29 November 2010

New Work (Sort of): “Fresh Magnolias”

Since it was not accepted into “No Holds Barred”, I guess it’s okay to share some pictures of Fresh Magnolias.  There is a story behind this one, but I’ll start from the end and show you the finished piece, actual size 17 x 27.

FreshMagnoliasBLOG(full view)


On the weekend of October 16-17, 2010 I attended a fantastic artist retreat with 8 fellow members of Fiber Revolution. We shared stories and ideas and brainstormed about how to make our work better.

One Fiber Rev inspired me to take a new look at my “old” quilts. She had taken an old quilt from home; one that she was not happy with; and proceeded to cut the binding right off. Then she took the whole thing apart, separating the top from the batting & back. From there she CUT the top into sections, using it as sort of a printed fabric rather than a quilt top. Amazing. When I saw her doing this I blurted out something like "Oh my God WHAT are you DOING??" But she calmly explained that this quilt was never going to be displayed and never given to anyone because she did not feel it represented her best work. It needed to be re-purposed.

When I got home, I realized that I have one of those quilts (Magnolias, circa 2007).  I hadn’t displayed it in my house for several years, just moved it around storage areas. I should have seen the red flag – if I don’t want it hanging on my walls, who will?   It didn’t help matters that there was some kind of light brown dot in the middle of it which could be something like a coffee stain.  I have no idea how that got there but apparently I have not been taking care of this quilt very well.

Magnolias2007SMformatBut I couldn’t get rid of it because it was my first photo-inspired art quilt. Plus I painted all those magnolia flowers myself, turned the edges, appliquéd them… it was a lot of work!

Unfortunately after all that labor I added a way-too-saturated magenta border.  I wanted the flowers to look delicate and breezy but instead they just looked weak.  Blechhh.  

And the buds always reminded me of Christmas tree light bulbs. Sheeesh.   

I’ll admit I was scared of “wasting” all the time, effort and fabric it took to make the first one.  But in reality, if you do nothing but keep a quilt folded in a storage area, it’s already wasted work.  Why not change it?  It’s not going anywhere.

I knew I could make the whole thing again if I REALLY wanted to – hand painted flowers, big border and all.  So in the end there was nothing to lose.

Inspired by Deb’s daring act of cutting up her quilt at the retreat, I took a rotary cutter and removed the whole border area. Better!! But it was still kind of “ehh”. There was a lot of dead weight in the composition.

So I trimmed it further, getting rid of the light bulby buds, tightening up the scene and giving those magnolias a nice place to live. Okay now we’re getting somewhere!

Magnolias2007_detail1 But still one thing remained that bothered me about the original: the lack of quilting within the flowers. I didn’t want to cover up all my hand-painting! But the truth was staring me in the face. I wanted more thread & quilting to give it some muscle. Another Fiber Rev’s voice rang in my ears “Don’t be so precious with your work that you can’t change it.”

So I merrily quilted the thing within an inch of its life... and a smaller yet much stronger piece emerged! The new one has the light, falling effect I wanted in the first place.  But the flowers are not taking a back seat to the background or the border. 

I liked it so much I entered it into “SAQA: No Holds Barred”.  But you know how the story ends, and it didn’t make it in to that show.

No worries.  It looks great hanging in my studio.


  1. Hi, Kate.....I love what you've done with this piece. It's just wonderful, the cropping, the quilting, the vertical dimension. I'm just learning that with persistence good gets better, as you've demonstrated:)


  2. Persevere! It's a wonderful piece. I think the advice about not being too precious is good...I'm going to have to try to remember this. I should post my No Holds reject too....I see I'm in very inspiring company.

  3. I love how you converted this piece! It's a beauty.

  4. I have a couple of pieces that I have been thinking about re-purposing, You have inspired me. Thanks, and I think that your magnolia is beautiful.

  5. Love the new piece that emerged! I'm a beadwork artist which makes it hard to take out the stitches but you inspired me. I have one purse that has alway bugged me and I'm going to rip it apart! Thanks.


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