Cutting The Cord

Recently a commenter asked me how I knew a piece was done. I responded that for me it was intuitive, but on further reflection I’ve decided it’s like the advice Coco Chanel supposedly gave for accessorizing an outfit. Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory”

Mlle. Chanel devoted far more thought to dressing than I ever have, but I think the principle’s the same: go a bit over the edge and then back off a touch. I try to add to a quilt until it’s just too much of a muchness (from Chanel to Alice in Wonderland in the same paragraph!) Then I stop and remove something. Usually that does the trick for me.

I also concur with painter Jamie Wyeth who said in his August 14, 2014, interview on Here and Now: “All the inadequacies jump out at me. … I don’t really finish a picture but it gets to the point of diminishing returns, and I just say, enough.”

I hope I’ve set the stage to debut The Big Bang, which I wrote about as my problem project.

The_Big_Bang_Joanna_MackI felt it needed more – more subtlety, more mystery, more depth. However, I couldn’t figure out how to get there. I painted more silk organza and cheesecloth, but found layering them on top gave a monochromatic effect.

After I removed those layers I hit on using them selectively, in particular the cheesecloth. I recalled photos of galaxies where clouds of matter swirled about. That was the effect I sought.


Many hand stitches with metallic and silk threads later, I declare this piece finished.

detail 1detail 2detail 3Of course there are aspects I’d like to change. My bottom layer of fabric worked for the initial concept, but now doesn’t quite fit. I toyed with starting afresh with a dark fabric, but realized the transparency effect wouldn’t show as well. I wish the metallic thread sparkled more. It does in certain lights, but mostly when you hold the piece at an angle. I’d love to find a way to display it with a light behind it, but the mechanics are beyond my ability and that would constrain where I could display it.

However, I think it’s time I stop fussing with this one and declare it born.


Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

6 responses to “Cutting The Cord

  1. The cheesecloth works really well to provide the interstellar effect you wanted. And I love all the gridding throughout. I’d love to see this in person, as I expect it shows very differently than in photo. Thanks for sharing.

    • As I said, I’d like to be able to back light this piece to really highlight the transparency effects. And in person you can see glimmerings from the metallic thread in certain lights. Glad you think the gridding works on the bottom fabric. I’m pleased with the way the cheesecloth worked out.

  2. Judy

    It is definitely born. You are very successful with the transparency and the cheesecloth [de minimus] is a great effect. Congrats.

  3. I’ve always loved that advice from Chanel! This was so interesting to read and get more insight to your process. And the use of cheesecloth, to get that swirling effect, is brilliant! This is one I wish I could see in person!

    • I have to laugh that of all the embellishment materials I’ve purchased for my quilting, the yards of cheesecloth I bought at WalMart for less than $4 has been the most useful. And it was your comment that got me reflecting on when I consider a piece done.

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