01 May

Lava (in summation)

For anyone who might not already know, I belong to a wonderful online group of 12 quilt artists who challenge each other every two months to create a 12″x12″ quilt interpreting a new theme each time. This time, it was my turn to choose the theme. I knew I wanted to do something that related to my being in Hawai’i, and with the current twelve challenges, we’re focusing on color. So I chose the volcano Kilauea and gave a few photos and a palette as a jumping off point.

I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to interpret the theme myself, though I did know I wanted to go abstract as opposed to literal, and I always strive to connect my interpretation to works in cloth, if not quilts specifically.

Serendipitously, about a third of the way into our 12×12 timeline, I taught a class to my quilt guild on how to marble fabric. Bam! There it was — the undulating lines of cooled lava in a classically textile media.

For my first attempt I used the red, orange, black and two greys from my palette (and snuck in a yellow). Although the patterning was fantastic — looking both like classic european book papers and swirling, oozing lava at the same time, it didn’t have the richness I was hoping for. In my mind the fabric should have been black and grey with veins of red and orange running through in cracks as if it was just below the surface. I also found that after washing, the painted surface looked scuffed and faded and I didn’t like that.

I realized that I should have started with hot lava colored fabric and then marbled the cooled lava blacks and greys over it. Rather than start from scratch, I decided to try over dying my marbled fabrics as I had nothing to loose (they were pretty, but not what I envisioned for my Kilauea quilt). Great! Here was the rich color I needed, but it was too bloody looking and not lava-like yet.

To get more variation in my color, I tried discharging it. With hand dyed fabric, discharge can often uncover surprising hues. Not this time. Now my fabrics looked tired and washed out.

Starting from scratch now, I changed tactics and experimented with marbling using discharge dyes. The long story is here and here; the short story is that I made interesting fabrics, but none were quite what I wanted to use.

In the end, I went back to traditional marbling and used red-orange fabric s my base. Nearly perfect. I’d still like to go back some day and experiment more with dyes and marbling, but for now I have just decided to rinse, but not wash my painted fabric.

For the quilt itself, I used a simple traditional squares and let the fabrics speak to the types of lava and hawaiian setting. Onto that base, I added chartreuse triangles edged with french knots to represent the uluhe (false staghorn) fern so predominant at the Kilauea Caldera, and a few beads around the edge to symbolize Pele’s Tears often found near eruptions.

To see the whole quilt, and everyone else’s interpretations of my color theme, Kilauea, check out the 12×12 blog!