop.

I then zoomed in on the center of my thumbprint where the whorl is and created a stamp in the filters. I printed the pattern on Wonder Under which I fused to the upper fabric, and then I cut out the black pattern areas and fused the two colors.

I don't have an interesting story about my identity quilt. For me, it was more about the process of getting the thumbprint on fabric. This was a bit fussy to create, but I loved doing it. The machine stitching was easier than I thought it would be but I had to buy matching thread so that I would not interfere with the simple pattern created by the two colors.

Perceived Identity

Well, I opened my big mouth and shared my process and grand plans, and then fell flat on my face. I tried to say too much in this quilt and I think went too literal.

I liked the theme Identity. I definitely have issues with my own, so I jumped in eagerly. I am a white, middle class, stay at home mom, married to an Army officer. I have found over the years that many of the people I meet on a day to day basis have made certain assumptions about me based on this, and their own experiences (we all do it). Funny thing is, those assumptions are usually wrong.

So, am I a hawkish republican, devoted Christian, who went to college to get her Mrs. and become a mommy?

"Who's Identity is it Anyway?"

Lifting the layers of assumptions, one would find that no, I prefer diplomacy and a focus on domestic affairs. I vote Democratic with leanings toward the Green.

I stay at home with my kids because we are financially able, and I never did find a job in the American community in Germany (where we lived for 12 years) that was worth paying for child care for.

I married a man more than three years my junior so I'm older and have had more world and work experience than most of my peers married to officers of the same rank as my husband (the 1965 in little circles on the base layer is my birth year). I am not defined by his rank, job title, or social security number (as much as the Army tries to define me as such).

And I'm an Atheist in the pervasively Evangelical Christian military community.

That said, I don't like how my quilt turned out. It was too much. My real identity versus my perceived identity is something to talk about over weekly coffees on the lanai or while watching the kids play at the park. It's part of getting to know someone. It's not something to be conveyed in one 12x12 piece of fabric.

So, I decided to focus one just one aspect of my identity.

"Sponsor's Social"

In the army, I am known only by my sponsor's social security number. Everything I do is in the context of me being attached to him. I loved the idea of "Hello my Name is..." and pulled out the old shirt front concept again. But, my man refused to let me publish his actual number, so the one you see is totally fabricated -- which defeats the purpose of my identity being defined by him.

So, in the end, I'm not happy with either of these solutions.

Lost & Found at Fromelles

For this challenge, I eschewed both the biographical and the biological. In the spirit of exploration, I tried out some different techniques and, ironically given the theme, the result has been described by at least one person as "very un-Brenda". I'm curious to know your comments!

As a dual citizen of New Zealand and Australia, with strong familial ties to the United States, I am interested in notions of national identity in the era of globalisation and and this was my starting point. With Anzac Day falling mid-way during the challenge period, it was natural that I was drawn to this as a possible subject. Anzac Day marks the first first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War and the Gallipoli campaign is often cited as where each country forged a national consciousness distinct from "mother England". I was mulling over how I to convey such notions in a quilt* when I came across another compelling World War I news story with identity at its core - Lost and Found at Fromelles.

In early May 2009, a team of archaeologists and forensic anthropologists commenced the exhumation of up to 400 World War I soldiers buried in a mass grave beside Pheasant Wood near the French village of Fromelles. The pits are believed to contain the remains of British and Australian soldiers buried behind German lines after the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916. The ambitious project to identify the men, and re-inter them in a new military cemetery, is being overseen by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission which is seeking the registration of affected families to provideDNA samples to establish a genetic profile and data for the men.

The Battle of Fromelles has been described as the worst 24 hours in Australian military history with 5533 casualties recorded including 1780 dead. The Commission estimates that more than 165,000 Commonwealth soldiers killed on the Western Front remain missing. Fast forward to the 21st century and Australian soldiers continue to serve in conflicts beyond our shores. These days, the bodies of dead soldiers are typically repatriated although, in a distressing case of mistaken identity and Jacob Kovco, this process can take two tries. But that is another story.

In terms of techniques, Lost & Found was created with painted fusible webbing, free-motion quilting and embellishments. The striking image of a white gloved hand holding the fragment of a soldier's uniform from Fromelles, prompted some rummaging around in my button jar for suitable embellishment items. Then I found some rusty bottlecaps on my morning walk that seem even more appropriate.

* I was aware of the painting by Euan McLeod that won the 2009 Gallipoli Art Prize. Then, as I prepared this blog post, for the first time I visited the Gallipoli Art Prize website which features some other very interesting artworks. I think you would agree that the very last painting, Lest we Forget by Vilma Bader, would sit easily alongside many contemporary textile works.


Gender is the most basic factor governing our identity. Traditionally, females have be characterized as the weaker sex, that is soft, emotional, and ultimately the homebody. None of these attributes are in themselves bad, except when used together to blanket an entire class of people or gender. We as women all know that most of us are also strong, determined, self reliant, and many of us choose to be career women. Yet the truth lies in the fact that each of us are a bit of all of the above.

I've written the female/male symbols a thousand times on patients charts, but I've never really thought about the preconceived perceptions society assigns to that most basic symbol. We are in the end just human beings, with our own set of characteristics and our own identities.

This piece was made using reverse raw-edged applique, painted symbol and hand stitching.

I am more

Just after the theme of identity was announced I had my fingerprints taken for a job I applied for with the Federal Government. I was surprised to discover that I had no idea what my own fingerprints looked like before this and I found them really quite fascinating and beautiful with their swirls and reverses. It struck me that my fingerprints would identify me, positively, and would represent, in some government file, my identity, even though I would not, myself, recognize them.

Identity is so complicated. I certainly do not feel that I can clearly define my own identity, and most certainly my fingerprint does not begin to say who I am. Enlarged, my fingerprint is like a maze seen from above, with deadends and switchbacks, paths to a center, but not a clear path. Some things are revealed, some are hidden. Look closely along those paths and you may be able to read these words:
"I am more than my fingerprints. My DNA is only part of my identity.
I am not my eye color, my height, my weight, my social security number or
the date of my birth.
I am not my secret password or my mother's maiden name.
I am a daughter. I am a mother.
I am the places I have lived, the people I have loved.
I am memory, I am sorrow, I am joy.
I am the sum of my parts. I am more."


This theme was very challenging for me and I faced many of the same challenges I faced in the past. Evidently, I still have not learned to solve those problems efficiently. But, I pleased with the result. Here is "Palm."
When I first considered the theme, I knew I wanted to explore my own personal identity, but not delve too deep, because I just don't think it's really possible to encompass the many facets of my true identity in a small art quilt. Not to mention the fact that I'm still working on figuring it all out for myself.

So, I began with my name. Brenda posted a full list of all the "twelves" names and their meanings during our identity preparation. As she mentioned, Deborah was judge and prophetess in the book of Judges.

This little plaque hung on the wall in my bedroom when I was a little girl. Now, it hangs in my studio.
I reread Judges 4 and began to pull phrases out of the scripture that resonated with me.

Deborah "held court under the palm" (Judges 4:5). Perfect, I love tree imagery. I can use that. (When I began cutting fabric, I changed the palm tree to more a berry stalk.)

Sisera will be "delivered into your hands" (Judges 4:7). Good, I can use the hand as a symbol. Plus, it fits nicely with the "identity" theme.

There is also talk about the "hill country" and "tents" in the text. (See the hills and tens on the little plaque?)

I began with those somewhat disconnected images. Not surprisingly, I chose words that represented symbols that I use regularly in my art: plants, landscapes, houses. For me they represent growth, journey and home. The hand could represent creativity... creating art, creating a family.

As I worked on the composition, I hit a snag. As the piece developed, I struggled with whether particular elements still represented identity or did they just fit the composition for the sake of design. Ultimately, I decided to take identity as the starting point, but chose not to make every single color, stitch, shape and layer symbolic. I chose bits because they fit and I liked them.
I originally thought I wanted to put something in the palm of the hand shape. I blogged about it and got tons of wonderful suggestions. Ultimately, I added that larger leaf to lead the eye just a bit, but I decided not to put a specific symbol in the hand. Everything seemed too contrived, obvious or distracting.

I finished the quilt a couple of days ago, but I'm just giving it a title today. It never occurred to me until just now that I used both a "palm tree" and the palm of a hand, so that's why I titled it "Palm." My own personal identity has many double meanings.

And just for kicks, I used a bumble bee fabric for the backing, since Deborah also means "bee."

Identity X 9

When I pondered the theme of identity, I first thought of an ID card, such as a driver’s license--a little piece of plastic-coated information that describes some basic information about oneself.

But what really identifies me? I thought about this and started jotting notes about my identity. Who I am. What I do. The roles I play.

I came up with a list of nine distinguishing labels that I could give myself at this point in my life. Of course there could be many, many more, but these nine were the most prevalent. And of course, over the course of my life, these labels have changed and will continue to change.

The nine labels of identity I identified are: daughter, wife, mother, sister, cook (because I do that more often than I’d prefer), artist, quilter, teacher, and friend. Now I realize that artist and quilter probably could be one in the same, but I do other types of art besides quilting, so that was my justification for having them separate.

The idea I interpreted for my quilt was that sometimes these labels of identity can be singled out during specific times of the day, and sometimes they can all be jumbled and I am many of these things all at once. Therefore, resulting in a sort of colorful and crazy look. I utilized the alphabet stitch feature of my sewing machine and stitched these nine label names on the “crazily sticking straight out of my head” strands of hair. They were stitched in a matching thread, therefore are difficult to read--just as it may be difficult to sometimes determine which identity role I am portraying at any given moment.