In the past few hours this quilt: “Life’s Rich Tapestry”, 1990, approx. 1.5m x 1.5m, went up on Lisa Call ‘s FB page – we were talking about how embellishment was in our distant textile art pasts. She posted a very red and strong green quilt with lots of bead and glitter embellishment, a piece that seemingly has no connection to the plain uncluttered textile paintings she now does with austere lines, plain colour combinations and heavy machine quilting. We had both studied in classes with David Walker – I went to a class he taught at the first Quilt Surface Design Symposium in 1990, and her experience was a little later. I will never forget that class – it was on developing your own imagery to use in your art quilt designs. Because Bernina had made available for our use in the symposium these fabulous new 1230 machines, I decided that while I had it I might as well use it as a test drive, and put it through most of its paces – in large part by machine embroidering using the inbuilt fancy stitches to cover all the seams of this contemporary crazy patchwork background with gold thread – it took miles of thread, but the effect was great, and the embroidery functioned as the quilting. By the end of that workshop I was absolutely hooked on the machine and bought one on my return to Denver. Marvellous, and I still have it, but it languishes for long spells in my workroom in Perth – as up to very recently there’s been no Bernina dealer here. This one is actually version 2 of that design, and went to Visions early the following year. You won’t have to look to far around my website to see that it is not published there, and furthermore it is totally different in every way from work I have done before or since. So, what’s the scoop on this one?
David had us thinking about things in our lives, going through lots of personal exploration; and a saying that Mike my husband has often uttered came to mind: ‘That’s just part of life’s rich tapestry’ . I have no idea whether the title came first or it developed from the ideas I was exploring, but no matter – the elements of the design relate to the good and bad, darks and lights, positives and negatives, happy and sad, lean and plenty – the ‘things’ in life that constantly shift balance and change from day to day, week to week, year to year. There’s a bit of management and a bit of luck in the mix, too. Fortune/Luck is symbolized by the dice in the design, and the big Rainbow Serpent, an indigenous Australian figure that sees and controls all, weaves through it all – and then one’s personal strategy is represented by the Snakes and Ladders (c) board game in the centre. I’m sorry there isn’t a clear close detail shot, but the 35mm slides for quilts of that era haven’t all been scanned, and that particular one is in Perth, Western Australia.
It is only since I began thinking about this quilt again, thanks to Lisa’s FB post, that only now do I realize it marks the beginning of a recurrent theme in my quiltmaking – that these days comes through in the “Ebb & Flow” quilts and all the “Tracks” quilts – go to those galleries on this website. Until now, I would never have said there was any connection. At that time I was moving along with very basic, 1/2″ strip inserts – see “Ora Banda” in the “Colour Memories” gallery, and just had taken a wonderful positives/negatives class with Nancy Crow, but not yet the early improvisational designing one I did with her in 1993. When we did meet again in that 1993 class in Denver, she asked me about this quilt, which she obviously felt had no connection with that stuff, and seemed pleased to hear I regarded it as a bit of an aberration – but, in the longer perspective it’s very important indeed, and I am still blinking a bit from this discovery.