Wednesday, June 15, 2011

All That Jazz series art quilts


When I first came up with the idea of doing a series of musical instruments, I knew I wanted to include a piano (because I play the piano), a trumpet (which my husband played), a guitar (which my husband also plays and frankly guitars are just cool) and a saxophone (which is also cool). I wasn’t entirely settled on a sixth instrument and decided I could figure it out as I went.

My first step was to get some reference materials, take some photos and play around with cropping and different angles. Then I used InDesign (a layout program that also has vector drawing capability) to break the instruments down to their simplest shapes. Some art quilters do this with a pencil and tracing paper but I’ve learned that I tend to fudge too much and things get misshapen. By using the computer, I can zoom in to the photo and figure out what that shape is.

Once I’m happy with the drawings I flip them then print them out and trace them on the back of some fusible webbing (since the webbing is on the back of the shapes they need to be reversed so they come out facing the right direction).

Then I fuse the shapes to the fabric, cut them out and lay them back in their correct order. I did the instruments first.

(The text describes the process but the photos are of the finished pieces.)

I started with the piano and since I was envisioning a grand piano, I made the body of the piano in blacks and grays.

Next was the bass. When I started I knew I had the perfect fabric for the body, a mottled brown and tan piece. I love the shapes of the body and the ‘F’ holes. I made the guitar third and that went pretty well.


Next came the trumpet, although I wasn’t happy with the way it came out so I went back and picked a different angle, made it larger and cropped it more.

Because the other instruments were more solid, I wasn’t thinking about background fabrics but I realized I’d need to with the trumpet since it wasn’t as solid. I had a navy blue batik with lines of multi-colored dots that looked musical.
Since it worked so well with the trumpet, I added it to the bass and I really liked it there, also. I wanted to use it with the guitar but the fabric I used on the neck and the side was too dark so I changed it to the brown fabric I used on the bass.

Looking at the piano I realized it would be the only instrument in black so I changed the wood on that to the same as the bass and guitar.
Happy with those four, I started on the saxophone which is a complicated instrument with lots of keys and rods, although fortunately it has a fairly recognizable shape.

At first I tried to include the keys but it looked too cartoonish. Similar to the trumpet I tried another angle and that worked better but it still wasn’t what I wanted. I set it aside and thought that this might end up a series of 4 instead of a series of 6.
I looked for ideas for the sixth instrument. French horns and clarinets are complicated, but the trombone was wonderfully simple. While I working on the trombone I realized why I didn’t like the sax, I was using orange fabrics. Once I changed the orange fabric to the mottled brown from the bass, things started to fall into place. So the only two instruments that didn’t get totally reworked were the bass and the trombone.
Once I got the instruments themselves complete it was time to work on the collage backgrounds.

I used some brown and cream batiks and tried to incorporate the same fabric in several of the pieces.

Since the piano, guitar and bass had black in their instruments I also black to the sax and trombone backgrounds which really made the other colors pop.


Then I quilted and bound (using my favorite facing technique) and then it was time for the fun part: embellishing!


I couched some brown fun fur around the bass, a gorgeous brown yarn on the guitar and sax, a different brown yarn on the piano and some black cord on the trombone and the guitar.


I used some small bamboo-type beads (taken from a funky necklace I got at a garage sale) on the trombone and trumpet, some brown ceramic beads on the sax, and some white mother-of-pearl beads on the piano. I also added some glass beads.


I used a nylon-coated stainless steel bead stringing wire to make the strings on the guitar and the bass. I’d decided from the beginning that I wanted to have some type of wire for the strings although I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. It was a little time consuming but I think it was worth it in the end.

All of the quilts are 8” x 11” and like the other series I’ve done, any quilt can hang from any other.  For more information on these quilts, visit www.forquiltssake.com/ATJ_sets.htm
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