June 13, 2015

Accident 2

Back in March, I reported briefly on work I've been doing that is centered on a short narrative of the night of Jeremy's death.  I'm going to repeat a bit of that here, as background for an update on the new work in progress.

I wrote the narrative shortly after the accident, in 2004.   Ten years later, in the winter of 2014, I started a quilt that incorporated the text of the narrative, which I stamped into a mud-colored cloth. 

The letters are 3/8" high, resulting in a piece that is 35 x 48."   This piece is all about reading the narrative.  The words are very legible, and decisions about layout and proportions were done with a page of text in mind.  I can see the impact when people have viewed it in my studio--one has to stand and read it.   (I haven't posted a photo of the whole quilt, as  I'm not yet satisfied with the presentation of the cloth.)  In the midst of a workshop with Claire Benn, in which I learned how to make a very large printing screen through paper lamination, I decided to work again with the narrative of the accident, but to a different purpose--this time with expressiveness more important than legibility.  For this next version of "Accident," I will work large.  I have prepared an oversize print table from the top of a ping-pong table.  Claire Benn has done very large work by climbing on top of her print table.  The ping-pong table was not secure enough for that, so I removed the legs and put it on the basement floor.  I covered it with a couple of layers of felt and two layers of a heavy-weight cotton, stapled around the edges to keep it taut.  The table is 60 x 108."

 I have been working for about a month on various trials for the piece.  In the photo below, starting in the top left and going down:

  • the small trial piece I did in the workshop with Claire Benn
  • a larger trial done in my basement set-up, measures about 40x30"
  • a quick watercolor sketch to get a sense of what this would look like in a horizontal orientation (lettering done with white crayon as a resist)
  • (on the right) another sketch using a vertical orientation

Then I did several smaller watercolor sketches of the vertical orientation, trying out different placement of the ochre color.  

I used the version on the far right in my next trial.  (Would you make a different choice?  I'd be happy to hear about it.)  The next trial (bel0w) is about 52" wide, which is close to the size I'm planning for the final piece; the length will be about 100".  In this trial, the lettering is the actual size that I will be using (about 2" high).

Things I was testing out in this trial:
  • two different styles of lettering:  the top half is in close to my normal handwriting (but with lines so close together that it is not conducive to reading); the bottom half is in a consciously distorted writing.  The goal in this piece is to have the text recognizable as a narrative, but not necessarily to be read, so I'm aiming for reduced legibility.  I haven't decided yet which lettering style I prefer.
  • the transition between the turquoise and blue:  I wanted more mixture of the two than in the first large trial (where they appeared as stripes), and I succeeded in that, but I'd still like more interplay.  I think I'll try some horizontal dye scraping as well as vertical.

  • texture in the black:  In the first trial, the large black area came out uniform in appearance, even though I used four distinctive black dyes.  In this trial I did a few things to get more texture in this area:  I applied some splotches of color (blue, red, ochre) and then immediately went over them in black.  I also applied large splotches of different blacks, and let them sit for an hour before I filled in the rest of the area with the main black that I was using.  I also intentionally left some areas not thoroughly scraped with the dye, so that there would be some interruptions of white.  The screen also wrinkled in one area--not intentional--but I decided not to worry about it, and I think that just added some to the texture.  Here are some details of areas that show the variations:

When I look up close (as in the details), it seems like too much color shows in places, but if I step back and look at the whole, (as in the picture of the whole piece above), it looks better.  I may try diluting the under-colors a bit the next time.

I'd be happy for comments on any of this, and am especially eager for any suggestions on how to handle the turquoise/blue transition and the texture in the black area.  And if you have a preference for one of the two writing styles, I'd love to hear it.  Here are the two lettering styles, separated:

top rows

bottom rows


  1. I love what you are doing with this series. I do have a suggestion for getting the blue and turquoise to blend more. Do a 3-4Inch swatch with one color on top of the other and really blend them vigorously with a credit card. You work is amazing!

  2. I like that ochre bit going across the diagonal as it appears to represent the tear in your life due to Jeremy's death. I think text should either me readable, or used as texture/line. For me, it would be frustrating to see a narrative that is so challenging to read. I understand why you are doing it that way and am just expressing how I would interact with the piece. The black looks good. What are you using for discharge?

  3. I like the texture/color you've added to the black. I think I like the top row text the best. I like it that you can pick out enough words for context but not read it word for word. It sets the mood yet becomes about emotion, color, texture. I like the division of space you've set up with the colors; nice eye flow and movement to the work.

  4. Hello
    I saw your quilt from Quiltcon on Abby Glassenberg's blog and it moved me so deeply. I couldn't find an email address for you so am posting here instead to say thank you for showing your quilt, and indeed your quilts (Loss in particular also, wow). They are so expressive and moving and they obviously speak so deeply to so many people and to so many losses. I think you found an amazing way to express the starkness of loss. It is bold and brave and raw and tragic and so tender and human. I went through the loss of a friend, and also used quilting and stitching to find my own way through it. If you are interested here is a link to some work about it:

  5. I like the #2 placement of colors the best.
    I like the blue right against the black. To me it represents the abrupt change. No warning or transition.

  6. Thanks much for your comments, Justine!

  7. I was so moved reading "Accident" at Sacred Threads. I think it would be interesting to see "Accident" hanging right next to "Accident 2" at a guilt show ...

  8. Whoops...typo. That should be "quilt" not "guilt."