Debra McPherson shares how creative inspiration often arrives in the night.
My husband and I were watching the game last night from bed. The battle of Alberta.* My eyelids were getting heavy. Finally, succumbing to the weight, I slipped into a deep slumber.
In my dream, I was floating on a lake. The water was gently carrying me to and fro, and I was enjoying the feeling of the warm sun on my face.
In the distance I could hear a buzz saw. At first it didn’t bother me, but as the noise intensified and came closer, my spider senses tingled. Finally, I was jolted into consciousness. My eyes snapped open. I looked over at my husband. I reached out a hand and patted his arm. He groaned and rolled over. The buzz saw relaxed into a purr. Not a kitten purr, more of a lion purr.
I rolled onto my back. If I was going to be wide awake for awhile, no sense in adding to the wrinkle inventory by sleeping with my face squished into my pillow. My mind clicked out of my body. It raced upstairs to the art studio. Record pace.
There, waiting in the dim light, was a quilt, all sandwiched and ready to be quilted. It is an improv thing, just haphazardly pieced, something I do between major projects. There in the dark, it resembled sari silk. Hand dyed fabrics in red hot chili pepper, turmeric orange, and Indian Ocean blue, shot through with saffron yellow.
My gaze moved over to the thread menagerie. It is going to “make or break” the quilt. I’m in my “tapestry” quilting phase these days. I like to stitch the lines close together to make that happen, but I need beautiful thread to create the warp effect. I choose a Sulky rayon in spun gold and unfurl a thread across the quilt. It contrasts nicely with the blue and red and just about disappears in the yellow. That’s it! I’ll straight-line quilt it, but I want to throw in a few zigzag lines somewhere to entice the viewer to come closer. Plan complete.
That’s it! I’ll straight-line quilt it, but I want to throw in a few zigzag lines somewhere to entice the viewer to come closer.
My eye floats over to a little piece of fabric by the window. It’s a fat quarter given to me by my sister. It’s printed with a misty seascape, water, grasses, and a large sky and it has a Japanese woodblock feel to it. I had an art professor once who said, “do something to the paper first”. That was about painting, but the same principle works for the fibre arts. If I am going to applique an “obra”, I always like to use a background fabric where half of the work is done for me. It is less intimidating that way. I’m particularly fond of gradations.
Anyway, back to the piece. It feels like “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” is a good theme for it. The birds should be ethereal and light to complement the fabric. I think about my stash of organza. Throw caution to the wind, I’m going to try layering organza to make the birds feel light as feathers. I will cut the pieces using my burning tool so they don’t fray. The fabric is special, but my creativity needs to be unleashed. No point leaving the fabric in the precious box. Failure is a more important lesson than success! More words of wisdom from long ago. I’ll start on that tomorrow.
Throw caution to the wind, I’m going to try layering organza to make the birds feel light as feathers.
I cast a glance around the room. Nothing else needs my attention. My mind drifts slowly back downstairs and clicks into place in my body. I sigh, and all tension is released. I’m just drifting back to sleep, when, out of nowhere, I feel a sucker punch to my gut! Ugh! My eyes snap open again. It’s the cat. She wants her breakfast. I glance at the clock. It’s 7 am. Fair enough. I need coffee. The second half of my day is about to begin.
And there’s another big game on TV tonight!
*Written in February, 2021.
Note: The finished tapestry quilt, In Between (shown above) is 40 ” x 40″.