March 17, 2014

Yes, I was Miss May

Knew that headline would grab you.

This post answers Saskia's question on my last post, ie, what are those two colorful things on top of my fabric shelf?
The answer is "they were my entries into a calendar challenge from Quilting Arts Magazine." I used to love this magazine because it offered such a contrast to the rows of calico squares that filled up my local quilt shops. (That was when I HAD local quilt shops but that's another post). Over time, the magazine seemed to be less about cloth and more about what you could squirt on to it. Or the converse, meaning what noncloth item you could stitch together. I think I quit when each issue started to regularly feature articles on the joy of quilting on Tyvek (that white plastic that builders use to wrap houses). Call me cranky, but I have enough challenges just stitching on cloth, let alone Tyvek, dry wall, or sandpaper.

Now, I haven't read a whole issue of QA lately so things may have changed.  I did check and found out that they still have one of their best offerings: QA challenges.  These provide a nice little creative frame to work in now and then, especially when you are a novice or inspiration seems elusive. Back in 2007, just when I was ready to fly, I intentionally decided to push myself and enter the calendar contest (12 times the chance of winning, right?). The theme was also close to my heart: a 12 x 12 inch image from American literature.

I approached this like it mattered. I plotted and planned. I sketched and took digital photos, printed them off in black and white and made jigsaw pieces of them all. I outlined each piece onto fabric and reassembled them in place on handdyed background. I sewed and hand and by machine. I took out all the hanging shmutz that characterizes my normal work and put on a nice little binding, all to fit the requisite 12 x 12.

And I sent in two entries. First, from my alltime favorite book of all time and space, To Kill a Mockingbird. (Am I the only girl who still dons overalls in the summer because I want to be Scout Finch and have a daddy like Atticus? Will I ever find out what its like to walk the neighborhood dressed as a cooked ham?) Scout's neighbor, the white-haired mystery named Boo Radley (played by a young unknown named Robert Duvall),used to leave trinkets for the kids in the squirrel's hole in the big 'ole walnut tree on the sidewalk.Trinkets like an old watch...
Real watch face from a flea market, chain snipped from a purse a hole that sits in my own pin oak tree, captured by the miracle of digital photography...
The second entry is from Tom Sawyer. (Yes, I have read many books since junior high, but somehow, these are still right up on the top of my list.) It was inspired by a summer spent whitewashing a wooden fence in our yard, which seemed an idyllic idea and quickly turned out to be boring, back-breaking, and left both my hair and my echinacea full of white spots.

I had forgotten that I wove cloth for the background all those years ago. My favorite part was trying to get the paintfilled brushes to look just right. I screwed around with lots of thread and then decided, hell, why not just use real paint?
I personally think that Boo Radley's tree is one of my most beautiful pieces. I can't believe that I created it. But the QA editors went with Whitewash, I guess because if you love Tyvek, you will love house paint. And it was photographed for the magazine and for the QA Calendar...and that's how I became Miss May.

Funny how at the time, it was all so thrilling. I won $200 to spend in the QA online shop but probably spent three times that buying calendars for everyone I knew.  And now? I can't even find the calendar page and I am more than fine with that.

Anyway, that's the answer to the question. And Hugh Hefner, eat your heart out.