Cactus and Quilts

Trunk of old saguaro cactus at Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ.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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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.Saguaro cactus at Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  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. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Barrel cactus at Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ.This cactus has a very different feel from the others, very rooted to the ground, but with those wonderful curved thorns.

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.

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