Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Year of the Veteran

year of the veteran

I got the idea to do this piece for the year of the veteran as a greyscale quilt with deep red accent back in June. It took so long to get around to it because I wanted the portrait my grandma has in her front room-and I can NEVER get anywhere because of the stupid dog. I finally had to get mama to take this pic of it:


This is a large portrait of my Great Grandfather from WWI. He would have been around 25 at the time. I love this picture, I believe that is partly because he looks so much like my brother. This is the main focus of the piece. I played around with different gradations of grey and red, and then added a second photo, taken from WWII period.

My Great Grandfather served in both wars, was blown nearly to pieces in the first one and a veteran's guard in the second. We tried to look up his records once-the number of Joseph Smiths was astounding. He did not have a middle name. He truly was but one of many-so many names in a long list. In some ways I feel like this makes him all the more representative of those faceless names. Of the many, here is one. One who was real, who lived in more than a single line on the list of Joseph Smiths.

I never even came close to actually knowing him (he died relatively young-likely as a result of his war wounds) but there are long stories I could tell about him as my grandma and her sister have talked about him enough to nearly bring him back if only in one's mind.

It seems he was haunted by the inhumanity of a stupid war all his life. He was both physically and psychologically scared from his war experiences (being nearly buried alive would do that to a person) and for the most part would not speak about them. He was, as many others, shell-shocked. I added a piece of silver into the eye of the older version of the quilt, because he had a literal glint in the eye from shrapnel.

My dad remembers him as a 'dour little Scotsman' constantly giving him heck about something-but he was truly generous to a fault-would help anyone with anything. His house was marked by the hobos in the 30's as a friendly place, and my grandma remembers waking up some mornings to the floor littered with young men and boys who'd come in the night looking for a place to stay. That was how my grandparents met.
Some of us also inherited our somewhat *fiery* temperament from him... :)

Anyway, technical stuff; It ended up 17x21 in size, as I am of the school of letting the quilt decide what size it wants to be. :) the top went together quite easily. I dyed and painted the fabrics to get the right range and laid a piece of tulle over the whole thing to hold the smaller pieces in place, because fusible web is like socialism; a good idea in theory, but unless there happens to be a spare Tommy Douglas around it usually gets messed up in real life and falls apart. Anyway. If you know me (and my dear old bertha-yes I named my iron) you know what's coming. Why yes I did melt the tulle. Right on the elder face. At the binding stage. AND I was using a pressing sheet to protect it! Grrrr...

I tried to salvage it, and while I did manage to improve it, the quilt is now wonky and you can see where the new piece of tulle has been sewn in. Sigh. It looked gorgeous before that. But somehow it seems fitting that the quilt should be damaged, since it represents a man who did not leave this life anywhere near unscathed.


Rose~ said...

Wow, you make quilts that are beautiful! So you are going to make a quilt from an old photo? I didn't even know that could be done. How inspiring to me. My head is all full of ideas now. Thank you!

Char said...

Hi Rose;
Yes, the first photo of this post is the finished quilt. I use the cutout feature in photoshop to get a gradation of colour. I used to do it by hand, but since getting photoshop, I've become lazy. :)

Char said...

Also, I have an epson printer with durabrite inks, with which I can print directly onto fabric if I wanted to use the actual photo. I did that for a fabric book I made...

oh and thanks for the compliment! :)