At one incredible palace, we saw ancient carved stone window screens with geometric patterns, called jali. Women of nobility in these palaces could only see the outside world through the protective (and imprisoning) screen of the jali. Like the windows of our tour bus, they were both protective, and both limiting.
I decided to make a bus window into a jali, using many photos of our bus, and other buses, and Photoshop.
I made the images into thermofax screens, and printed them on white cotton. Then began the somewhat tedious process of fusing the cotton to batting material, cutting out the window openings, and sewing back the edges to create a jali-like screen:
Here is the original layout of the image under the jali...
..made of Indian textiles, photos printed on cloth and prayer flags.
And here is the finished quilt, jali (39"h x 27"w), with details:
If you look along the bottom of the quilt, you can see many of the images from the last post on India.
Women working, carrying bricks, mixing cement, while wearing beautiful fragile saris. Look closely, and you'll see different images of jalis, plus one ceramic version.
While in India, I bought some patchworks which were sewn together from scraps of various textiles. The pieces were roughly patched together with a thick, couched yarn, as in this sample:
I used the same couching technique to outline some of my images:
To be clear, I was NOT on an All India tour. I just used that wording to help identify the bus image.
OK, that's it for cartographic quilting and travel-related posts. Starting Monday, I'm finally ready to share a whole new direction in my art, one that I've been working on for over a year now.
Until I was almost 60, I did very little traveling. Then my husband and I flew to London, and Paris, and even Japan! My sister and I flew to Ireland, and Turkey and Israel. I went alone to Australia and New Zealand. I began to feel like I really knew my way around the world. Then we went to India, and I realized I knew nothing.
This was the only trip going with a tour, and, coward that I am, I'm very glad we rode encased in a white bus-bubble. We traveled the part of India called the Golden Triangle, the section most visited by tourists: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Yes, there are marvels to see - among horrifying poverty, disgusting filth and insane roads.
There are NO GARBAGE TRUCKS. People sweep trash up into piles, animals rummage through the piles, and it stays there. Along the banks of the Ganges River, women do their laundry, in the filthy water.
Dried animal dung is used as fuel. I watched women use their bare hands to form the dung into patties and pile them up to dry.
I could see the handprints on the drying fuel.
Women cooked on small fires in rural villages, and in city gutters.
I saw these pumps everywhere: water for drinking, washing, laundry, everything. People bathe right along the roadside at these pumps. There are no public toilets, so people urinate and defecate everywhere.
In urban areas, it was common to see shanties like these, often huge groupings of these improvised buildings. When I discussed this with someone, they said "you think this is bad, you should see Mumbai!" I can't imagine.
My sister and I, and our fellow tourists, rode along in air-conditioned comfort, drinking chilled bottled water, sealed off from reality, going from one gated, guarded, luxury hotel to the next.
I've read travel accounts describing the wonders of India, the spirituality, the beauty: that's like describing the beautiful face of a starving woman. We should be sending aid, not tourists. Look, I don't have this set up so people can leave comments easily, but I'd really like to hear what other people think about this. At the top of the page there's a CONTACT you can click and write to me, and I will answer your email.
In the last post, I explained the map keys; today, the techniques. This piece has more techniques (and variations) than Australia has dangerous creatures. Here's some explanations:
"printed on toadskins" - yes! In a leather shop in Hobart, I bought several tanned toad skins. Cane toads, introduced to Australia as pest control, had become a real problem, and some people were harvesting their skins. I used phototransfer paper to print images of the toads on their actual skins, then cut out the shapes. The 2 side panels are snake skin from the same shop.
That same phototransfer paper gave me the chalk-on-the-blackboard image of the ship. I printed the ship (copied from an aboriginal drawing of a ship) on phototransfer paper, then used an exacto knife to very carefully cut away all the non-printed sections. You can't cut through the paper backing - just the fusible film. This leaves only the film with the actual image, which I ironed onto the black wool. When it cooled, I scratched at the film (with a wire brush) resulting in this ghostly image. I did the same to make the words 'Great Barrier Reef' further up the coast. Even the ship printed on the vest material has been trimmed - by removing some of the film, I can get greater contrast.
The ghostly images floating past the frog skeleton are copies of Aboriginal painting, printed on silk, then fused and sewn:
See the frog skeleton on the pocket? I love the way that turned out! It's a reversal of my embedded object technique. See, I print the image on oaktag, use WonderUnder to fuse the oaktag to a thick piece of felt, then cut away just the printed skeleton with my exacto knife (of course, it gets tricky when you have unattached inner parts, like at the eyes, so I lightly glue a netting underneath the felt, and glue those bits back in..). Anyhow, I create a negative image on the oaktag-felt, shove that under the cloth, and then sew down the empty lines, so it looks (sort of) like it's carved into the fabric.
I used discharge paste to create the button images , then sewed down the images to make them indented. The tiny twig circles are lobster traps:
There are a few old Australian coins in the quilt, drilled with small holes to sew them on. I've learned to clamp the coins down before I drill them - I used to just hold them down with my thumb, until I drilled through my thumbnail. Ouch. The crocodile images are based on Aboriginal art found on Australian stamps (both cut from snake skin):
Sorry about the color cast on some of these - I know, the black looks blue - but I can either work on the photos or get this posted. Can't do both.
Queensland letters are embedded under the fabric, and, on the actual quilt, the sewn-on dyed lace is almost invisible.
OK, first, the rabbit. Yes, he's playing badminton. When Australia was first trying to cope with their Plague of Bunnies, they erected many, many fences. This image is from an editorial drawing which complained that the fences would be a complete waste. They were.
The aboriginal figures. Copied from Aboriginal paintings...they're wearing my old vest. Imposed cultural appropriation? I imagine some people might be offended. I hope not.
Tasmania is turned sideways in this picture so you can read the words: VAN DIEMANS LAND, the original name of the island. I have a rusty old set of alphabet cookie cutters, which I left arranged on the fabric until it stained.* After I sewed the lettering, I cut out some of the top fabric. The beaded crochet is part of a jug cover, used to keep out flies. The clothespins (with their wire supports used here as shackles) represent the convicts. Van Diemans land was a prison colony - the name was changed as part of the effort to put that fact in the past.
* rust +vinegar will give you a beautiful rust-colored stain. If you add tannin, it turns the stain black. I get my tannin by simmering acorns and hickory nuts in water. I've read that the mud cloth made in parts of Africa is colored with sediment from a lake rich in iron oxide (rust) and tannin (acorns!)
Middens are ancient garbage heaps: scientists get a good deal of information from this trash. In Tasmania, I saw part of a midden at the coast, being revealed by erosion. The midden in my map is sewn from old chicken bones*, shells, barnacles and beads. I used the old potato dextrin technique to create the crackled pattern in the middle.
* after using the bones to make soup, I scrub them with a wire brush, reboil them, wash them, re-scrub them, dig out the middle with toothpicks and pipecleaners, and dry them in the sun for a few days.
One last thing - I had done a lot of work on this map, before I tore it apart and re-made it. Here is the original configuration and the finished map, for comparison:
By moving the rabbit images into a circular arc around the midden, I improved the overall composition...but I probably should have left the sections on the bottom.
Next week, one last piece that was inspired by Australia, and one that I did after a trip to India.
The infrastructure of our country – roads, bridges and railroads – is collapsing. Our rich, powerful country does not have the political will to maintain itself. Structurally Unsound embodies that incapacity: a giant teetering on wobbly legs, desperately trying to hold itself together. Structurally Unsound was assembled from Salvation Army jackets and sweaters (literally, the clothes of our workers) and embedded with construction tools. Is this piece really headless? Are we?
This piece had been dancing around in my head for a long time. It began as a sculpture, eventually morphed into a human-like figure, and then it was ready to be made visual on the computer (I really love that so much of my art starts with technology and finishes with traditional handwork). I asked my husband to take some pictures of my arms in different poses, and overlapped them onto a sweater image. By copying in some tweed patterns, I figured out how to proceed to the work wall.
This was supposed to have white edging around each section, but I happened to grab an old orange cloth, just for the initial pin-up....and I knew the orange was perfect. The color of danger, warning, traffic cones!
I worked on each section, layering it over actual tools and kiddie plastic tools. below is the wooden handle from an old saw, which I cut in half (front to back, to reduce bulk).
The rusty fencing material was found beach-combing, and my husband donated his glasses seen on the first picture(which he had accidentally stepped on, perfect for our lack of vision and planning).