Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Horses Are Home

A little over a year ago the regional SAQA (Studio Art Quilters Asso.) representative, Lisa Chipotine, came to an Empire Guild meeting to invite members to join SAQA (it has professional and non-professional categories) and also to submit a small quilt for a trunk show to be shown at two or three venues during the 2005-2006 season. She brought several examples already accumulated. Some I admired very much and others I liked less; the quality was variable enough that I felt I could be a part of the group.

So I made "WHEN WISHES WERE HORSES", I had accumulated small samples of several very bright, patterned fabrics including a quarter yard or so that had the horses. Could I make a collage, raw edge appliqued and/or fused, that would work for me as a quilt? Could I make some kind of statement? This was my first attempt, except for travel=memory quilts, to do free, nontraditional quilting. The experience was elating. I pulled out several other fabrics from my stash. Then I began to think about what horses mean to me. Although I grew up on a farm we had horses only the first six years of my life and they were a pair of work horses -- not the kind of riding horses that so many young girls find exciting. Otherwise I have had close association with horses. In short, I don't take them personally, their meaning is literary to me.

As I cut out the horses and laid out fabrics and just toyed with what sort of design I could make, I realized these were very dynamic, spirited, fantasy horses; they needed a fantasy setting, their wild coloration would have to stand out against an equally exciting background, yet it couldn't all be bright colors -- so the sky fabric added some solemnity. Then the children's rhyme began going through my mind: "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride ..." there was another line that I could not quite dredge up from memory - something and then "rings on her fingers and bells on her toes ... she shall have music wherever she goes ..." or was that a different rhyme? No matter, it was part of the creative mental stew as I looked at and fingered the horses and the other fabrics.

I was thinking about impossible dreams, about emotions that were too vivid to last, about the wild energy people associate with untamed horses. After a while I found the balance I wanted and made the little quilt, then embellished it in a rather restrained way with bright stars on the sky and beads in some of the fireworks-like bursts of color. That seemed bright enough -- maybe it was all too bright. It made me uncomfortable ... but uncomfortable in an edgy way. The way it feels to reveal a little too much about yourself. Just what a piece of art probably should do. I decided I liked this little quilt even if it did [and still does] make me a tad uncomfortable.

So Lisa accepted it and the horses became part of the NYC area trunk show and hung in some of the big quilt shows in the country, I'm not quite sure which ones. Santa Clara, I believe, and in New Jersey -- where I saw the whole group hanging in very bad light. Lisa is now putting together a second trunk show. At the holiday gathering last Saturday, she brought back last year's pieces. So the horses are home. Absence and the passage of time made me fonder, perhaps a bit bolder.

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