I am happy to finally be able to share this quilt, “Selfie: a portrait of the artist as her stash.” It was made for, and has been accepted into, the Dinner@8 Artist’s 2014 exhibit “Reflection.” The exhibit is an annual one that shows at the Festival of quilts in Houston and is curated by Leslie Jennison and Jamie Fingal.
I began this project not really knowing if it would work. I have several other things in the works that I didn’t want to take time away from unless it was for a good cause, and I just didn’t know if I could pull this off. But, I liked the idea of playing off the popularity of a Selfie as a modern self portrait, and the idea of my peculiar fabric stash being a reflection of myself. I shared a few peeks early in the process on Facebook, but here’s how it all came together.
I took a lot of photos of myself (with my phone, of course), in the car, in the mirror, with the phone turned toward me… Duck lips were mandatory.
Next, I cropped the best photos and tried several degrees of pixellation in Adobe Photoshop. I ran these by my trusted friends who helped me decide which was most easily recognizable as a selfie. The photo on the left won, but those squares represent 2″ blocks which were definitely too big. Even 1″ squares on the right were too big for the facial details.
Once committed to the project, I spent four days cutting strips from each fabric in my stash and sorting them by value. I’ve been contemplating making a scrappy Trip Around The World quilt with my whole stash, so I cut with that secondary project in mind (no, I haven’t gotten to it yet).
I took lots of photos with my phone along the way, turning them black and white to check my accuracy. I put the strips in bags marked with corresponding value numbers to keep everything sorted and tidy.
What makes this portrait special is that I’m a fabric omnivore. The concept wouldn’t be the same in all solids, batiks, or natural colored hand dyes. I had to cross my fingers and hope that it would still read as a portrait even if the fabrics were this wacky combination of hand dyes, reproduction prints, novelty prints, florals, Kaffe Fasset favorites, and whatever else that makes up my stash.
My road map was a grid I made in Adobe Illustrator. I decided to use 1/2″ squares for the facial details, 1′ squares for most of the quilt, and 2″ squares for the distorted foreground area and flat background. I assigned a value to each pixel in my photo which would correspond to a bag of strips of the same value. Initially I thought I could pick one strip randomly from the appropriate bag and make this a kind of charm quilt as well. As it turned out, once I got going, it helped to use warm and cool colors strategically, keeping generally to green eyes, red lips, brown hair, and so on. And, while large, my stash isn’t large enough, so I had to use many fabrics several times.
And here it is as I built the face. I had a grid on my design board, but I didn’t include seam allowances, which rendered it pretty useless.
I chose to quilt the piece very simply as I wanted all the pixels to have equal importance. I didn’t want to try any overworked thread painting or end up with a nose that stuck out. This is all about the fabric.
I am so pleased with the final quilt! It was a great relief to see that my initial idea actually did work, and having it chosen amongst all the other fine art quilts for the show is good validation. Please, visit the blogs of the other accepted artists and look forward to posts on the Dinner@8 blog in the coming months. Maybe we’ll even see each other in person or in the cloth in Houston this fall.