Friday, January 3, 2014

Herding Cats, Commission, Obsession


In April a colleague ordered a commission. Quilts for the cat room. It has been home to many cats and the chairs could use new covers. We discussed the size and color pallet. He said a calico cat if possible as several, if not all, of their past cats had been calico, as well as rescue.

I was given creative license. I warned it could be six months or more. In fact, it took eight. My original design morphed significantly in process from pieced patch work to applique cats.

I gathered fabrics from my stash and picked up a few additional fat quarters to fill out the colorway. My stash had the white on off white cat outlines. Shadows of cats past.

Using the gentle curve free rotary cutting method, I looked it up on You Tube. Everything you always wanted to know is there. I struggled with the randomness of it all It is good to go outside my comfort zone, trusting it will come out the way it is to be, and it will be fine.

Then there was the ghost fabric to cut. 

The background little quilts grew. I tried to keep them limited to the 3 I needed for this commission... I was unsuccessful. There were so many options in my stash. Putting cats on blue and white backgrounds was a quilt I had seen somewhere... and thought, that would be fun. Here I was giving it my spin.

I traced my cat designs to fusible, then ironed to muslin as foundations for thread painting seam accents.

 The calico fabric came together, and cat foundations were ironed to the back.

Then cut out.

Each applique was thread painted for added detail and stability.

There are 8 completed appliques. Six where selected to sit on the blue backgrounds.

Once zig-zagged down, I cut out the negative space cats. [This sentence makes me laugh!]

Layering, quilting and binding commenced. And the results were posted above!

Then there is the gathering of the leavings... the remnants to be revisited.

When trimming the quilts for binding there were great quilted leavings. I will add to my mini project box, where inchies, ACEOs and postcards come from. The rest of the cats are in the bag! Literally, the one in the picture the minis are resting on! The cats in the bag will go to my studio, down town. They will live in the cupboard awaiting their return to either finish more of the same or morph into something else!

When I work/make things I go to the zone and my brain processes the stuff in my head into new patterns and realizations. I spent a lot of time remembering my first cat while working on this project.

Her name was Tanaya. I met her in 1980. Dropped in the grass beside the sidewalk, birthed on the run, a West Hartford, street cat's first litter, no doubt. I could not pass as though I had not seen her suffering. The Vet in the phone book said, clean her up, hydrate, then kitten milk re-placer. I was warned not to expect success, it was unlikely. She fit in my hand, eyes not yet open.

I spent the next several weeks nursing her. I slept with my hand in her box and fed her when she wiggled in the night. I took her to work with me. She grew stronger. A dainty, active snuggler who shared many hours with me. She moved cross country, through Canada, with her own papers. Lived in Alakaket, the bush of Alaska, for a year, and then in Two Rivers, Alaska, for a many more years.

Finally, succumbing to feline leukemia she left my heart broken and open. Once we know love that deeply we know we can love, and be affirmed, unconditionally. It is a challenging lesson for me to translate to people. My children have taught me much of what I know about how to love, develop and maintain relationships. I still work daily to accept my limitations and grant myself the grace I offer others, and breathe. Forgiving my past as I embrace the moment. Sometime that past is yesterday. My filters are not as well developed as it might appear at first hearing.