Release Your Light
Completed July 2009 - 77.5" x 77.5"
Release Your Light began with a dream.
In November 2008, I was laying in bed, feeling pretty sorry for myself and (I'll admit it) wallowing in self-pity. I can't quite explain WHY I was feeling so bad at that time simply because I'm not really sure myself.
I think the main reason I was upset is because I felt frustrated and limited by what I had designed in The Duchess. It was in a difficult stage and I was bursting to try something new.
I felt so filled with creativity, but couldn't use it because I was in neck deep with a quilt I wouldn't finish for 3 more months.
Suddenly I saw this image of a woman bursting with light and creativity. In her hands, she held a ball of light: her creativity. Her light was so bright, it blocked out everything.
I began to hum the song "This Little Light of Mine" that I often sing to my little boy, and I began to get chills! I was so overwhelmed with the image and how much love and power was surging through my body while I thought of it.
I began to change the words of the song until they felt just right:
This little light in me,
While this whole experience may sound very weird, it was one of the most powerful and dramatic of my life.
I see the figure as a representation of all people. We are all so creative, it's bursting to get out of us! Set it free by trying: sing, dance, paint, quilt - whatever you need to do in order to live a more open and creative life.
I wanted to start this quilt immediately, but I knew that if I stopped working on The Duchess, I might never finish it. I drew the design and hung it in my studio so I could look at it every day.
After completing The Duchess, I began to design Release Your Light. My method of designing is a little odd. I use large graph paper that I tape together with masking tape until it feels the right size. This can get me into trouble, and it certainly did in this situation!
I wanted the central figure to be the dominate aspect of the quilt, so I started with a very big piece of graph paper. This became a problem because I kept having to tape more and more paper to the quilt as it expanded. Pretty soon, my paper design was covering every inch of my 8 ft x 9 ft table and this was only 1/4 of the quilt!
I knew I needed to resize the quilt then, but didn't want to. Call it laziness, call it being stubborn, I knew I wanted this quilt to be BIG!
I decided to hand appliqué the body and hair of the goddess to the center of the quilt.
Production on Release Your Light slowed to a crawl as I worked on other quilts and projects and hand appliquéd only when I had nothing better to do.
It took 2 months to finish the hand appliqué and by that point I had realized that I really didn't like the effect it gave to the quilt. The next time I try an appliqué project, I plan to try machine applique with invisible thread.
Regardless, I was at a point where I had to decide whether I was going to appliqué the rest of the rays or not. I decided that would probably not see this quilt finished before my son (who's 2) graduated from college if I hand appliquéd all the flames and rays.
So I made the huge leap in judgment to forget appliqué and instead just paint the quilt top with Shiva Paintstiks! I'd gotten the idea from the book "Quilts of a Different Color" by Irena Bluhm and really wanted to try the technique.
Another lesson I learned from this quilt: ALWAYS TEST YOUR TECHNIQUES.
I didn't test how long it would take or how much paint I would need to cover this gigantic quilt with paintstiks. I just assumed (wrongly) that painting would be easier than appliqué!
So the quilt top was sandwiched and I began quilting. Because I was going to paint the top, I chose not to use trapunto.
This means that the whole quilt, almost every inch of all 77 inches square had to be quilted with dense filler stitching.
Here is a photo of the quilt before it was painted, but after more than 400 hours of dense filler quilting:
By the time I got to the outer set of flames, I was so sick and tired of these two designs, I wanted to stitch anything else!
I spoke to a quilting friend about it and bemoaned the fact that I really couldn't stitch the other two designs I knew, Pebbling and Paisley. I struggled to quilt these designs and besides, they didn't really match with the them of the quilt.
She responded with the question "Why don't you take Paisley and change it a bit?"
This single question changed this quilt and my life! I immediately started playing with the Paisley design and eventually came up with Flame Stitch.
Here is a close up of the dense microstippling and flame stitch used in the ray before it was painted.
I also decided to make Release your Light my very first 2 sided quilt. This is a photo of the back side of the quilt: