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Enter the Forest of Dreams is the bed I made over a 13 year period. More than a practical piece of furniture, it is a multi-dimensional creation containing a fairy tale and a story of the imagination, fruition and eternity of love. The bed frame is crafted by my hands and the quilts and bedding are stitched together with the story of my life. My husband Steve and I each wrote a poem which is incorporated into the fabric of the piece. The hidden part of the bed contains a symbol of eternal love.
A woman enters the forest to sleep and dream of her True Love. The trees gather round to mind her through the night. A new moon, fireflies and the first primrose of springtime light her way. Over the span of many years, her dreams and her desire coalesce in the river of dreams. She and her True Love find one another and together, they discover the secret of Eternal Love deep beneath the forest floor.
Bonnie McCaffery filmed and edited this beautiful video of me telling the story of my bed last summer.
Apparently, there truly is a Cloak of Invisibility, as fictionalised in the Harry Potter novels. Scientists have developed a ‘metamaterial’ – a new flexible film able to manipulate light rays in a manner that renders solid objects invisible. Sounds like fun fabric to make wearable art from!
I finished my ‘invisible’ hanging sleeve for Suncast Shadows. I whipstitched an organdy sleeve to the back and hung it this morning for the acid test. I have a perspex lath which I use for my other transparent quilt - ‘Le Mariage du Fleuve et du Ciel’.
When we decorated our flat this spring, we put hanging rails in the hallway outside my studio to make a gallery.
Anyhow, the invisible sleeve is just that.
Now, where did I put my fat quarter of metamaterial?
I came across this quote the other day and have been holding it in my mind as I contemplate the night time forest.
“Color! What a deep and mysterious language,
the language of dreams”
– Paul Gauguin
It feels great to have gotten back to work painting the back of my ‘Forest of Dreams’ headboard quilt. I always feel like a ‘real’ artist when I paint, although I don’t really know what I’m doing half the time.
I’m using an assortment of fabric paints. I managed to get some colour and tonal gradations with my brushes, then I got out my wooden stamps to put some texture onto the surface of the ground and between the trees. First, I blocked off the tree trunks by pinning paper to the quilt.
Then I stamped the fabric.
Really pleased with the result!
Once I finished painting in the background, I took it off of my studio wall and into the kitchen. Partly because I thought I was going to do some screenprinting onto the surface (which I decided not to) and partly because I started painting my studio yesterday and ran out of workspace!
I’ve given some thought to what a dreamer might require when she enters the forest at night. Entities to light her way, but not to illuminate too much the mysterious darkness, for this is where she will find what she seeks.
I’ve been filling in some of the details, like the luminous primrose flowers,
gently glowing fireflies,
some more background foliage,
and the sweet surprise of the beautiful crescent of a new moon, glimpsed from behind the tree trunks and leaves. Here, I’ve ‘auditioned’ the moon in paper before painting it in a silvery-white.
Next, I’ll put the quilt onto the headboard so that I can determine where to place a hand lettered poem I wrote for the back of it.
After I made the valance for my Forest of Dreams bed I decided to draw a pair of figures onto it. The valance covers the base of the bed and I liked the idea of having a couple on it.
I love being married to a poet. I told Steve about this a few days before my Open Studio last month. I was in my studio most of the day and Steve was in the salon, where the bed was set up.
When he told visitors about my bed, he said that the headboard quilt is the Imagination, since it holds the woman who is to dream of her True Love,
and the bed quilt is the Fruition, with the flowing river containing the slate and fish, whose symbolism I’ve written about here.
He showed people a picture of the figures I intend to include, hidden, and explained that the valance, which lies beneath the forest floor and the river is the Eternal aspect of True Love.
The brass I chose to reproduce on my valance dates from 1325 and depicts Sir John and Lady Aleyne de Creke. This brass is the earliest of those that represent a man and his wife and ranks as one of the finest surviving in the country. It can be found in St Mary the Less Church in Cambridgeshire.
Monumental brasses are one of the most common forms of memorial to have come down to us from the middle ages. A brass is engraved on sheets of metal inlaid in matrices cut into the stone. The main reason why brasses were laid in the middle ages was to elicit the intercession of the faithful. In Catholic theology it was held that the sufferings of the soul in Purgatory could be eased, and the soul’s passage speeded, by the prayers of the living. Thus a brass or slab served in some sense as an obit: as a way of ensuring the flow of prayers. A passer-by, seeing the figure of the commemorated, would be prompted to say a prayer or two on his or her behalf. The Monumental Brass Society is a great resource for everything you ever wanted to know about brasses and slabs.
I first tidied the image up in Photoshop by cutting the figures out from the background and adjusting the contrast to make the details more clear. I used some free software called Poster8 to enlarge the image and print it out. Then I taped the A4 sheets together on our kitchen table.
My plan was to trace the images directly onto my valance fabric. This was just a white fitted sheet that I’d sewn a wide brown corduroy ruffle onto. They were still a bit hard to see through the cotton fabric, so I traced them onto A3 tracing paper, which I taped together and put into position on a table top.
Then I used a Pentel Fabric Pastel to trace the figures. I had to keep sharpening it as it lost it’s fine point on the cotton fabric.
I didn’t really appreciate the details until I began tracing the drawing. The St Mary the Less Church website gives a lot of information about the history of the de Crekes and the details of their clothing.
There comes a time in the making of my art where something magical happens and I have the feeling that I am simply the vehicle for a Divine force flowing through my hands. At the end of the day, when I’d finished drawing the de Crekes and their animal companions, I took the valance into the salon to heat set my work. I was listening to a CD of Renaissance music called 40 Voices. The first track is ‘Nomen mortis infame’ composed by Willem Ceuleers (b. 1962) and set to a text written by Petrarch (1304 – 1374), an Italian poet and the “Father of Humanism”. The gist of the text is that sleep is death’s cousin and why be more afraid to die than to live?
I didn’t realise the meaning of the words at the time (they’re sung in Latin), but knew that I had entered sacred space. I left the room for a moment and when I returned, the valance on my ironing board looked like a draped casket. I felt as though I were preparing the couple I had drawn to lie in state. I lit some candles and mindfully ironed their images onto the fabric.
When I’d finished, I left them in front of our mantelpiece/altar.
My friend Deborah does Chinese knotting. She had given me a beautiful piece comprised of 2 knots for endless love and a butterfly (symbol of renewal and Soul). It felt right to place it on the valance.
When Steve got home later on that evening, we made the bed together, placing the valance on the divan base beneath the mattress and River of Dreams quilt. Steve is working on a poem that I will hand letter onto the fabric surrounding the figures. Something about love, eternity and sacred union which outlives the seasons and mortal years.
Wow! I can’t believe it’s been two whole weeks since I last wrote. I’d thought the deadline for my Suncast Shadows quilt was February 31st, but re-read my paperwork and it’s due on the 13th. Ooops! So I’ve been focussing on getting it done and have an appointment for it to be photographed this Saturday. I haven’t taken many work in progress photos, but here are a few over the past several weeks.
Placing people onto the painted and partially stitched cotton organdie surface in my studio . . . . .
I’ve had this photo inside of me for such a long time (I took it on January 1st, 2007) that I feel as though I know some of the people in it. I printed several of them onto white organdie and fused them onto the quilt.
This pair stuck to my slipper and followed me into the kitchen, where I’ve put them up on our notice board so they can see into my life.
I’ve been sewing in the living room, which has great south-facing picture windows . . . . .
Sunlight coming through reflected tree branches . . . . .
Edwardian lamp-post, fused and ready to be stitched . . . . .
Stitching the bars along the railing . . . . .
Today, I painted and made marks on the surface with fabric pastels & paint and fibre tip pens. Finally, I hand-lettered the haiku onto the bottom of the piece. Very pleased with how it came out too! I think I’ll save that process for a separate post.
I’m going to leave it until tomorrow evening when I’ll work some more on the River Thames and the big rain puddle on the pavement. Then all I have to do it square it up, finish the edges and decide how to make the hanging sleeve.