Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Phoenix Rises (Part I)

(originally posted 2/15/2012)
For those of you who don’t know me, I am Mary Anne Henderson and I have a quilt shop called Red Hen. Since we closed the store for a couple of months so we could relocate, I decided to live up to promises I’ve made for years and start a bloggie thing. I think of it as a way to talk with people like I do at the store -- a diablog!
Okay, now that I have had some time at home, I’ve decided to gird my loins and whatever else you’re supposed to gird, and finally begin a major (meaning a big commitment of time) quilt. After talking around the subject for several years, I finally got myself together. Why is it so scary to start a big independent project like this? I don’t know for sure, but I guess it is fear of failure. But really you only fail if you quit and at the worst you can call it a UFO and say you’ll finish it later!
Also, all my projects grow like Topsie (as my Mom used to say). They just get bigger and more complex until I end up in a form of slavery. But this time I am going to try to control what my husband calls “project creep.” It won’t be that intense; really.
(This is my dialogue with myself.)
So now that I have had a few false starts and am finally fully involved, I’ve decided to share this process with anyone who cares to tune in from time to time. So here we have sort of Part One of Here We Go Again or the Rise of the Phoenix.
Why this image, why this subject? Where did I start? These are some of the things people ask me. You have to start somewhere. As they say in the design world, “limitations are your friend.” I have always loved the color and drama of Asian design, so I decided to make a quilt to act as a pair for my dragon quilt. There are many images of phoenixes, many very similar; I probably saw 50 beautiful ones on various Goth and fantasy web sites. I decided this project should be slow and careful instead of manic and “heavy.”

My Chinese friend, Bo Fan, loaned me two silk textiles from China with wonderful images. I looked at books, and at other fabrics, just to name a few sources.
One dead end was trying to convert a classic crane image to a phoenix. It actually looked fine, but it was just too static when blown up to a life sized image. Not enough fire in the body attitude.
I knew I would do some floral quilting so my idea was to make this phoenix as spring, rising from a garden. I wanted motion, flame, and flowers mixed, a rather breathless feel, as opposed to the formal pose of the image I was working with.
I went back to the drawing board (literally) and here are some of the things I decided to knit together to form a phoenix.
Bo told me that the Chinese phoenix image you see commonly has the tail up and the head down to show female submissiveness. The last empress of China dared to change the image on textiles in her palace and had the phoenix head facing up. Guess which way I decided my bird would go!
The most wonderful image I found was a textile from Quilt Gate, a vendor I love. The flailing feathers knocked me out. I cut out that image from the fabric and did some surgery, adding a number of feathers. Here is my collage sketch of the original image, with a few large feathers duplicated. But it had no pronounced tail, just a couple of large flailing feathers. Next step -- bird butt surgery.
Peace, love, and rock ’n roll!
Mary Anne

1 comment:

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