Saturday, April 21, 2012

Horse With No Name - Preliminary

I've been pretty much thinking about that horse wandering in the desert since America came out with the song  A Horse With No Name back in 1972.  Was it about a journey in the desert, or was it a spiritual metaphor, or was it an armchair foray induced by a drug trip? Since “horse” is a nickname for heroin it inspired all kinds of paranoia and was even banned on some radio stations. This, of course, simply increased its popularity. The song still gets air play 40 years later. 

No one really knows the true story behind the song so it remains on the musical mystery list, along with other titillations, such as just exactly who was it that was so vain in Carly Simon’s song?  After decades of speculation I’m pretty sure that even she’s not quite clear on it.  The same goes for Horse.  Whatever the inspiration - be it innocent or tawdry - it spawns great visuals.  You have a horse.  You have a desert. You have a guy who, after three days in the desert sun, is regretting having forgotten his sunblock (which wasn’t exactly popular in the 1970’s when we sun-fried ourselves into bacon strips while tanning on the beach).  You have at least the potential for a drug trip, and while heroin isn’t hallucinogenic, the visual elements mentioned in the song lead the imagination down the road to the psychedelic.  And, seriously, could a guy not on a drug trip come up with lyrics like, “the ocean is a desert with its life underground”?  I think not. 

So here is the very beginning of this quilt – just the background, mostly all hand dyed/painted.  The plants and birds and rocks and things have yet to be added.  The white area will hopefully be where the desert turns to ocean.   But I’m not that far along on the trip just yet…

Hopefully you haven’t noticed that there isn’t even a horse yet.  When he does arrive I might just give him a name.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Happy Nine Patch

Quilt No. 82
February 2012

In the fall of 2011 our quilt guild president announced this year’s challenge. We were to do a nine patch quilt. Apart from that, there were no limitations – it could big or small, conservative or wacky, or any variation of the nine patch we wanted – whatever suited our personal styles.

Challenge quilts are kept secret until we do our “reveal”. Our guild has a variety of quilters, who do every possible type of quilting imaginable. That’s the great thing about quilting – you could go on for a lifetime and never come to the end of the permutations of what can be done with a pile of fabric and a sewing machine, or a needle and thread. It’s like composing music – the possibilities will never be exhausted. I actually used to worry that this could happen when I was a kid – that musicians would finally come to the end of every conceivable combination of notes. I speculated that by the time I was ten years old, no new songs could ever be created again. I would have to listen to the Beatles singing about wanting to hold my hand in perpetuity - maybe not such a bad thing but there was the outside chance that it could get tiresome. Thankfully, creative pursuits are by their very nature unlimited.

Quilters are interesting creators because they can “think” in blocks. They can take shapes and break them down into clever components and come up with the pieces that will yield a perfect square representing anything from a flower to a compass to a cow. It’s something I have no talent for whatsoever. But I do like to take a concept, or an idea, and express it with fabric.

I decided my “nine patch” would be different. Traditionally a nine patch is a grid that is 3 blocks high and 3 blocks wide. The most common nine patch you’ll see is a tic-tac-toe game. Nine patch blocks can be re-arranged or re-cut to form an endless number of quilt variations. The previous summer I’d done a nine-patch quilt, and to save myself from embarrassment, let’s just say it was a less than happy experience. This time I wanted to have a happy nine patch experience - without the blocks. I just wanted the nines.

And so...the Happy Nine Patch was born – a group of cheery numeral nines cavorting on a lawn that is composed from a single silk neck tie. With a little creative piecing, I was able to make the borders from the same tie. The sky is a hand dyed piece, machine quilted to enhance the clouds. Additional machine quilting on the borders keeps the Happy Nines in their place.