I was approached by Beth Yoder, a pastor at Salford Mennonite Church, to make a commissioned work for advent. We chose the theme, “A Child will Lead Them” as it was one option to which I could easily relate.
The reference, for most people, beckons the coming of Christ. For me, it has a much broader meaning. A child is born of innocence, wonder and curiosity as she discovers and navigates the world around her. I think we are all closer to a spiritual place when we can be in the moment and in the experience of creating or just observing what is around us.
We’re all in a better place when we can keep that sense of wonder and amazement that the universe is much bigger than ourselves. We get in so much trouble when we think we know absolute truth. Keeping our minds open and having a sense of awe at what is around us gives us some important perspective.
Rod once posted a picture similar to this on Facebook when he was trying to encourage everyone to just calm down and get a grip.
But seriously, this picture is a good reminder to all of us.
Beth and I discussed that the quilt would generally be a night sky in a magical landscape and with a backlit child observing the sky. This was to be a quilt for advent but we agreed that it would embrace the general idea of the theme of wonder, enchantment and awe. I like to keep things unspecific so that the viewer can make of a work what speaks most prominently for them.
I would also like to state that all my references to the child in this post are stated here as female but you may certainly think of the child as male if you wish.
On with the art process:
I found the perfect fabric for my night sky in Lisa Reber’s booth at Quilt Odyssey in Hershey, PA. Isn’t it gorgeous?
I chose Northcott’s Stonehenge collection for all the hills, trees, mountains and water. They are workhorse fabrics for landscapes! Here I’ve pinned them up to audition them.
I cut off part of the length of sky to create more sky at the bottom center. I knew the quilting would obscure the seam. Here I have the trees cut out and fused onto the right side. Mountains are created with dark grey and black fabrics.
A large tree is also pinned in front of the mountains on the left and layers are added to the foreground. pardon my step stool in the photo above and chair back in the photo below.
It was quite difficult to make the hills flow and curve gracefully. Also, since the fabric was all the same length my seams were all ending up in the same spot. Not good.
I eventually got it all figured out by staggering the seams. Also, a little paint to blend the coloring made the seams less obvious. Fewer hills resulted in a better landscape. At this point I layered my quilt backing, batting and top on the longarm, stitched down the trees then quilted the whole thing.
The next step was to paint the milky way on the sky. I used Profab Pearlescent Paint from Pro Chemical & Dye in various shades of violet, blue and white. There were several attempts to paint this which I will not show you because they are too hideous. After a panicked text to my friend, Karen Jantzi, and some helpful feedback, I ended up with this result. It looked magical and amazing but didn’t cover up too much of Lisa’s wonderful fabric. All the paint on this quilt is heat set with an iron.
Now the moment I was dreading had to be tackled. The making of the child intimidated me but I found a couple of images from which I was able to draw a composite. Here is the drawing filled in with Sharpie pen and then on the right, you can see how I enhanced it in Photoshop.
I scanned her into my Cricut software and cut her out of freezer paper to audition the size and placement. You can see that I also painted some flowers onto the foreground.
I painted my Evolon paper black, added fusible to the back and cut her out with the Circut machine. I stitched her down and quilted her. She needed definition and also the backlit highlights from the bright sky so I thread painted around the edge with gold metallic thread.
Here is the quilt, all done and hanging on my design wall in my studio. My design wall is 8′ x 8′ and the quilt is nearly that. 93″ x 93″. The only way to get a photo of the entire thing was to stand on a stool from across the room and over my sewing table.
Once the quilt was hung in the church we saw a big problem with the angle of the spotlight since it left the child in the shadows.
I took my trusty metallic gold markers and added some more gold swirls around the head and body of the child. I took this photo with no extra lighting but with the daylight coming through the windows.
This one is also with just ambient light from the windows.
Here it is with the lowest spotlight setting.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to create a work which represents something I feel is so important.
I hope my friends at Salford find it to be a meaningful work for this season.