What Lies Beneath

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Tofino, British Columbia

A few years ago I took a road trip with the final destination being Tofino, BC. Tofino is a beautiful small surf town on the west coast of Vancouver Island surrounded by ocean and rainforest. While in one of the shops I bought some little round shell buttons and decided that I wanted to incorporate them into a quilt that commemorated the trip and the landscape.

Apart from hanging out around town, we also surfed, hiked, and tried our hand at paddle boarding. Paddle boarding is an amazing experience; to float on the surface and look down into the water and see little fish, coral, urchins, and starfish was definitely an inspiration for this quilt. I also wanted to incorporate the landscape. It rained quite a bit when I was there and you would get these huge expanses of grey sky and grey ocean, which intensified the surprise pops of colour found under the water.

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A grey day in Tofino.

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West coast marine life.

Originally I had planned to make a full sized quilt but I have quite a collection around here now so decided to do a wall hanging instead (33″ x 38″). My plan was to sew the fabrics I’d picked into a geometric pattern with no real tangible link to the real world. Something about that idea wasn’t grabbing me though and I was having trouble committing to it and begin cutting. It wasn’t until I took some time and rethought about what I was trying to achieve that I began to form a picture of what the quilt would finally become. This happens to me quite a lot and this process can mean that the idea either ruminates in my mind for days or weeks, or in the case of a quilt still to come—years, or result in me sketching out multiple ideas until I am satisfied. Even then a quilt will evolve as I go, as in the case of “A Painting for a Quilt”.

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Tofino inspired quilt.

In the end I came up with something more recognizable to reality but still abstract enough that I could shape the movement and reflection of the water, and the brilliant colours underneath it, amongst the stillness of a grey day. The design also allowed me to incorporate the shell buttons, giving them a defined sense of place. The buttons embody the ubiquitous nature of sand on the ocean floor and the makings of a beach but also as representations of shelled ocean creatures.

To hang the quilt I used a method similar to what I saw being done at the museum when hanging textiles and used two small loops of fabric sewn to the back top of the quilt a few inches in on either side. I made sure that the loops where big enough for the wooden slat I was using and slid the slat through the loops, screwing the edges of the wood into the wall. I do notice a bit of a difference between the top and the bottom in how it hangs as the top of the quilt is stabilized and lays flat against the wood while the bottom is more free to hang and tapers a bit towards the bottom. I guess if I really wanted to keep everything flat I could have added a slat to the bottom as well. I’m not sure how this will affect the longevity of the quilt over time so I will have to ask a few of my conservator friends their opinion on the matter!

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