Friday, August 29, 2008

Building a Cactus Garden

I bet that most retired teachers get some sort of niggling sensation every August/
September season. They remember all the prep and hype and perhaps anxiety over the return to school. For three years now I have been one of the lucky ones that starts to feel that anxiety coming on, then realizes, hey, not me! I'm retired!
One of the common activities through the ages during those first days of school has been that classic assignment to write an essay on "how I spent my summer vacation". That exactly is what I assigned myself for this blog. Maybe I was wanting to momentarily step back into that teacher mode. Momentarily I said!
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
This summer I built a cactus garden. I did a lot of other fun things, like grow a beautiful vegetable and flower garden, hung out with grandkids for two weeks, had a great trip to Alaska, etc., but my main activity was building a cactus garden. Perhaps I should add that this cactus garden was totally out of fabric. And when I say build, I mean from the ground up, from scratch. I started with my favorite white cotton, a set of dyes, some batting and lots of thread and proceeded to build a cactus garden.

Last winter in Mexico I met a couple from Edmonton who liked my work and they decided to hire me to create a large piece for their home. After much talking, e-mailing, photo transfers, and negotiations, it was decided that I would create a cactus/desert scene in a tryptich form, each of the three panels being 30"x72". Because I needed to fill a large space in my Mazatlan gallery, I decided to also make three for myself, and let them choose which they liked out of the total.
They sent pictures of their living room and a paint swatch of their wall color. The rest was up to me.

First I decided on the color pallete I would use. Then I dyed a large collection of fabric to use for the cactus forms. I loved working with the colors and the textures and trying to get as many different pieces as possible. The background pieces were my next challenge.
I wanted a gradation of color with a sky painted on the top portion to imply the feel of a desert scape. Then I was ready to start putting the shapes and forms on the backgrounds. I had decided to use the barrel, prickly pear, yucca and saguaro shapes. I placed them with raw edge exposed, then stitched them down securely with a zigzag stitch. After the entire scene on all six panels was completed, I sandwiched them with batting and backings and proceeded to free-motion quilt the top with texture, texture and more texture.
When completed, I tossed them in a gentle wash and machine dried them to increase the texture. This week I am putting on bindings and tabs at the top and all other finishing touches.
I have truly enjoyed creating this set of pieces and am so pleased with how they turned out.

Guess what's going to be displayed on my First Friday Web Walk in September?

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