A few days ago on the quiltart list someone asked for technical information and tips regarding attaching human hair to a quilt. I am sure it is technically possible, and hair like mine, dead straight and fine would be infinitely harder to deal with than thick wavy , curly or frizzy hair; and damaged (colour processed, permed, bleached) far less difficult than slippery natural hair. But apart from struggling with unwilling or slippery human hair, alternatives include some very realistic doll making hair ; the quilter could hand drawn hair using a very fine permanent pen … or why not take a photo, transfer it to fabric, and apply that to the quilt …. some very practical options, which I suggested. Someone else suggested containing the hair under a layer of tulle -quilted or sitched down, and that could be OK, too.
The real question for me is, WHY focus on just this one bit of realism ?
Now I don’t do pictorial designs in my work but have admired some very fine art from people who do. And, I have noticed that these embroiderers, collage artists and quilters, especially those designing their own (perhaps personal story) quilts, will go to quite a bit of trouble to find fabrics with appropriate textures and colours for particular parts of their design; and some of the effects created with print fabric by both traditional and non-traditional quilt, collage and stitch artists can be quite incredible, giving the illusion of Reality and Life. They reflect the artist’s vision through some exquisite fabric selections, and often attest to a very wide circle of quilter and dressmaker acquaintances or a very comprehensive stash of fabrics and scraps…. these are the ‘paint’ of such artists. (google the work of Edrica Huws of UK, or Margaret Cusack of USA with her cut fabric illustrations especially) and there are countless good examples in the major quilt and embroidery magazines.
My point is how far does any textile artist really need to go to present a semblance of realism? We expect to see it in certain other media – think photography, good quality portrait landcape and still life paintings, sculpture, television and movies, to name a few. Or think of it another way – no one would go so far as looking for ways to attach a real human face or other body parts to a quilt, would they? (Hmm, I wonder if Jeffrey Dahmer or his mates ever considered contemporary quilt making as an avenue of artistic expression.. yeah, a sick thought, I know…. I’m a murder mystery fan (books and tv) and enjoy the forensic trails the goodies follow.
These may sound pretty facetious remarks, but my point is, in a textile like a quilt, how far is it necessary to go to present a semblance of realism? The motivation might be to display something innovative that contributes to a general “Gee Whizz Factor” , and we hear it all the time at quilt shows or art quilt exhibitions : ” How did they DO that?…Is that really HUMAN hair on that quilt?” People love something innovative and novel, and using real human hair on a quilt would do it. Sadly in the art quilt world today technical diversity, alacrity and the accompanying GWFR*are often mistaken for “Art”.
The technical answers will be interesting because, with motivation other than presentation of Realism, there might come a time when I myself want to put hair on a quilt; the hair itself being a symbol of something on my mind at the time. But for realism, and considering the difficulties of obtaining and attaching real human hair to a quilt, I’d almost certainly fall back on a low tech straight stitch by hand (straight or stem) or machine, in a glossy thread.
* Gee Whizz Factor Rating, a new term coined today, abbr. GWFR – it’s one of my pet peeve key concepts !
P.S. monday 19th february: just a bit of interesting serendipity !
I was reading my book “The Optimists” by Andrew Miller, over my first cup of tea, procrastinating about actually getting out of bed this morning; the first hints of Autumn crispness were in the air. Makes a pleasant change from suffocating humid heat. Anyway, reading along at the point where Clem, the main character was reading an essay his sister Clare had written, I came across the following passage:
“on Theodore Gericault…… a Romantic obsessed with giving to his work a shocking new realism. For the painting of a disaster at sea, a notorious shipwreck off the West African coast, he had sketched in hospitals, visited morgues, even smuggled body parts into his studio in the hope that this butcher’s haul would infuse his painting with that quality of the authentic the first photographers, setting up their tripods in the Crimea and Gettysburg, would soon claim for their own.” (my own emphasis)