Border Decisions: Quilts and Paintings

This is not political and not about our southern borders. Rather it’s about the dratted decision-making that’s had me swatting mental flies this last week. Sheila and I had a bunch of conversations, in which others, including Terry Grant, chimed in. Sheila saw her own fine reason for including a border on her piece, which Terry and I initially thought should be left off.

Then I was faced with the same problem. But my dilemma was not Sheila’s, which was whether to have the image fly off into space or to contain it, forcing the viewer’s eye to move into the center of the image. She chose the center; Terry and I thought flying off was good. Both would have worked, but Sheila’s artistic voice won — as it should have.

With my piece, the question was partly one of containment, but had the additional problem of being a computerized silk print of a painting that I had done. My paintings are, to put it gently, “loose.” Quilting tends, even at its most loose, to be tight. Borders tighten it further. I was working with the original painting on the wall where I was pinning the fabric version, which factored in uneasy ways I’m still pondering.

I took photos of the piece after I finished quilting the center, but hadn’t yet put on the borders:

The Dancing Interstate,[without border], painting by artist, digitized and printed on silk, over-painted and stitched

The Dancing Interstate, [with (pinned) border], painting by artist, digitized and printed on silk, over-painted and stitched

(Forgive the bad photos; they were taken in order to facilitate the decision, not to win any photo contests.)

I was torn; Jer advised no borders, but after much circling, I decided to go with the borders, making the top one smaller as Terry had suggested earlier in the process. But when I finished, I wasn’t totally happy with the decision. The borders were too harsh, too hard, too defined against the moosh (“looseness:) of the painting.

So I used another trick Terry Grant taught me — I softened the hard edge with shading:

I also pulled the stitching down into the borders, extending the piece beyond its original edge.

I think I’m onto something here, although this may be a bit cruder than I would have liked. (It’s also hard to photograph, because the acrylic medium that sets the softening pigment photographs differently than fabric). What I am trying to figure out is how to pull painting and quilted pieces together — my paintings, that is, since other folks have managed to do so without so much fuss. I was rather pleased to go back to a bit of traditional quilted formatting (ie the borders), but the graphic look that pieced quilts often have wasn’t right for the painting.

So,  if this is wonky, it sticks to the Underwood wonky tradition — obviously the Fremont Bridge doesn’t look quite like this, although when you are painting under it, it sort of feels like this. The borders add to that slightly out-of-whack sensation.  We’ll see if this continues through other paintings that I might turn into fabric. –June

Addenda: I was thinking of changing the title of this to “Fool’s Gold” but Jer thinks it’s too trite. Anybody have an opinion — “Dancing Interstate?”  “Fool’s Gold?”  “The Fremont Bridge at NW 16th?” “The Fremont Bridge Addresses the Land?”

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5 Responses to Border Decisions: Quilts and Paintings

  1. Pingback: Interstate Dance: a Backside Story « southeast main

  2. june says:

    Now why did I think you would be contrary, Terry? Actually, I owe you a couple of — well, something nice. Soon! I used your liquid thread method to attach the pine to the pieced surface and then your idea of softening to keep the borders while not exactly making them look too quilterly. So you can call me to account any time.

    Sheila, the quilting design seems to be really easy compared to lots of the other parts. It’s “just” a matter of knowing where the design needs to poof and where it needs to flatten — and which stitching will do what. I realized at some point in the past that there’s a big difference between embroider-ish quilting and quilting-quilting. And of course, there’s the question of construction — holding the whole thing together. But that’s the easy part.

    Interstate Dancing, Dancing Interstate — I think I see a trend here.


  3. Terry Grant says:

    I like how you have integrated the borders. Looks to me like it’s working. I am going to be contrary and suggest the name “Interstate dancing”. Ha!


  4. Sheila says:

    Yup, the borders definitely needed lightening up, and this shading/fading works really well, makes them a part of the scene, not something separate. I also found your quilting on the bridge abutments just perfect. That’s the hardest part for me, figuring out how to quilt something taken so directly from a photo or painting. You’re doing good work here in spite of your initial resistance against the confines of working with textiles again. 😉 It maintains your “wonky” style, and that being said, should probably remain named Dancing Interstate.


  5. Barbara says:

    My vote, if we were voting, is to keep “Dancing Interstate”


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