Rhinoceros in the Garden

In early 2015, while watching House of Cards on Netflix, I impulse-ordered a huge selection of Kona Cottons from Fat Quarter Shop.I made the obnoxious request that every color be labeled for me so I could easily identify them should I need to order more at some point, and to my surprise and delight, FQS honored that request. The saliva-inducing, carefully-labeled stack of fabrics arrived a few days later. I arranged and arranged them, pulling subsets and groupings out to make a series of matching pieces that could one day hang in our home, since every one of these fabrics goes with the color schemes we chose when renovating back in 2012. This small grouping was one of the subsets I pulled out last fall. Wanting to do some more work with improv piecing and larger chunks of fabric, I just started to play. I struggle with negative space, so initially I was trying to leave big pieces of unbroken color for myself. I shortly learned that I’m still not really ready for that. I’ll get there, but I guess I’m still in a visual clutter phase in my artistic expression. After a while I got a composition that I liked a lot, so I trimmed it all squarish and sewed it together and stood back to admire how free it was. The ordered mathematician side of me complained bitterly, so I decided to play with repetition and scale to use up the remaining fabrics left from the pull, since they were still sitting there on my cutting table. I have found that when I do improv work, I have to chase it with regimented piecing so that I still feel balanced. 
I was heavily influenced by a more free version of this shape, created by dear friend Connie Carrington in her quilt View from the Treehouse, when constructing these birdie feet. She had begun a project using a free-pieced version of this shape while we were at a quilting retreat some time before and I watched with utter fascination as she built the piece. Rather than copy her outright, I used rulers and careful angles to silence the need for order in my work after an improv binge. The two sides of my brain arranged themselves nicely on my design wall, unified in color and basic size. And then they wanted to interact. Funny how much better I liked both explorations when they were combined! In this photo I covered the dominant chunk of white in the center with a discarded chunk of improv pieces, because it was too strong. Afterwards I hacked into the center section to remove that white and insert the discarded section in its place.Then I sewed it all together, adding straight pieces of fabric where needed to get the border to go all the way around. I had to do some significant surgery on it to get it rectangular and flat before quilting, but ultimately I was successful. IMG_1842 

As for the quilting, I chose to quilt it densely with organic lines and matching thread in each section.IMG_2276Every bit of it is quilted except for the birdie feet, which I wanted to be puffy and stand out. IMG_2289 IMG_2294 To me, it looks like a rhinoceros hiding behind the hosta in a garden, because I’m sure they do that. And birdies all around. IMG_2300I faced it so that there’s no hard line around the piece, and I love how it turned out. Jeff White took the finished photo (below) of it, which shows the rich colors very well. 

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