Big announcement! Guess what?! I’m having my own special exhibit in at the Houston International Quilt Festival from October 29 through November 6th!! This is very exciting for me (did you notice?) as this will be the first showing, the first (but not final) incarnation, of a collection of work I am calling “Specimens.” My hope is that this becomes a traveling show that grows and shifts through the years, just like I do.

Why “Specimens”? Here’s part of the write up for the Houston application:

When scientists collect species for examination or classification they are called “specimens.” For the past 20 years I have been collecting specimens of my own in my own way. I tend toward the endangered, the unfamiliar, even the extinct—the animals balancing on or tipping over the borders of existence. For existence is not guaranteed. In fact, for we humans it is decidedly a choice, not only for ourselves, but for a myriad of fellow earth inhabitants.

The show will include ten of my biggest and most relevant work, including:

Plus one.

Since I love to give myself challenges and deadlines, I am also creating a new quilt to premier in Houston. Besides, I want to make good use of my studio time this summer, and my husband needed something else to stress about. Deep breath, dear.

Actually, this is Tom’s fault. Last year, as we were writing my post, “Sort It Out: Organizing Fabric”, he noted just how many old suitcases I had stuffed with fabric scraps (the ones I admitted to at least). And then he remarked how it had been a long time since I had made a quilt using fabric scraps. He was right. Samuelsaurus Rex, my beetle and butterfly series, and various fish (specifically my bettas, goldfish, and trout) had been constructed solely with scraps, but I had slipped back into the lure of all those luscious fabrics just waiting to be purchased and collected for a specific project. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just a different approach to the collage aspect.

So, that put the scrappy idea back in my head.

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Four suitcases opened and ready for the picking.

Then, earlier this year, National Geographic published an interesting article about vultures written by Elizabeth Royte and photographed by Charlie Hamilton James. And it clicked in my head to make a quilt of this scrap eating creature out of my fabric scraps.

Fast forward a few months and I’ve been offered the use of vulture photos from a friend (nature, landscape, and portrait photographer Joel Davidson). Perfect. I described to Joel what I was looking for–an amazingly ugly head and neck with an open wing, though not necessarily a full wing spread (I don’t feel the need for another huge quilt—a la Stevie the Croc—just yet). Joel sent me a couple more vulture shots, and also some marabou stork images. These were stop-motion like with multiple wing views. I was drawn to his stork images, though I was not familiar with the bird at all.

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Before any work was to be done, I had a play date to attend to. No argument was to be had.
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Djinni gives her opinion on image choice. Note thumbnail sketches. By tracing an image onto tracing paper, I can pick and choose the stork parts I want (head, wing, legs, tail) all from different poses. The sequence photos from Joel Davidson were perfect for this.

As Joel mentioned to me, marabou storks fit the bill of being quite ugly—among the “World’s 13 Ugliest Creatures”, as I found out from the internet. Like vultures, marabou storks eat carrion and other “scraps”, so it fit that bill too. I did a couple thumbnail sketches of each to see which appealed most to me. It was a dilemma. But then while doing some internet research, I came across a photo of a flock of marabou storks in unusual colors. Yellows, oranges, and reds—oh my! Color… that pretty much cinched it. Not that I need permission to make an animal in wild colors, but it stimulated my imagination at the right time.

So finally I have a new quilt to work on! A Marabou stork, otherwise unnamed at this point.

However, I did come up with a future vulture quilt idea that I could get excited about. Maybe next year.

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Nothing like staring at a blank canvas. Getting started is one of the hardest parts. It was amazing how many distractions I came up with on this particular day. But then Stevie the Croc reminds me that she started out like this too.
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Finally I picked up the pencil and started moving it across the piece of flannel. It didn’t take long to see I was going to have to glue other pieces of flannel to either side of this one.

When I teach a class, and someone is making a design from their photo, I have them make a tracing and then enlarge the line drawing to full size, slipping it under the foundation fabric to then re-trace, giving them a guide to follow. For myself, I sometimes do that, and sometimes I just draw it directly onto the foundation fabric, like I did this time.

When I free-hand sketch a design, I start with a pencil. When I’ve changed the line so many times it’s confusing, I then make a more definitive line with a colored pencil or marker. If I keep making changes and it again becomes confusing, I’ll switch to yet another color of pencil or marker to keep it clear which one I want to follow.

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A little extra foundation fabric and a few design adjustments and it’s enough of a guide to get started. I’m happy with the pose and the relationship of one body part to another. Minor adjustments and the legs and feet can happen as I progress.
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Using the foundation fabric as a cheat sheet, indicating basic color ideas.
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Both Djinni and I start pawing through my fabric scraps.
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I started pulling out yellow, peach, orange, and red-orange scraps. They’re kinda wrinkled.
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A quick spritz with a water bottle and they start smoothing out all on their own—no iron required. A little trick I discovered while trying to keep my helpful kitty cat from launching onto my design board. I tend to keep the bottle filled and handy.
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Now the fun starts. I pick up one piece after the other, laying them in place as they are, just a quick snip here or there. It’s serendipity at it’s best. I group color and value together to create a larger cohesive area.
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I knew I wanted to work the peachy-oranges into yellows as his neck progressed down. I match the shapes to the outside edges of the drawn shape, but do not trim to that outside line yet.
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Using up those bits of fabric I initially pulled out, letting the muse take over, it moved along pretty quick.
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Nothing is glued yet, so time to pin the heck out of it before Djinni cat takes a flying leap at my board, telling me it’s time to play again.
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Stork or hedgehog. Up close it’s a toss-up. Time to break for the day, start gluing tomorrow.
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Keeping me company, studio visitors, Felix and Kali.

And so it begins. Stayed tuned for future progress reports!

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