I'd seen this quilt, made by Carolyn Friedlander, before on the internet. Friedlander also happens to be the designer of the fabrics that compose the quilt, and this collection is inspired by her architecture background. Which is also fitting, since the whole thing is an homage to the home. Oh, can I say? It's absolutely more stunning in person than any photo can portray. But that's true of every single quilt.
I seriously considered buying the whole pattern and fabric swaths -- which were sold there in one of the shops in the vendor hall, all in one pretty, little package -- though I couldn't bring myself to spend the $130. I am loathe to make anything that is an exact replica of another quilt, when it'll just ending up looking like a copy. Hers is just so great anyway.
So instead, I started taking pictures of houses. Houses that inspired me, on the neighborhood roads of Austin.
I found myself wandering those neighborhood streets one morning, after just missing the bus, and being frustrated that the next #10 would not be there for another thirty minutes. Rather than sit at the bus stop and wait, all the while looking at the same run-dow avenue near my hotel, I took off on foot, figuring I'd find the next stop somewhere along the way, and if nothing else, at least I would be walking in the direction of the convention center. (It was roughly 5 miles away and would have eaten too much of my day to walk the whole way there. Long story short, I had someone book the hotel for me, and they booked the wrong Super 8 - farther up in Austin. But they have a GREAT $1/trip bus system. Thank you, Austin!)
Whatever neighborhood I found myself in was winding, charming, and downright hip -- but not in that super modern or super folksy way either, just a little bit of both. A bit of Texas tumbleweeds and cacti combined with some small-town charm that reminded me a great deal of the Midwest neighborhoods where I grew up, in Upper Michigan. These neighborhoods, and the houses themselves, look nothing like neighborhoods I see in Atlanta -- except for some of the older neighborhoods like Virginia Highlands or Cabbagetown. We are rife with uninspiring, suburban clones, home after home of too-big, ugly houses that have not a lick of character. I'll take overgrown any day, instead.
So I started taking pictures. It was a gorgeous day, and I was so thankful to miss my bus.
Then I came home, duly inspired by The Local quilt and my own homes photo series, and equipped with Heather Ross's totally inspiring words ringing in my ears, and a signed copy of her book in my hands. Heather Ross is a fabric designer, author, and children's book illustrator, and she's amazing. I had never heard of her before QuiltCon, though I could tell when I went to her lecture that I was not the first to develop an instant artistic crush on her.
She opened her lecture with a reading from her forthcoming book of essays and projects. She is a beautiful writer, and I was in tears at her words. She spoke of her childhood and building forts made of leaves, lovely things that reminded me of the woods near my own childhood home, one of many homes where I lived.
Her book details how to begin designing your own fabric, and then, when you've got your Photoshop files, how easy it is to upload them to sites like Spoonflower and print your own fabric. This was quite cost-prohibitive even five years ago. I've used Spoonflower before, though never as a fabric designer, and it's an amazing place. Totally inspiring as well. So I made my own fabric, using a sketch I did of one of the houses I photographed.
[Here is the house that inspired the sketch and fabric design below.]
The whole process was stunning to me, firstly because I never think of myself as an artist who draws. I suck at drawing. That's what I am always reminded when I try to do it. I drew three of them the very week I returned home, and grew more elated with each rendition. For some reason, working on these houses came easily, and I loved my final product.
I don't really know where this will go next. It's a big series of things in my brain that I'm adoring, exploring, and learning. I picked up Photoshop and was very patient with myself, and I learned some new skills. Invigorating skills. I have the power and creative will to design fabric. I own that. What an amazing thing.
One thing I do want to do is learn some paper piecing, make some of these homes from my photos and sketches into a quilt, perhaps a larger scale than Carolyn Friedlander's. All my own homes depictions, of course, and all my own choice of fabric, whether I design it myself or not.