Tag Archives: map quilts

The End of the Line

For some months I’ve been preoccupied with my canal map project. I’m relieved to report that it’s done, hanging sleeve and all.

It was made for a map quilt challenge, and was supposed to be no larger than 20 by 20 inches. That didn’t happen as canals are long and skinny. My piece is more like 19 by 29 inches.

I tried to depict the story of the Ohio and Erie Canal over time through part of Summit County, Ohio, from the Cuyahoga-Summit County line to just north of downtown Akron. The canal was much longer, beginning at Lake Erie and continuing south to the Ohio River.

The blue embroidered line that runs the length of my quilt represents the Cuyahoga River, and the red line the canal. The short red lines mark the canal locks. The brown lines show the current roads in the area, one of the transportation systems that has superseded canals. They are also the quilting lines. The map at the top left outlines the area my map covers.

Map of the area covered by the quilt.

Continuing down the left side, a photo printed on silk organza shows a typical canal boat being hauled by horses. The period photo was taken near the Ira lock, for those of you familiar with the area.

The next photos on the left show a lock that remains today, and some of the devastation wrought by the 1913 flood that wiped out the canal for good. The picture was taken on North Howard Street in Akron, Ohio.

Continuing on the right side, the top photo shows a group posed outside the Mustill Store in Akron. It was a store and butcher shop that served the canal boats, and has been restored. The photo beneath the store shows boats lined up to enter a lock.

Many mills, such as the Moody and Thomas Mill in Pensinsula, Ohio, at lock 29, were developed to take advantage of the canal. The photograph I used was damaged, but shows a typical grist mill.

The final picture shows the front page of the Akron Beacon Journal for March 26, 1913. Akron was one of many Ohio cities flooded.

“When Akron’s east reservoir gave way, some thought it had been dynamited. Water roared over the gates of the canal locks to a depth of eight feet, making them impossible to open. Lock 1 in Akron held back 9 miles of water. Canal cities were warned by those on horseback to evacuate the area. John Henry Vance, a B.F. Goodrich engineer, used dynamite to blast open the lock gates. The water crushed gate after gate, ripping the clay lining off the banks of the canal, as it rushed north to Peninsula and Boston.” (http://akron.com/akron-ohio-entertainment-news.asp?aID=18840)

This quilt represents a lot of compromises as I tried to be historically accurate yet create an artistically pleasing work. The graphics gave me trouble as I searched for historic photos that were interesting, clear, and of high enough quality to survive being printed on fabric.

I tried to blend the photos with the background using embroidery, which also serves as part of the quilting. I would have preferred to arrange the photos close to the points where they were taken, but space constraints got in the way. I won’t bore you with my adventures printing on fabric.

Would I change things? Absolutely, but I have no plans to return to the canal except as a hiker. I suggest this site if you have a burning thirst for more information on individual canal locks.

I’ve linked to Off The Wall Fridays.

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Filed under Completed Projects

My Latest Obsession

When I began my map quilt of the Ohio and Erie Canal I had no idea how deep I would get into the subject. Last Sunday I dragged my husband to a lock operation demo at the NPS Canal Exploration Center, and then surveyed the exhibits inside the center. First, here’s a photo of an actual quilt being worked on by one of the volunteers. (She was taking a break at the time.) You can tie just about any subject to quilting, somehow.

Opening and closing a canal lock isn’t exactly high tech. You get a few people to push or pull the horizontal beams attached to the gates. Those suckers weigh a few tons. When the lower gate is closed the lock fills up with water and raises the boat to a higher level for the next stretch of canal. If the boat is going the other way, the process is reversed.

I learned that each lock is 15 feet wide and 90 feet long. Canal boats were 14 feet wide and 80 feet long, which made for tight clearance. After the mules or horses were unhitched, the crew poled the boats into the locks and used the poles to keep the boats away from the lock sides.

Before 1850 some canal boats took paying passengers from Cleveland to Portsmouth, Ohio. A trip took about 80 hours, and to call the quarters cramped is an understatement. After 1850 railroads were the preferable transportation choice.

Many canal boats were family operations and the boats also served as the family’s home.

During the disastrous flood of 1913 the locks in Akron were dynamited to release the water backed up by the locks. There were 15 locks in a one mile stretch in Akron.

I think it’s time for me to step away from the lock, and concentrate more on the art part of my quilt. I did hear, though, that Canal Fulton operates horse pulled canal boat rides in season. . . .

 

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Artistic Endeavors – Interpretive Maps

Lately I’ve been exploring maps as artistic interpretations of a place or idea because a group I belong to has a map quilt challenge this year. My thinking, which was running along prosaic geographic paths, was transformed by Diane Savona’s map creations. She says,”[Maps] can also teach history. They can be used to hold stories and feelings about a place.”

One of Savona’s earliest map works was Hometown Perceptions.

“A young man told me that he is afraid to go into neighboring Paterson, which has a mostly African-American population. I’m a middle-aged woman, and feel no such danger. This map explores our subconscious feelings and prejudices, the perceptions we develop about our homes and our neighbors. Most of the materials were obtained at local garage sales.”

Static 1 was Savona’s response to a trip to India.

“In ancient castles in India, royal women could only view the outside world through carved stone grills called jali. While traveling through India in an enormous white bus, I felt that I was also getting a very limited view of this amazing country. Returning home, I printed a pattern using images of tour bus windows. This cloth was set over wool, cut into and sewn to create a textile jali over images of India, printed on cloth.”

In Hurricane New Orleans Savona used locks and keys, the symbols of a secure dwelling.

“Based on a map of the Chalmette section of New Orleans. There are actual keys embedded under the cloth. Other sections have discharged images of keys and locks.”

Finally, Savona’s response to the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

“During a month in Hiroshima, I spent many days ‘beachcombing’ the river edges at low tide. I found ceramic shards, electronic bits…and glass fused by the blast 70 years ago. ( I checked with the museum: it is permissible to take these items). This map shows a section of the city nearest to the blast epicenter, with the rivers forming long black verticals, crossed by connecting white bridges.”

I hope you look at Savona’s other work as well. I’ve just started reading her blog, where she talks about her processes. Talk about thinking outside the box.

For more creative, often non-fabric, maps check out cARTography.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Inspiration