May 17, 2010

At the Pacific International Quilt Festival last fall, I was delighted to see that a fellow PVQA guild member had won a big whopping prize!

meri-ribbon

Best of World! It’s a big world, and I was so impressed!

You can click on the photo to get a larger view.

I asked Meri to tell us something about herself and her work.

Meri ~

I was born just outside New York City in 1945 to a family which, on my father’s side, has had literally generations upon generations of artists (I have never met a Henriques who wasn’t one sort of artist or another!). I received a BA in Fine Art from the University of California at Berkeley, which wasn’t terribly useful when it came to making a living! Fortunately, my husband does that for us, so I’ve been able to live the life of a housewife and non-starving artist.

Meri

Meri


In past years, I’ve worked on building costumes for the San Francisco Lamplighters under the guidance of the brilliant designer Melissa Wortman, and I’ve costumed shows for the now-extinct Bay Shore Lyric Opera Company in Capitola.

In 2006, I took my first trip to Guatemala on one of Priscilla Bianchi‘s wonderful Guatemalan tours, and fell in love with what I’ve come to think of as the ‘Rainbow Country’. My first Guatemalan quilt, ‘Las Mujeres Azules de Guatemala (the Blue Ladies of Guatemala)”, a result of that trip, was just published in Lark Books 500 Art Quilts.

Las Mujeres Azules de Guatemala by Meri Henriques Vahl

Las Mujeres Azules de Guatemala by Meri Henriques Vahl

I made a return trip with Priscilla in the fall of 2008, and the ‘Flower Market’ (the first quilt shown here) was the result. Here’s a description of my process. I began by putting the quilt back face-down on my worktable. Over this, I spread a layer of natural cotton batting, and then took out my scissors: I was ready to start creating…

The main central picture in the ‘Flower Market’ quilt is a fabric collage using recycled Guatemalan belts and huipiles (woven blouses), Guatemalan fabric, some cotton batiks, and a few flower prints that were cut into very small units. Because I couldn’t find all the flower prints I needed, for example chrysanthemums, I fused cotton fabrics onto Wonder Under and then cut them into narrow strips and ironed them down (just in case I sneezed or the cats got into them!). I also included short lengths of yarn in several places for flower stems, and layers of dark blue tulle (in the flower buckets, for example) to create shadows. Note: there are no seams in this area – it’s all raw edges.

For the faces, I took the photographs I was working from to Kinko’s and blew them up in black and white to the size I wanted, then traced the outlines onto tracing paper, which I then reversed, drawing the image onto freezer paper. Now I had a reversed image.

Next, I ironed fine off-white cotton onto the freezer paper and drew the faces with Aquarelle Caran d’Ache colored pencils using a very interesting layering technique that dates from Medieval times: I first drew the outlines in dark blue pencil, then shaded in the shadows; then came more pencil over-layers of tan, rose, brown, yellow, and black around the eyes. Once I had achieved the effects I was after, I used Sharpie permanent pens to add accents to the eyes, eyebrows, mouths, etc. I also used this same coloring procedure to draw the small baskets and any flowers and fruits I didn’t have store-bought fabric for.

Once my picture was complete, I carefully spread a single layer of black (yes, black!) tulle over the entire surface, added lots of pins to hold the pieces in place, and then spent hours and hours free-motion quilting over the whole thing, to ‘trap’ everything in place. The stitching (finally!) completed, I squared up the picture and then added the borders, using the usual traditional piecing techniques.

I have taught this fabric collage technique in the past, and will be teaching it again at the Monterey Peninsula Quilters Guild on July 11, 2010, and also doing a presentation the next day for the Guild (I believe non-members are welcome to take their classes and attend the lectures). It’s a thrill to see my students take off on their own exciting explorations with this marvelous liberating and fun technique! Since there is no piecing involved, anything goes — and wonderful landscape can be achieved in just a brief couple of hours!

And, I can’t wait to go back to Guatemala and find out what else happens!

Kay here ~ thank you so much Meri for talking us through how your create your stunning quilts. I’ll also look forward to seeing what your next trip inspires!

Until next time,
Kay
By Kay Mackenzie

Comments

One Response to “Best of World”

  1. Jane on May 18th, 2010 9:58 am

    Oh my that is a wonderful art quilt. I would love to learn the technique, I can read it but I learn better when I “do” it. Thanks for an informative feature.

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