This is a project I've wanted to play with for a very long time. It's actually pretty embarrassing to admit that I've been waiting to play with these materials for around 3 years!
Josh took this photo of me the summer after James was born. Unfortunately the original photo has been lost, so all I have is this blown up, printed copy and I've had it on my studio wall for a very long time.
Two years ago I tried thread painting this picture, but it didn't work out. Scratch that - it was a horrible catastrophe and it forced me to admit that I hated thread painting. That experiment ended up in the trash.
But I kept the picture up, meaning to get back to it eventually.
Finally, getting through the quilting of Hot Cast this week pushed me to finally take this picture off the wall and get started. It's high time I face myself - literally!
The first thing I did was tap the picture to my light box and make a rough trace of the darkest features. My eyes, eyebrows, outline of my face, and hair were the easiest. The nose and mouth were quite tricky as there weren't a lot of shadows to clearly show these sections.
Once I got a pretty close sketch on graph paper, I layered a white fat quarter sized piece of cloth over the drawing and transferred all the marks using a black Pigma pen.
It was actually very simple and wasn't difficult at all. I kept the original photo close by for reference so I if something wasn't clear, I could easily see how the image was supposed to look.
Once I got the marks transferred, I darkened certain areas to show deeper shadows or my dark furry eyebrows.
The nice thing about this type of drawing is it didn't have to be perfect. While it might seem scary to draw in pen on fabric, I just kept reminding myself - it's just a fat quarter! I could easily throw it away if I really messed it up and just start again.
So what is the next step? Quilting of course!
I'm planning to quilt all the dark lines with black thread, then go inside and quilt the white areas with microstippling and white thread.
- WARNING -
GRAPHIC / POSSIBLY DISTURBING IMAGE BELOW
GRAPHIC / POSSIBLY DISTURBING IMAGE BELOW
Now for the weirder side of this experiment. I'm giving you fair warning because as Josh said - this image is pretty disturbing. He regularly watches scary horror movies and zombie flicks and declared my next experiment was simply "too much."
So if you don't want to see it, click here to go check out designs from the project.
While working on this piece, I started thinking about how my mental image of myself has changed over the past year.
A year ago, deep in the clutches of my negative inner voice (inv), I expected to see a horrible monster when I looked in the mirror. I expected to see a zombie, or at least a face so disfigured and ugly, no one would love it or trust it.
At one time I was told I was ugly. At one time in my life I was told I was so ugly, no one would ever love me, and I would be lucky of they even liked me. I'm sorry to say I believed these lies for a very long time.
A year of digging and understanding myself, combined with a good dose of compassion and kindness, has finally turned this corner and allowed me to believe, and see, my own beauty.
But this negative image was still bouncing around my head. I wanted to get it OUT and that means creating it in a quilt.
So I took another fat quarter of white fabric and using that same drawing, I made another sketch of my face:
The two were almost identical, but then I started adding the scars:
Soon I found the thin Pigma pen wasn't up to the job of coloring in all my darkness, so I picked up a black sharpie, permanent magic marker.
I really don't know how archival this is, so I'm not advising you use it on a special heirloom project you want your great great grandchildren to enjoy. It was just what I had on hand that would achieve the look I wanted.
So I let myself go with this for awhile. I wasn't going to for making an intentionally scary face, I was just simply drawing what I'd always expected to see:
I know you might not understand this. I know this might seem scary and awful and all things painful, but I assure you, it was not. I didn't cry or get mad as I drew this. If anything, I felt relief.
Relief that I've finally gotten this image out of my mind. Relief that this negativity no longer exists inside my head where it can hurt me.
Relief that I can look at these two portraits and I KNOW WHICH IS REALLY ME.
If this is too much to share, I apologize, but I do feel the need to share this because beauty is such a difficult thing for so many women and girls. I've carried this negative image of myself for so long, it was high time I let it out.
Now what will I do with these?
I'm planning to combine the two into one quilt. There is an juried art exhibit in my town coming up very soon and I hope to enter it.
Even if I don't finish it in time, I plan to hang this quilt in my studio so I see it every day. I need a daily reminder of what is real, and the painful result of believing lies.
Off to quilt,