A last-minute visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix last Thanksgiving weekend turned into nearly a year of inspiration for my quilting. I was visiting my husband who was working at the time near Gila Bend, Arizona. We were a little early for my plane, so I suggested to stop at the garden before heading to the airport.
It was late afternoon, with a slanting sun that was perfect for picture-taking. I snapped quite a few shots, just enjoying the bizarre forms of the cactus and the lovely light.
About that time, I was starting to experiment with fabric collage: creating quilt by cutting snips of scraps and arranging them on a foundation fabric. It’s not original with me at all. Susan Carlson excels at the technique, and I had her book, Serendipity Quilts, as a guide.
The first cactus quilt I made was inspired by this photo I took of an ancient saguaro cactus, with many scars and a splotchy surface. Here is the result, which is more of an abstract composition than a portrait of the cactus above.
I used a combination of hand-dyed and commercial batik fabrics, cutting them into shapes, strips and fragments and arranging them on a foundation fabric where I had drawn the cactus. After the pieces are placed and held in place with drops of glue, a piece of tulle is placed on top to hold the pieces in place while it is is machine quilted. I used a wool batting and various threads, including silk and variegated cotton. The piece is fairly small, approximately 17 inches square.
The next cactus quilt was based on a picture of a soaring saguaro taken against the cobalt blue sky.
I was more interested in the implied movement of the cactus, as if they were dancing and reaching for the sky. The sculptural quality of these plants is truly inspiring.
Again , my intent here is not to do a portrait but to convey the form and mood that the cactus plants inspire. The resulting quilt is called Saguaro II and is somewhat larger, 16 inches wide by 34 and a half inches tall.
I also include here some detail shots to show the detailed quilting, all free-motion using a variety of threads. In both of these first quilts, I trimmed the tulle around the cactus to avoid dulling the blue sky background.
The final quilt was quite different from the other two, inspired by some shots I took of barrel cactus, which of course are much closer to the ground and thus required a different background. Here is a shot I took and the quilt that it inspired.
How to capture it? I wasn’t sure I could. It took a long time, especially the detailed quilting of the background, which is tiny pebbles and the shadows cast by the cactus and the pebbles. Again, not a portrait but an interpretation. This quilt is also small, 15.25 inches wide and 11.5 inches tall.
All quilts made in 2013.