Friday, May 24, 2013

Mars or Bust!

Quilt No. 93
April 2013

Quilters are invariably plagued with UFO’s.  To outsiders this seems inexplicable.  Why would aliens be especially interested in quilters? 

When you’re part of a group, you forget that your use of terminology becomes highly specialized.  Doctors get criticized for this all the time. Patients are baffled by their slap-happy use of medical terms.  You leave the doctor’s office and you have no idea what osteokerflugenglockenitis is but you’re pretty sure it’s not good.  It’s hard to believe that quilters could be guilty of the same offence, but they are. 

I was telling my sister, a non-quilter, about upcoming Project UFO at my quilt guild.  Participants would register and pay ten dollars.  Presentation of a finished UFO by the given deadline would result in the return of the ten dollars.  Failed completion would mean that the money would be donated to the guild.

She instantly became fascinated with the idea that we would all be willing to do “UFO” quilts.  I began describing the orangey fabric I was going to use for mine.  It was a piece of “rust dyed” fabric that I'd created by spraying a piece of white cotton with vinegar and then placing steel wool on it.  Amazing shades and trails of rust dyed the fabric orange.  Unfortunately, this piece had fallen into “UFO” status for quite a while after an unsuccessful attempt to turn it into a foggy lake with flamingos in silhouette. 

My sister thought my UFO should feature Mars.  Since the Mars Balloon Lander had such an intriguing shape, she envisioned this as a prominent feature of the quilt.  Just like the YouTube video, it would enter the scene with a giant bounce!  There would even be a “Welcome to Mars” sign to greet the Lander.

I wasn’t really grasping that her UFO concept wasn’t the one that quilter’s are familiar with, but was instead the more usual UFO designation of “Unidentified Flying Object”.  Not recognizing our disconnect we both went on yammering about our various ideas for this unusual background, with me championing flamingos, and my sister off on a tangent on a distant planet.  I finally backed the nomenclature truck up for her, explaining that in the quilt world, UFO means UnFinished Object.

And so what my sister ultimately dubbed “The Nincompoop Challenge” came into being.  This quilt is a mashup of the creative efforts of a quilter and a non-quilter. Occasionally this kind of collaboration leads to completely unexpected horizons.  Flamingos may find themselves lounging around on Mars. 

Quilt Notes

My sister did the original drawing for this quilt as well as the embroidery.  The moons Phobos and Deimos can be seen in the Martian sky, as can a single crystal representing the constellation Sagittarius. The rust dyeing technique left the fabric quite rough, so machine quilting was not an option.  I did a minimal amount of hand quilting, just enough to enhance the contours.  The flamingos were computer printed onto iron-on cotton, oh-so-carefully cut out, and fused onto the quilt.  They seem to be quite content in their new extraterrestrial habitat.

A hasty initial diagram. 

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