The culmination of this year long course was a difficult project. We were asked to go to the museum on campus, choose a work of art and design a companion floral arrangement for it. After we sketched out a proposal, we could turn in a request for the flowers and the university would purchase them. In the turmoil of the end of the semester, I missed the deadline. I wasn't too nervous about my mistake until I actually went to the museum to choose my inspiration piece. There was a lot of contemporary, black and white stuff that I just wasn't feeling. In another wing of the museum, I found a piece that I really connected with. It was an oil painting by a Mexican-American artist depicting two children playing on a beach. The colors were vibrant and saturated and it was painted with simple lines. The older boy, wearing a fuschia shirt and lapis pants, was standing. His younger brother, wearing a purple shirt and lapis pants was bending over, playing in the sand.
To compound my good fortune, a way out of my flower mess appeared on the walk back to the main part of campus. A much appreciated landscape artist had planted masses of fuschia and purple tulips that were just coming into bloom. I came back later with a smile and a Swiss army knife. I pooled my meager resources together and bought two 6-packs of bluish violets, a shallow wicker bowl and some floral medium and drove home to my mom's house to put it all together. My plan was working out brilliantly.....until I ran out of flowers. I was out of money and literally out of time. In frustration and desperation, I walked out onto the porch to clear my head. There I saw the cheerful dandelions peeking out (sorry Mom) from the lawn and ran back in for the knife, the whole time telling myself that the heresy I was about to commit would work because: a.) sand is yellow and b.) the theme of the painting was youthful exuberance. The dandelions would be fine, perfect, in fact. Right. Right?!?!
In the end, I discovered that if you prepped a tiny hole in the floral medium, and impaled the dandelion with a toothpick to stabilize it, everything would work out fine. My tall fuschia tulips swirled down to the purple tulips down to the sweet violets and it all ended in a puddle of happy yellow dandelions. I was satisfied and pleased with my creativity.....until I walked into the museum and saw that nearly every one of my classmates had chosen the contemporary black and white pieces. There are several arrangements that I can recall through the horror. The one with 5 dozen red roses, a gilded Phantom of the Opera Mask, rolled up scores of music and artfully arranged feathers comes to mind. As does the arrangement with red birds of paradise that suspended a gracefully turning mobile with origami cranes on thin monofilament wire. I wanted to throw up. I set my arrangement next to the playing boys, silently apologized to them, and walked out of the museum mentally rehearsing how to break it to my mother that I had managed to fail a flower arranging class.
Our class was scheduled to meet the next day. I walked in to see a crowd of my classmates excitedly chatting around our teaching assistant. The teaching assistant who was holding a stack of sealed envelopes. Any sense of peace I had come to overnight fled as I waited for her to call my name and seal my fate. When it came, I took my envelope quickly and headed for the door, ready to escape and be done. "Wait," she said, halting my flight. "Aren't you the one who used dandelions?" I turned, and tried very hard to give an attempt at a confident nod, acutely aware all conversation had ceased and that everyone was unabashedly eavesdropping. She smiled. "He liked the whimsy," she said. With shaking hands, I ripped open my envelope just outside the door.
A-!!! How I love that man. How much? Enough to remember this lesson 15 years later. Enough to make a quilt that has flowers with dandelion-yellow centers dancing down a Hogarth Curve. It's okay to be different...to do it differently...to see it differently.
Although I've had this design in my head for awhile, the colors were chosen with the Pantone Color of the Year Quilt Challenge in mind. If you haven't heard yet, the color this year is Marsala. I would describe Marsala as the love child of raspberry and brown. The background fabric for this quilt is one that I picked up at my local quilt shop. It is a Marcus Brothers shot cotton. It felt pretty close to Marsala since the two colors that make up the weave are brown and maroon. For the flowers, I used other shot cottons, a peach chambray and a few solids from my stash. To make the flowers, I read through the free-pieced flower tutorial from House of Krom to help me visualize the process. The flowers I made finish in the range of 4" to 8." Even though it really stinks and feels boring and purposeless, I highly recommend pressing all of the seams open. My Strip Stick was my best friend for this project, and I really patted myself on the back for pressing them open when it came time to quilt it.
I quilted this with a 50 wt. Aurifil thread in #2230. I used Leah Day's Wiggle-Wiggle Spiral. I thought the spirals would be fun for the large open spaces and the "wiggle-wiggle" would save me when it came time to go around the flower petals. My children were excellent practice subjects and didn't mind at all when their backs were rubbed in this pattern for a solid week before I started quilting. The quilt finished at 44" x 58."
Special thanks to the family who gave me permission to take pictures on their farm. I am glad that I live within walking distance (I didn't walk though...WAY too cold) of an Iowa farm and gladder still for the Iowa people who give you permission to wander around with a camera and quilt and don't think you are the tiniest bit strange for asking.