Seduced By Colour

Panama, on the isthmus connecting North and South America, pulsates with life and colour. We’ve been there several times, and one time several years ago I got totally out of control in a haberdashery/ merceria stocked with glitter and lots of interesting ‘stuff’ for all kinds of embroidery and craft activities. My eye was taken by reels and reels of gorgeous bright coloured ribbon, and, as if under some kind of Panamanian Bright Colours Spell, I bought 7-8m of every bright, narrow ribbon I could find, which didn’t look much when organised into balls…


Have you ever found that after buying something gorgeous in a foreign place, you get it home and wonder what the heck you are going to do with it? The only link I can see between ribbons and my preferred usual surface design technique, improvisational quilting, is ‘lines’. Over the following year or two I ‘visited’ these ribbons/lines of colour regularly, letting them slither through my fingers as I wondered what had possessed me, and what on earth I was going to do with them. I ratted one or two colours to tie around wrapped gifts … and realised that wouldn’t use them up any year soon!

However an idea came to mind late last year during a bit of a tidy up. (Don’t worry, nothing too severe) At the time I thought I needed another 100cm x 60cm piece for the SAQA Oceania call for entries for “Connections” so that I’d have two to submit by the closing date in January, but I’ve since re-read that prospectus and found it’s only one entry per member. So, whether or not what follows turns out to be something suitable to exhibit another time, it will be a good learning sample. I’ve always found it worthwhile to make samples when practising or learning new techniques.

I was inspired to use (up) these materials by the memory of one art quilt I saw nearly 30 years ago in Denver CO’s Arvada Centre A huge piece approx 2m x 2m, it was made of bright coloured fabric squares sandwiched between metallic insect screen mesh layers. On the front layer some squares were cut and the fabrics inside eased out in the manner of a facial tissue box top. It was stunning how the metallic mesh shimmered and the colours glowed. I can’t imagine how the maker worked with anything less than leather gloves and an industrial machine to assemble the mesh pieces. I didn’t take a photo or make note at the time, but finding it still on my mind a few years ago, I wrote without success to some likely sources inquiring who made it. I’d love to hear from anyone who recognises my description and knows who made that art quilt.

It was amazing how quickly this process ate up the ribbon of which I only had enough to do 7 x 9 squares instead of the 7×10 originally planned. As I’m using black nylon organza and a black polyester that unravels pretty easily, selecting an edge finish technique for this could be tricky. I ended up placing the ribbons a bit differently, but you’ll get the idea that squares have been marked by tacking to be removed once the organza and polyester layers are fastened together. I plan to have some ribbons hanging out on the front side. It’s well advanced, and we’ll see soon how this experiment finishes up, and I’m considering a smaller version for the annual SAQA auction.

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