Tools of the Trade

I took a class last year with Skip Lawrence , a wonderful painter and an excellent teacher. I decided a couple of years ago to learn how to paint, although my progress is slow because the demands of running my own medical practice impinge on my painting time.

The class was a 5 day session down in beautiful Boone, NC, at Cheap Joe’s Joe Miller has built a wonderful classroom space next to his art supply warehouse, and he brings in fantastic teachers from across the nation. Taking a class like this is a wonderful way for me to vacation: a little structure, a little art, a whole lotta fun!

I do feel out of my element in a painting class, though. It’s challenging to make the brush and paint do what I want them to. After a disappointing first day with my rudimentary skills, Skip gave us our assignment for the rest of the week: paint one thing 20 times! He showed us how he started his own series with a scissors, as a demo for another class. He has since done many lovely paintings of scissors, then moved on to some of his father’s tools.

People in the class chose eyeglasses, lipstick, lots of interesting things… what should I choose? I decided on my plastic spoon from lunch. I traced around it, just as Skip had with his scissors, then I went to work. I have managed to finish seven in the SpoonWorks series!

Around the same time, Jill Jensen asked if I’d like to be included in a show she was curating for the Virginia Quilt Museum that would include quilts using photographs and/or printmakings. I said yes, without a clear idea of what I would make for the show. Finally, as the deadline was approaching, I settled on monoprints of my reflex hammer. I figured most people would recognize it and the shape of the handle had some nice lines.

I used my gel plate and acrylic paint (not textile paint, as I didn’t care about the stiffness of the fabric). I cut stencils of my reflex hammer and printed away, and selected a few of the prints to incorporate into the quilt. I love to print on the gel plate! Its surface is yielding and it’s easy to churn out dozens of prints at a time. Of course, some are better than others, but you can keep layering or paint over something if you don’t like it. When I showed it to my quilt guild, someone gave the piece its title, “Knee Knockers”. The show, “P’s and Q’s”, will be on display from February 21-May 20, 2017.

Where does an idea come from?

As I was anticipating a trip to Scotland last year, Celtic crosses were on my mind. A little research revealed the concept of the circle prayer, also known in Gaelic as a caim: a traditional prayer of early Celtic Christians. These are simple prayers for God’s encircling presence, with a single request. “Circle me, Lord, keep peace within and fear without” is an example of the basic prayer structure. You can pray these prayers for yourself or for others, and substitute any kind of need or request.

I liked the concept and wanted to incorporate the Celtic cross image with the text of a circle prayer. I have come up with several pieces thus far on the theme.

The first one is very symmetrical. As as I have made others since then, I find I like the asymmetry of the newer ones. I used a freezer paper stencil to paint the words, “Circle Me, Lord” with Jacquard Lumiere acrylic paint. I didn’t trust myself to paint the words freehand. Cutting the stencil was tedious, but effective – I used a fat marker to write the words, then cut along the edges. I ironed the freezer paper to the background, then used a cosmetic sponge to paint the words.

The red quilt, Freedom Found, got its title from a line in a Francesca Battistelli song on playing on the radio around the time of its construction. I pieced the cross, then painted the black circle with acrylic textile paint. I usually stitch the text freehand, but sometimes do a mock-up on paper with a pencil to see how things will fit. The rectangles at the bottom represent our burdens that we can choose to lay at the cross, and let Jesus carry them with us. I used Lumiere paint for those, also.

I then made a trio of smaller pieces. For the negative space around the cross, I fused some fancy handmade paper with circles onto gray felt, then cut it up into quadrants, rearranged the pieces, then fused them to the background. I also stitched them down to make sure they would stay put.

I have had a lot of positive feedback from these pieces, and I expect I will continue to make more in this vein. Two of these pieces have been selected for the Sacred Threads Quilt Show in Herndon, VA, in July 2017. for more information.