Tag Archives: Mask quilt

Drawer 7

My last post, Getting It Out in the Open, surveyed six of nine plastic drawers in my studio. Over the past several months, the drawers have been victims of entropy. “Entropy” is a great word. Do you know what it means? It is a physics term, a noun. One of its more general meanings is “a gradual decline into disorder.” Life is often like that, isn’t it?

In fact, the first six drawers were just about as ordered as they ever are. It’s the last three that have suffered. Here is Drawer 7, and this is where things start to get interesting.

First up is a few tidbits cut from some beautiful African fabric I bought a few years ago at a quilt show. I have a basic plan for these but haven’t gotten to them yet. That’s a basic oatmeal-colored carpet underneath it. 

Next, a semi-secret project I’ve had kicking around in my head for a few years. The photo did bizarre things to the color here, which I wasn’t able to correct. Nor was I motivated to try taking the picture again. The background fabric is a lovely blue ombre I purchased maybe last year. Not terribly long ago, but this year is quite a blur, so I’m not sure. It is intended to look like the sky at just past sunset, so if you can push that color into your brain, you’ll get what I see. Most of the images on the background will be darkened, not quite to silhouette, with a house or shed on the left and windmill on the right. The central image is the secret part, so you might not see it until someday rolls around and it is done.

Also in this drawer is my mask man. I still don’t have a good plan for it. 

Finally, the rest of the stuff in the drawer is various leftovers from the Wind River Beauty project. 

I really need to sort through it. The bigger pieces can be restashed and the little ones go to scraps. I finished the top in February and had it on the frame to quilt before the end of the month. Here it is, loaded and ready to go.

I wasn’t happy with how it was going, and I hated the backing fabric. (Note to self: don’t use backing fabric you hate just because it’s big enough and you don’t want to buy something new. It’s a false economy.) Also I needed to move along to the new grandbaby’s quilt, so I took it off and unstitched the quilting. When we got back from the baby trip, I loaded it again with a new back. Again I was unhappy with the stitching, so removed it and unstitched it again.

Right now, Wind RIver Beauty is the only unquilted top I have left from the year.

Two more drawers, and a few other things, left to review.


Making A Mask

I wrote recently about masks and other faces in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Depictions of faces are one of the most common types of visual art, because we humans find faces fascinating. They are so interesting that we often perceive faces in almost any combination of shapes, in any media. And I do mean any media, including Swiss cheese, bowling balls, and on bug bodies! This article in Mental Floss magazine says the phenomenon of seeing faces everywhere is called “pareidolia,” and it is a function of a healthy brain.

Human brains are exquisitely attuned to perceiving faces—in fact, there’s an entire region of the brain called the fusiform gyrus that is dedicated to it. Its functions are evident even from early childhood: Studies have shown that shortly after birth, babies display more interest in cartoon faces with properly placed features than in similar images where the features are scrambled.

The “face neurons” in people with healthy brains are so overactive that they scream FACE! in many situations where there are no actual faces to be found. Those sophisticated face-detection skills, combined with our brain’s compulsion to extract meaning from the sensory chaos that surrounds us, is why we see faces where there aren’t any. Typically these sightings are nothing more than our mind’s interpretation of visual data …

Well, fortunately I have a healthy brain and see faces in all kinds of things. One sighting was in a paper cutting I did late last year. While playing with the classic, six-sided snowflake method of cutting, I quickly drew and cut this:

Well, no, that’s not a face. (I’ll bet I could find one if I look.) But I did several more cuttings, and this simpler cut-out shouted FACE! to me.

For months this piece of paper has been floating around my studio, sometimes “put away” and sometimes in a stack of other paper cuttings on my counter. For months I’ve wanted to create a mask from it, but until recently I wasn’t really sure how to do that.

If you have spent time around children, you might know that both toddlers and teens can be cross a lot of the time. My theory is that it has a lot to do with them being ready in some ways for the things they want to do, but not fully capable in other ways. They get frustrated in their desires, which makes them cross. Though I haven’t been particularly cross about it, my desire to make a mask from the paper cutting didn’t match up with my skills. Now it does. 

I chose fabrics first and ended up with a completely different color set than I’d expected. That’s okay, right? With a background of brilliant gold-yellow, I chose a deep burgundy to provide the framing. I adhered Wonder-Under fusible web to the burgundy (and no, I don’t use affiliate links or payments, so this isn’t an ad.) Next I traced the shape on the web paper in pencil, and carefully cut it out with small, sharp, scissors. Click either picture to see detail better. 

As I chose the features for the mask — eyes, nose, teeth — I added them one at a time, using parchment paper as my pressing sheet. I pulled the paper away from the fusible on the burgundy mask framing, just for the part I was about to adhere. While fusing shapes together, I left as much of the fusible paper on the framing as I could, to maintain the stability of the shape and avoid damaging the fabric. With the paper removed from the feature (eyeball, for instance,) I placed it behind the framing and ON TOP of the pressing sheet, and pressed the edges together. After the fused pieces were cool, I could peel them away from the pressing sheet as one unit.

I continued to build the face, adding more features as I went, and then adhered the whole thing to the gold background fabric.

Now the features are adhered under the frame and the whole thing is pressed to the gold background. The background isn’t attached to the batik print around the edge.

In the last photo you see it lying on top of a piece of batik. I might frame it with that, or I might choose a different border arrangement. Those are decisions I haven’t made yet.

If you’d like to try six-pointed paper cut-outs, whether to make snowflakes or to make a mask, this is a reasonably good video of the process.

You should note, though, that my “snowflake” has six SIDES, while the video shows how to make a six-POINTED snowflake, with twelve sides. Here is my mask paper-cutting refolded into sixths, not twelfths as their snowflake is. 

The difference in construction is that they’ve folded the paper an extra time. While it allows a more intricate pattern, it’s also substantially harder to cut cleanly. Try playing with some plain copy paper to see what pleases you more.