Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Factory Girls

The Summer holds a challenge for me to read as much as I possibly can. For our June/July challenge themed "memories"  my mind turned to novels, conjuring characters and creating their fictional memories. Next life, a novelist! Oh to have such a talent.
In the meantime here is my summer novel, created in the form of a small, whimsical quilt. "The factory girls" Can you imagine their story? Can you imagine their memories?

Image transfer, piecing, applique, machine stitching.
With special thanks to Betty London for providing the photograph that was used in this piece.

quilted by Heidi Wulfraat


Memories, how do you chose one? I couldn't.
So I decided to try and represent them all using colour and then  explore the way memories are formed, reinforced and then lost through fragmentation. Research of scanning electron microscope photos and the explanation of the formation of memories  gave me the starting point for the quilting patterns.
The colours: walking through long grass, misty mornings, joy, pain, all can be captured through colour.
The strips and dots are memories, some overlapping, some being reinforced and some disintegrating. The quilting well that's the science and then the recall of events. Hanging from the bottom are the ends of the binding cord with a knot, so I won't forget.
And that weird title, that happened when my daughter, a psychologist, walked in and saw the quilt and said that's the bio cognitive basis or explanation of memory It's unwieldy but the perfect name and it stuck.
The quilt is made from cottons, some commercial some hand dyed, Super soft polyester wadding, cord, beads and 100 weight invasafil thread. The background is pieced and the surface fabrics stitched down with straight stitch close to the edge. this will allow the fabrics to fray over time much as memories do.



This theme was the easiest for me among the previous ones.
We all are full of memories especially when the half of the life has gone. These memories are different – good and bad. I try to keep in mind only good memories and very seldom remember bad things.
I made this quilt in memory of my grandmother and it has taken only two days, may be because I wanted to make something about grandma for a long time.
My grandma had a long and very difficult life. She was born in 1890 and gave birth for 8 babies but only 5 from them grew till their twenties. These five were two sons and three daughters. Her husband died when she was 40. One son had disappeared in 1941 during The World War II and grandma has been waiting for him till the end of her life…Second son was killed in 1945 during the war between the USSR and Japan. Daughters were with her till the end.

I spent each summer at grandma’s house. It was really small house with only three little rooms which were full of things that grandma made including weaved rugs. So I put similar little rugs in my quilt. My grandma lived in a village close to the mountains and there were two rivers which skirted the yard so background symbolizes mountains and rivers. Water in the rivers usually has looked grey that’s why I chose this color for background. There were also a lot of linen things at grandma’s house: curtains, table runners, towels. So I decided to use this fabric for background.  But the best of all was big orchard that she owned. There were different kinds of apples each summer so I sewed apple from many pieces which symbolizes different tastes and colors of apples. I'm an early bird. And usually first thing I did at grandma's after awaking I went to orchard, picked apple which was covered with morning dew and ate it. That's why there are beads on apple.

The Lost Garden

I had to go far back to find my memory, from my early childhood. We had a cabin back then, out of the city, with a garden full of flowers and berry-bushes, which my grandmother planted in the 1930s. There also were a lake near by, where we used to go bathing with our row-boat. @I decided to go abstract, seeing the flowers in the front, and an overview with lake and forrest in the background, as if seen from above.
Mono-printed and painted calico, machine-quilted and hand-embroidered.
And some close-ups:



The difficulty with this theme was deciding which memory I would turn into a quilt.
I am currently hand-piecing a quilt using a multicolored batik fabric in soft pastel hues that ofen reminded me of Monet's wonderful garden in Givergny. While I was stuggling with my first idea a few weeks ago several of our group members wrote about their visit to Givergny. I decided to take this as a sign that Monet's garden in Givergny would be a much betterstarting idea for a quilt.
I first saw paintings by Monet at the musée du jeu de paume in Paris during a one day class trip in 5th grad. Later I saw a few paintings by Monet in a museum in New York the first time I went to the USA. As I grew up near Paris about one hour drive from Givergny I had had the opportunity to visit this garden several times. For years I have had two reproductions of  pictures of the water lilies hanging in my home.
The quilt is made using the english paper piecing technic with 1/2" hexagons. This technic holds also memories of my City and Guild course where I used it for the first time.

As I wanted to give the quilt a more modern look I decided to machine quilt with a zig-zag stitch around each flower and each flower center using two different variegated threads.

Material: batik fabrics, cotton thread for piecing and quilting, poly-cotton batting
Technic: english paper piecing, machine quilting


'Two Little Chairs' by Linden Lancaster

This piece tells the story of an empty nest. These little chairs have been kicking around my home for over 25 years. Now they are a constant reminder of my two children, now grown up and flown to the 'Big Smoke'.
'Two Little Chairs' by Linden Lancaster
 The long shadows and use of dark blues were employed to help depict the feeling of melancholy. I chose to use the technique of lino printing because I have not tried it before and I like the linear quality that it produces. A hand dyed fabric was overprinted with dark printing ink and borders added.The background was then quilted densely in an attempt to make the chairs stand out.

'Two Little Chairs' detail

'Two Little Chairs' detail


In psychology the concept of tabula rasa is that at birth the mind is a blank slate and that as we go through life we collect a store of sensory images and write on this slate. I propose that these sensory images, or memories, create a map of our lives that in turn creates our self identity. When we lose our ability to access this map we lose our sense of who we are, our sense of self.

In Alzheimer’s, the pathways that allow us to connect to our memories become interrupted by inflammatory reactions within the brain tissue. At first these interruptions are intermittent, much like a short circuit in an electrical wire, and account for the good days and bad days that Alzheimer sufferers experience. As the disease progresses the connections become permanently damaged and access to the knowledge and memories permanently lost.

Along with the loss of memories there is a loss of self identity, the knowledge of who we are, who others are, how we relate to the world around us. In the earlier stages of the disease the sufferer is often aware of the gaps that are appearing in his knowledge and awareness. This is often a time of confusion, fear, anxiety and helplessness.

The word dissolution is used here to describe the fading away and gradual disappearance of the memories and therefore of the self awareness that makes us who we are.

The colored areas in the quilt represent the parts of the self map that are still accessible. The quilted but white areas represent where the memories are being lost but may still be intermittently accessible, while the large blank areas are where they are no longer accessible.

The image of the elderly face is isolated from everything and gradually disintegrating, disappearing as the sense of self dissolves. The image is dissolving and becoming less solid in appearance. The eyes show the fear and confusion of the earlier stages of the disease when there is still enough awareness to realize what is happening.

The materials are hand dyed cottons and cheesecloth and mono printed fabrics that have been fused, painted, thread painted and quilted.


Memories of turtle hunting and turtle races

This quilt is a memory of some moments in our lives with grandchildren.  The boys were 6 and 4 and were visiting from Vermont.  They went fishing on our stockpond but soon decided it would be more fun to catch turtles.  I took the photo as they were about to quit.  They had quite a stock of turtles -- all sizes--and they wanted to keep them in the water in a stock tank.  Several days later before they left for home we had a Great Turtle Race.  The big turtles got a chance to trudge to another stock pond and the little ones got a ride back to their pond.

The image of the boys, grandpa and the boat were made with a technique -- upside-down applique that I learned in a class at Quilt University.  The shoreline involves fusible applique.  The boy's features are painted on.  This was such a fun quilt to make with all the memories attached to the image.

Turtle hunters

detail of shoreline

Detail of boat and one turtle


This theme was quite a challenge. There were so many thoughts about this word, many positive and some negative, so my first thought was to make a weave of positive and negative memories, printed words on dark and light fabrics and then weave them together.

The word "Memories" also made me think of all those lovely holidays I and my family spent in Italy every spring for many years , about 35-40 years ago. Trying to interpret this lovely time I painted, with acrylic paint, a seascape with sand, water and sky. The beach is stamped with  irregular circles also  seed beads and some cotton beads and stitching were added in order to attain texture.  Parasols, sun and glitter were fused. The piece is hand quilted with silk and metallic threads.

My intention for this quilt was to make a simplified seascape which should give an impression of a peaceful and lovely time on the beach.

This was the first time I made a wholecloth quilt painted with acrylics.
Material used: Cotton fabrics, acrylic paint, seed beads, cotton beads, silk and metallic threads, cotton and polyester batting.


Some memories are strong and return like waves on the shore.  This memory is over 60 years old!  

At a very tender childhood age I was admitted to a hospital for treatment to my damaged finger.   My hospital room in a big old house looked out onto the seashore and I could smell the sea.   I remember so clearly how scared I was in that big bed, until a trip to the toilet acquainted me with the hospital cat, Snookums. 
Snookums came back to bed with me for comfort, but that didn't last long!  
 I have always loved that cat and all cats ever since.

Further on, most childhood weekends and holidays were spent on family sailing adventures. The movement of waves against the hull and wind in the air is instilled into my memories.

My choice of blue fabrics relates to memories of the seaside.  Also a more recent visit to Yves Klein exhibition knocked my socks off me with his use of blue.   My range of fabrics relate to Klein blue, as close as I could manage, moving to greenish shades of the sea. 

From my large scale naive sketch of a cat (to reflect my childhood), I machine appliqued pieces over white fabric background using button hole stitch.   The facial features were machine stitched for additional enhancement and bugle beads finished the watchful eyes.  

No binding was applied - rather a pillowcase finish allowing the waves to continue the rhythmic motion of memories. 

Castle of dreams

When I was about 9 or 10, we went occasionally to my grandmother's house. This was in the era of motorbike and sidecar and then a very old Austin 7 car, so 30-mile journeys were not frequent. Not far from my childhood home stood a fairytale castle hidden in the woods, which you could catch a brief glimpse of, rising up out of its moat, from that car journey. We always waited with excitement to catch sight of the magical place for an instant before the woods swallowed it up. Winter was better, because there were fewer leaves on the trees. That castle (Leeds in Kent, UK) is now fully open to the public and easily seen from every angle. I go and stroll round the grounds when I visit my mother, and you can picnic in the park for free. It is stunning, but the magic of elusiveness has gone.

I found a piece of polyester with satin blocks, which absolutely conveyed castle walls to me. Bonded onto hand-dyes, it formed the centrepiece. Other hand-dyes and commercial cottons appliqued. The plaid for the doorway came from a fabric my mother used for some tablemats, and, as she has been in hospital for a month with a broken wrist, I wanted to include that - it also has a portcullis vibe, which seemed apt. Entry to the castle is by boat, obviously!

When I get home to my studio in September, my intention is to add some variation of value to the shrubs with paint or crayon. I have very limited supplies at my mother's house.


I thought a great deal about this theme.  As part of my process, I asked my mother to send me pictures of the two of us together, hoping that one of the pictures she sent could be recreated for this challenge.

As it turned out, it was the combination of the note she sent to accompany the pictures she selected that led me to this piece.  My mother sent pictures from a family vacation.  In her note, my mother wrote, "Do you remember this wonderful day on the dunes?"  Well, if you saw my face in the picture, you'd know that I had a completely different feeling about the day and hence, a completely different memory of it.

That got me thinking.  Two people may share some of the same facts of an event (dunes; summer vacation; Mom, Dad, and me), but our emotions, circumstances, and biases can tumble up those facts into a completely different recollection.  As time goes by, our memories often become more of a collage, as opposed to a clear picture, of what happened.  Let me reference the following from documentation from the New Jersey criminal court system, describing in-court instruction for witness identification:

Human memory is not foolproof.  Research has revealed that human memory is not like a video recording that a witness need only replay to remember what happened.  Memory is far more complex.[1]   The process of remembering consists of three stages: acquisition -- the perception of the original event; retention -- the period of time that passes between the event and the eventual recollection of a piece of information; and retrieval -- the stage during which a person recalls stored information.  At each of these stages, memory can be affected by a variety of factors.[2]   

[1]            State v. Henderson, 208 N.J. 208, 245 (2011).
[2]            Id. at 245-46.

With all this in mind, I decided to created a piece that tried to visually represent the passage of time on memory. Acquisition, retention and retrieval  -- three different elements of remembering -- are braided together to create our personal memories.