Sunday, August 08, 2010


I love growing sunflowers. Last year I had 2 and I promised myself I would grow more this year. Trying to get a head start, I planted a dozen seeds in little pots and put them in a sunny window. They sprouted almost immediately, but then didn't do much else for several weeks, except get stringy. I planted them outside and visited them every day. Much to my chagrin, the seedlings were eaten and nothing was left but a little stalk. So I planted a dozen more seeds directly in the ground. They also sprouted immediately, and also were eaten by the birds and/or squirrels. Argh! Next I bought a bunch of plastic cups to use as collars and planted a dozen more seeds. Success! The cups could stay protecting the cups until the true leaves came in, which must not be as tasty as the first set.

Sunflowers are amazing. In just a short time span they grow to 10 feet tall and then produce a magnificent bloom.

Here is the long view and you can see how tall they are. The blooms are in various stages - some have not yet opened, some are in the process, and one (nearly hidden) is bent over with the weight of the developing seeds.

It is fascinating to watch the process. The little blossoms open first on the outside rim, then work their way towards the center. The bees and the butterflies love them!

You can see here the outside blossoms have been fertilized and are growing seeds. The next band is the pistils that have just been fertilized. The next band is waiting for the bees to do their job, and the very center has not yet begun the process.

As the blossoms get fertilized and the seeds begin to develop, the head of the flower goes from flat to bowl shaped, and gets heavier and heavier.

This head has been entirely fertilized and is so heavy that the stalk has bent over and the flower is facing the ground. It will take several weeks for the seeds to develop. Once that is done, I can leave the head on the plant and let the birds eat the seeds from there. Or I can cut the head and hang it to dry, and then harvest the seeds. Last year I cut the heads off but I think that this year I will leave them out and watch the birds go after them.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

New work

I haven't posted new work in quite a while, it seems. Not that I haven't been doing anything, I'm just lazy about posting it. So here is something new. This is an experiment. The background is many small squares and rectangles, all raw edge stitched, then quilted in a loose grid. I did the background without any thought as to what the focus might be. But looking at the background, it seemed to be not background-ish enough, that is to say the yellow pieces clamored for attention and were distracting. A little paint applied in a random fashion took care of that. I thought about a foreground image for a while and came up with a graffiti-like scribble. However, doing this freehand with paint would not result in clean edges, so I made a stencil from freezer paper and ironed it down. The graffiti image is painted with opaque white paint then overlaid with some gold so it's not so stark. The piece is about 24" x 36", or a little smaller.

I really like the effect achieved when the painting is done after the quilting - if the paint is applied with a light enough hand, it does not penetrate into the valleys created by the quilting and so the quilting becomes more prominent. Of course, painting the fabric at this point in the process takes a certain amount of bravery but I've done it enough that I'm pretty sure what the effect is going to be.

In this detail shot you can see how the paint emphasizes the quilting and also lets some of the background show through, yet is still a strong focal point.

I'm working on a much larger piece constructed in the same fashion, also painted, and still in need of a focus. Not showing that piece for several reasons, the most important is that I intend to enter it into Quilt National, and they have such stringent rules on prepublishing images of the work that I don't want to take any chances. Entries are due in early September, so I need to get back into the studio!