Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Nine Years Later, a Quilt Happens

A joint post with my long-abandoned quilt blog.

Hey, I finished something!  Mostly!

This is, for better or worse, a quilt with an idea behind it.  But before I tell you about that, take a look at the picture.  What do you think of it?

The Story:  Once upon a Christmas my oldest sister gave me a set of green-brown fabrics that I immediately realized I wanted to use as a background for something.  In late 2007, I asked readers of my blog to comment on a range of simple symbols I had found or suggest new ones, because I was looking for "one single very bold symbol on a relatively neutral background."

Then, nothing happened for a year.

Then, there was a flurry of action!  Over three days, I polled blog readers again as I presented a basic shape, then twisted and turned and pinched and elaborated and deformed it, partially in accordance with their suggestions, and always trying to move it away from any obvious or known cultural associations.  I called this process "Democratically Aided Design."  It was fun.  A couple of weeks later, I announced that I had finalized my symbol, also deciding on the spot that it had no "right side up."  Six weeks after that, I had put together the background, and I asked folks what they thought about colors for the foreground.

And after that, I don't remember much!  There's a series of photos from no later than October 2013, but probably earlier, that show me how I scribed the symbol onto paper at the appropriate size, cut it out from the fabric, and then appliqued it onto the background.

Then at some point I must have backed it, batted it, quilted it, and bound it, because when I started pawing through my quilt stuff a few months ago, there it was.  I had basically finished it, put off the boring bit of putting on a hanging sleeve, and forgot about it.  Because I'm an idiot.

The Idea: In my defense, the boring business of putting a sleeve on this quilt is quadrupled, because it needs to be able to be hung with any side up.  And that's because this quilt doesn't really display a symbol so much as it is "about" the nature of symbols.  When our brains see a simple or moderately complex graphic device, we automatically try to interpret it.  If you want to get all fancy and intellectual at this point, you can talk about the arbitrariness of the sign, but it's not required.

"What does it mean?" is usually the question people ask about the symbol.  Was that what you thought?  People will ask, even if I've just explained how it was designed.  Over the years, I've received a healthy handful of emails from strangers asking if they could use the design for jewelry for their sweethearts or tattoos to get together with their sister or friend, which is kind of interesting because -- not to belabor the point -- it doesn't mean anything.

And, this is somehow important, it means nothing no matter which side is up.  So ultimately, it needs four hanging sleeves, which are very boring to sew on.  I've put on two so far, so I figure that's enough to call it "done."

The Specs

Title: "Symbol"
Serial Number: 78

Dimensions: 64" x 64"
Batting: Presumably commercial batting.
Backing: Green flannel.
Quilting: Machine quilting, some following the applique and some in concentric squares.

Begun: Actual work started October 2008
Finished: Hung for the first time July 2016

Intended Use/Display: Wall hanging.

Provenance: This one's a keeper.


Nichim said...

Looks great. In the orientation you have shown it appears to be a fantastical creature that has just pooped and is about to jump.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

That's some mighty fine quilting, Mr. 5000!! And now you got your own symbol, like our dearly departed Prince.

Maybe you can wear it like a quilt cape!

For real though, you got mad quilt skills. I wish I was crafty. All I can do is rap "Crafty" by The Beastie Boys.