May 2, 2010

Quilting Arts Challenge "How Entertaining!" - The Little Prince

"One sees clearly only with the heart."

Quilting Arts announced a challenge in their February/March 2010 issue called "How Entertaining!"
Because my grandmother's 80th birthday is coming up, I decided to combine this challenge with a gift for her. She introduced me to my favorite book when I was very young, and gave me my own special copy on my 11th birthday, along with a French version (which inside held a paper bill from France which features artwork based on the book!) which I still have - it is among my most treasured posessions. The book is called "The Little Prince" and is a children's book filled with adult messages. (Here is a link to the book:  The Little Prince on Amazon) There are SO MANY lessons and truths in this one little book - it is so wonderfully written, and just absolutely amazing. I encourage anyone and everyone to read it!! At least once ; )

I chose this book as my inspiration because of the personal meaning as well as the many fun characters and elements in the book that would translate well to an art quilt. I was a bit limited by the size of the quilt which could only be 8.5" x 11" (and had to have vertical orientation) - but I managed to include most of my favorite elements of the book. The quote I chose, which reads "One sees clearly only with the heart" is one of the many, many morales tucked inside this little 96-page children's book - but one of my favorites, and the one I wanted to show grandmother that it had made a big impression on me. (That quote is immediately followed in the book by "Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.")

Without giving away *too* much of the story - I just want to give a brief overview of the book, to help explain the style I chose for the art quilt:

In the book, there is a "Little Prince" who cares for a beautiful flower on his tiny planet way far away. He leaves her to explore the world, and on his many travels meets several characters which signify some futile aspect of adult existence - clearly showing readers the absurdity of adulthood through a child's eyes. He meets a pilot who has crashed in the desert (the narrator voice in this story) and immediately asks him to make him a drawing, although the pilot had given up drawing when he was a child. Back then, he had drawn a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant, which on the surface, appeared to the majority of people as simply a "hat." From that point on, the pilot had used this single drawing to "judge" people on whether to talk about inconsequential things or "things that matter." (I love that part of the book - you know how you can talk to some people about art stuff and they just "get it?" - with others you talk about the weather!!)  The Little Prince immediately recognized the pilot's drawing as a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant, much to the pilot's surprise, and from there, their relationship progresses throughout the rest of the book as the little prince reveals to the pilot little by little his circumstances and life lessons.

Because of the references in the book about the pilot having limited drawing ability (as I myself do!) I wanted to create the elements in this quilt to look hand-drawn by an unexperienced artist.  Especially the sheep, because it was the very first thing that the Little Prince demanded of the pilot to draw for him - which was his first drawing since childhood.  I chose to use heavy black outlining on the figures to give a more "illustrated" sort of "cartoon" appearance.

The background of this quilt is created using tiny little bits of chopped up fabric, basically the "Impressionistic Art Quilt" style I have been experimenting with lately. This is the first time I've used this style in conjunction with elements besides landscape features, but I definitely enjoyed the challenge!!
My work on this quilt was divided up into a few different "phases" or stages of work, only after many drawings and additional readings of the book, several lists, time spent reminiscing about the portions of the book my grandmother had emphasized the meaning of...until I finally had a rough sketch of the quilt and a chosen quote. (It was very difficult for me to choose just one!!)

In "Phase 1," I used several different fabrics to create the background (sky with stars, tree trunk and leaves), all chopped up into tiny pieces and carefully arranged, then placed at the bottom a rounded piece of overdyed gray felt for the ground surface to resemble the gray ground on the Little Prince's planet (as depicted in the illustrations in the book). Then I created the figures: the little prince by drawing him on fabric and cutting out the individual pieces (head, clothing, arms, feet, belt, scarf), the sheep by freehand cutting a piece of white cushy felt, the glass dome for the flower freehand cut out of ivory-colored organza. The stars were also cut from different fabrics and placed in this phase. To finish the background, I placed some strands of Angelina fibers to add some sparkle and make the piece come alive - green Angelina fibers in the foliage makes it look like a fairy-tale scene, sparkling and illuminated with color...

In "Phase 2" I covered all of this with fine black tulle, then stitched using clear monofilament thread with free motion embroidery all over. I carefully cut away some of the tulle after the piece had been free motion embroidered, for elements such as the flower's glass dome, the sheep, the Little Prince's face, and a few of the stars. Then I added in details such as facial features with a fine-point sharpie marker for the Little Prince, black cotton floss for the sheep's face, and ribbon embroidery "Spider Web Rose" for the flower.
At this point I also did some additional free-motion embroidery (more green on the foliage, black to outline the figures, yellow to highlight the stars) and some hand-stitching in places.

In "Phase 3," I dyed pre-printed block letters on canvas, using in two-tone green color-scheme to help them blend into the background (but not *too* much), so they could be used as "leaves." I wanted the heart to be the main focal point of the quilt because of it's significance in the quote, as well as the meaning behind the whole story (and my own love for my grandmother), so I appliqued it on top of the rest of the quilt to allow it to pop forward. Last, I added a little gold charm of an airplane in the sky - as I went through my "embellishment" collection (which is entirely too huge!!) I stumbled upon these airplane charms, and who knows where else I would ever use one of them!! I cut the loop off with wire-cutters, and stitched it onto the quilt using clear monofilament thread (doubled for strength).

At this point, to me, it felt "complete" (something I don't always feel about art quilts especially, as I usually want to add more and more and keep on stitching and beading and adding things...). I chose to finish this quilt with a narrow satin stitch in black, because I wanted something simple, and easy, and quite frankly, because I dread having to bind quilts!! As it turned out, it *still* took me about 3 hours just to complete the satin stitching around the edges, so maybe next time I'll rethink that plan... ; )  Last but not least, I made a hanging sleeve and label for the back. I'll post a photo of the finished label at the end of this post, because it also holds a personal message for my grandmother : )

I've titled this quilt "With the Heart."

Now some detail shots:

I feel as if there is so much more I could explain about the book, the storyline, the characters, the lessons I have gleaned from this book - and how and why I created this quilt - I guess that is the feeling you get when a project "hits home" and you want to share it with the world. I hope the meaning behind the quilt translates well to the viewers, and that they too, see it with their hearts. I know that my grandmother will : )

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