Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Story Behind the Quilt

It’s fascinating to know where the idea for a quilt came I thought I’d write an occasional piece about the beginnings of one (or in this case two) of my quilts.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to have a glorious 2 week trip with a good stitching friend to Cornwall – I hadn’t been there since a “summer” in the early ‘70s when there was such torrential rain many roads were flooded out…took me 30 years to get back!  One of the lovely little towns we visited was St. Ives.  And of course we went upto the top floor of Tate St Ives to get a cup of tea.  Well the service was sooooooooo bad, we never got our cup of tea, but we did get some great photos from the windows.

st ives

That golden brown lichen grows everywhere!   I love views like this where you can explore all the shapes and strange little windows, and chimneys and rooflines out to the distant channel.  When I was a kid I spent ages peering out of the old skylights in the attics of our Victorian house just to look at roofscapes – but nothing as interesting as this.  I love that hint of distant water.

st ives vertical



So from this photo I made a big drawing including the values, and here are some crops from that drawing.

This one is a vertical section…but I wasn’t too keen on the dominance of that very large roof – it’s out of scale with the rest of the buildings I think – even though it did exist in real life!

st ives horiz


I much prefer this horizontal crop.

The top of the roof anchors it but there is a lot more space and light.


st ives crop

But the more I looked at it, the more I felt that the big roof blocked your way into the houses…you can’t go here!  so I eliminated it, and extended the houses downward slightly simplifying it even more.

edge of light k



And then made this piece Edge of Light based on the simplified sketch.  I liked it a lot…but I still was fascinated by the very first image and the soft warm golden browns….and the mystery of the overlapping shapes…so I decided to make another quilt about St Ives that wasn’t quite such a literal interpretation of my photograph.  I looked at the relationships between some of the rooflines, and some of the shapes of the houses, and the placement of windows, made a lot of beautiful discharge shibori fabric and then cut and layered it in collage fashion to make the quilt below.


So to arrive at my final quilt, the one that really summed up my impressions of Cornwall and St Ives including those long ago memories of the torrential rains, I went a rather roundabout route!  But this quilt I feel does capture my feelings about the place.  It’s called St Ives.

Hope you enjoyed the story!  After not getting a cuppa tea but definitely getting some great photos we deployed to a nice pub and got halves of Guiness!



If you have been, thanks for reading!



Nina Marie said...

I think that we are so blessed to be able to carry around cameras now where ever we go. So many times I see a scene that would lend itself nicely to a new piece - figuratively or abstracted out. I think its a nice reminder not to just go walking through your life with your errands in mind but to remember to really look at the beauty and inspiration in your life.

Jackie said...

Thank you for sharing stories of quilts. It's always fascinated how one gets from original photo to a quite different but certainly related quilt! I absolutely love Edge of Light, much more than St Ives. I have no memory of rain but greatly enjoy the light and open-ness. More stories, please! Thank you!

Linda and Michelle said...

I love the story behind these pics and quilts. the shibori fabric is quite lovely in the piece.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thank you all for your comments! Incorporating shibori isn't always easy but it's a great surface design for adding a little mystery and obfuscation!

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kay said...

Edge of Light has long been one of my favorites of yours. It reminds me of my occasional drive into downtown Burlington, Vermont, on hilly Main Street, with Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks in the distance.
It's fun learning the story behind a quilt, and I'm learning a lot about your approach to composition. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this..fascinating! And another beautiful quilt. Do you quilt these images in similar ways or is each one different? Annabel

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thank you Kay and Happy Apple for leaving your comments! re the quilting patterns...I always try to relate them to the design - sometimes more to the form, other times to the they are all different. I dislike quilting "samplers" on top of a quilt that bear no relationship to the subjectof the quilt!

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Linda B. said...

St Ives is a favourite place of mine and both pieces tell different stories that I can relate too.

I can only repeat what Jackie says "More stories, please!"

Elizabeth Barton said...

I'll definitely have more stories...perhaps not till after my trip to England though...thanks for reading!

Brenda Williams said...

The second piece is so possesses such emotion! I love the "textures" of the shibori fabrics. Great work!

Pat said...

Never mind the tea at the Tate St Ives, the exhibition was a pretentious disgrace. They manage Tate Modern well including the lovely outside birch trees, why couldn't they have done better at St Ives. Bah!!

reensstitcher said...

I have just read this with great interest as I live in Penzance and volunteer at Tate St Ives. The view from the coffee bar is to die for and we always tell visitors to go up there. I have often thought about taking up my drawing things but never done it. I also found your finished quilts very interesting as I am familiar with Susan Denton's St Ives quilts. I like the one in the rain - we can't deny we have an awful lot of it down here and today has been just like that.