“Water,” or Art Is Stupid

I finally finished and hung tapestry #2 in my “4 Elements” series: Water.

This one wasn’t nearly the joy to make that the first one, “Earth,” was. In fact it was so fraught with anxiety, errors, and frustrations, it inspired today’s Mimi & Eunice cartoon:
art is stupid

I’m glad it’s done now. Here’s some of the insanity that went into it (photos by Ian Akin, who has been a houseguest here through the whole thing):

I actually started sewing the “ribs” of the waves freehand, which was frustratingly difficult, before I remembered that sewing machines are actually designed to sew straight lines. Feed dogs push the fabric through at an even rate, which is how you get nice even stitches unless you’re doing weird things like covering the feed dogs with Teflon and using a darning foot. Off went the Teflon, on went the “walking foot” (a big noisy foot that feeds the top layer of quilt at the same rate as the bottom – useful for multiple layers of fabric and batting), and down, slightly, went my frustration with this part.

Did this project take too much work? Yes.

The binding came out well though – my best binding yet. Here I am hand-sewing it to the back. Which takes hours. I am insane.

I did a two-tone thing with the sky, except most of the lighter tone got trimmed off when I cut the whole thing down to match the size of “Earth.” This is a consequence of not using a proper pattern. Next time I’ll plan more carefully. The free motion pattern in the sky is based on Leah Day’s “Ocean Current.”

The scales on the sea serpent are my favorite part. I think one reason this quilt was less fun to do is all the parallel (more or less) lines. Free motion quilting is more fun with detailed, tight little patterns that go every which way. To me, anyway.

My formerly-blank wall is now half covered with quilted tapestries. Bruno, however, remains the focal point of the room.


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

6 thoughts on ““Water,” or Art Is Stupid”

  1. What I said on Facebook :

    Loving it all, Nina….the photos, the toon, the finished tapestry work, and your insane talent, which never ceases to amaze !

  2. I think it’s fair to point out that “way too much work” is your choice. Most quilters seem to be happy with much, much less detail work than you use — your quilting patterns are more like cross-hatching or wood engravings. You are creating graphic art, using fabric and thread but techniques more kin to pen and ink.

    But don’t think I’m trying to talk you down to a simpler style. I think what you’re doing is wonderul. But most of us out here would probably look at one of your hangings without any of the decorative texture quilting and think “wow, that’s fabulous!” All that extra work you put into them just makes it überfabulous.

  3. as the above user said, i saw the original picture and thought it was absolutely beautiful. and then i saw the details and it puts it into a whole new light. that’s fantastic!

  4. I think you’re insane, too, but these are insanely wonderful! I love your thoughts on attention economics too–I’m glad Mimi and Eunice are turning such a profit!

  5. I love the scales too. They are amazing. I hope with the perspective of a little time, you like the quilt a little more now ;). With regards to the hours and hours hand stitching binding requires, I’m of the opinion that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

    xo -E

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