Monday, October 27, 2014

Alex's Quilt

Alex's Quilt
85" x 70"

It's been long overdue that I share these pictures of my last quilt commission. Alex was a vibrant young boy who died before his time from bone cancer. His family gave me the responsibility of honoring their son by repurposing his clothing into a quilt for his bed. As difficult as this sounds, I have always been thrilled to take on projects like this. To me, this is what quilt-making is all about and I love the fact that I can help people create new from the old, beauty from pain. 

Here's Alex in his element, playing sports! This isn't the first time I have seen this shirt, I also made a quilt for his aunt, out of her boys' clothing, and we featured Alex there as well. Same shirts have popped up in multiple projects I've done over the years. Because I get all my business through word-of-mouth, it means that clients recommend me to their friends and family and I like getting a chance to learn their overlapping stories.

For starters, I wanted to infuse as much happiness into the project as I could. That's where the idea for the sun came in. I also had a very strict palette of red, white, blue, and gray that I couldn't help, so I knew I wanted to bring in a third color, and you can't go wrong with primaries. Oh, and one neon green was I going to balance that? The best way I found to organize the color of his shirts was to group all the red around the middle, buffer the blue with the white and grey in between and go darker to black as I worked my way out. Then my solution for the green was to make sure there was a little pop in each section. This way it wouldn't look so out of place to have just the one green shirt. In the end, I love all the green everywhere. Something that came from constraints that I would've never done otherwise. Love when that happens.

When I made my preliminary sketches for this quilt top, I played with the idea of some kind of animal anchoring the middle. When I approached Alex's mother with the idea, she brought me to Alex's memorial garden out back - full of turtles. Apparently, he loved turtles and it became a symbol for his memory. I was thrilled to learn this because I love turtles too, so there was my next idea. I documented the making of the turtle here, including the zippered pouch along the bottom of his shell. 

This was definitely my most ambitious t-shirt quilt to date. Crazy quilting with stretch knits?? I utilized freezer paper to help me construct each wedge between the sun's rays. And I made a tape layout of the entire quilt on the floor before I even started, and I barely had a floor big enough in my house to amply design this piece. See proof below.

I realized that my new studio is just not set up for making quilts anymore. In my last space, I had 2 large design walls that were fabulous! But when I tried to work on projects other than quilts (ie-sewing clothes) I found it much more difficult. My passion for making quilts had been waining and I was craving sewing projects that I could turn around faster. Not to mention, in the 4-years that I had been making quilts-for-hire, I had yet to really make enough money to call it a sustainable business practice. Let's be honest, it is a labor-of-love business that I was falling out of love with. And in the months since I finished this quilt, I have discovered the lightness of living without a long-term project in my life. As painful as it can be to turn your back on something you have loved so deeply, it's important to allow yourself to change, and reassess your true feelings in the now. Especially for an artist. To be able to find inspiration, get an idea, and act on it promptly is a dream I always lust after. For now, this is my last quilt. On to new, exciting adventures!

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