I’m a synesthete.

As one who experiences synesthesia, I see music in color and form. There are many types of synesthesia involving s “cross-over” between 2 of the senses and mine is the most common type. I discovered this in my late teens and felt very “weird” with no one to talk to about it, so after grad school I just buried it.

Last week I listened to a piece I played when I was in college, the Piano Concerto by Aaron Copland

(Video here (but not me playing!)) .

As the music played I  drew what I saw with pencil. Normally I’m totally intimidated by a blank piece of paper. I don’t sketch or draw regularly so this isn’t a common exercise for me. However, once that music began my pencil started flying! I had to let go of any sense of control and just go with the music and what my mind’s eye saw.

Synesthesia drawing in pencil

Then I listened to it again and used colored pencils to capture the colors and shapes.

I did NOT study the first drawing—in fact I didn’t really look at it much. I was more eager to work with the colors. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up but I felt satisfied with what I got done.

Synesthesia drawing in color
The concerto movement is bright and jazzy and to me, this is conveyed by the images.

After I was finished with the second drawing I began to compare the pictures.

I was amazed at the similarities! The overall composition is the same and many of the elements are very similar. Just for fun I used a photo editing program to overlay the drawings.

Combined synesthesia drawings

Now the similarities really show up. the long arcs, the center shape, the dots, the elongated diamond shapes show up in both, in about the same areas.

I also reversed the colors which makes some parts easier to see. (And the black looks pretty cool!)

Synesthesia drawing reversed colors

I belong to the Professional Art Quilters Alliance. PAQA

They currently have a challenge to produce an 18″ square art quilt on the theme “Exploration.” This exercise was certainly an exploration of my own creative process! So I am working on creating an art quilt of my combined drawings. I love the bright complimentary colors and abstract design is something I have never even attempted before. I am trying to stay true to my drawing and not try to change or improve it—just accept it for the exploration it is. What is interesting to me design-wise is that I can quilt/stitch many of the lines that appeared on my pencil drawing. This is where I am today, still laying down the colored element. Stitching will be next. Piece is due at my Jan. 13 meeting.

Synesthesia quilt beginning

The drawing again for comparison. Synesthesia drawing in color

 

 

This is 1 of 4 art quilts as pillows I created for a geologist.

art quilt pillow

He told me he me he makes an annual spiritual pilgrimage to Monument Valley, Utah and asked if I could make pillows using his photos as inspiration.

art quilt pillow

I hand painted the skies with fabric paints. In each photo the sky was a different shade of blue…maybe that was just the camera he used, but I tried to duplicate each color as I saw them. art quilt pillow

It’s funny—I had a large piece of hand-dyed orange-ish fabric that sat in my fabric cupboard for years. I couldn’t remember where I got the piece (or why!) but I finally had the perfect use for it. It gave me a great start for each monolith. art quilt pillow

 

 

 

 

 

I also tried very hard to capture important details about each one—-the shadows, highlights and textures.

My customer was very pleased with his pillows!

memory quilt from clothing, pictorial

This is a memory quilt that is a pictorial quilt, made from clothing fabrics. It’s my first true crossover commission!

All the fabrics (except the black background) was from a man’s clothes. The quilt tells the story of who this man was and was commissioned for his 7 year old son. He was a cowboy, wildlife biologist, lived in the Sierra Nevada mountains, camped and fished, and searched for arrowheads,  I was given examples of art for style inspiration and I did my best to give this quilt a sort of primitive/whimsical style.

 

 

memory blanket bear, horse, mountain lion

memory quilt mountains, horse, bobcat, trees, stars

 

 

There are lakes on each end of this double-sized bed quilt, rivers meander down the sides in front of rows of mountains.

Cowboy Memory Quilt detail 1

memory  blanket lake with fish, mountain lion

 

Bandanna centers looked kind of “celestial” and inspired the sky area in the center. Other symbols include horse shoes, feathers, arrowheads, and stars.

center of memory quilt, western, cowboy, horseshoes and starts

memory quilt from clothing, pictorial

 

I used bits of all the clothing that was sent—-about 6 shirts, 2 pairs of jeans and 2 bandannas, and I couldn’t have chosen much better fabrics myself for this type of quilt.

The lakes are from a blue chamois cloth shirt and all the trees were made from 2 green plaid shirts.

 

memory quilt bear, mountain lion, trees                                     Cowboy Memory Quilt detail 4

 

Quilting always adds a lot of interest as well as texture to quilts. The quilting I did helps tell the story.

bear quilted spiral

quilting

 

Spiral antlers add a touch of whimsy to this buck.

memory blanket deer, spiral antlers

Memory quilts from clothing can come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Contact me to discuss how we can create your one-of-a-kind masterpiece!  Amy@AmyCavanessDesigns.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

art quilt birch trees

I’ve just returned from a retreat with the Professional Art Quilters Alliance (PAQA) (an Illinois-based group I recently joined.)

I got to know many incredible quilt artists, enjoyed the beautiful, sunny view of Lake Michigan and learned a lot from our instructor, Denise Havlan, a nationally-recognized, award-winning artist.

art quilt birch treesI took my machine and a memory quilt project to work on in my spare time (2 half-days) but 1 full day was spent creating this beautiful art quilt with Denise’s helpful instruction. This piece started with a colorful background fabric (orange, yellow, green.) Denise instructed us in using a variety of paints and other colorants to create the dark area in the background for depth, then creating the birch trees from white fabric. We finished by adding shadows, highlights, wildflowers and other accents. We added batting, backing and did some quilting.  I have to tell you—-I LOVE my little quilt! It will had some bright color to my home for spring. And I would love to make another “Birch Trees” quilt—-it was such fun!

I have an art quilt on display at the Chicago International Quilt Festival! This is one of the biggest shows in the country/world and I’m thrilled.

My art quilt is part of a collection of art quilts created by members of The Professional Art Quilters Alliance (PAQA).

These quilts are our submissions to a challenge to create an 18″ square quilt based on the theme “The Midwest”.   Here is my entry, “Harvest of Times Past.”

art quilt at International Quilt Festival
Harvest of Times Past, Amy Cavaness, 01/2015

 

I saw about half of the quilts that will be displayed at our January meeting. The interpretation of the theme, The Midwest, was as varied as the landscape and culture here. Some quilts were whimsical, others more abstract. I consider my style to be Impressionistic.

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What the Midwest means to me:

Our landscape is littered with lovely old homes and barns that have been abandoned. These old buildings seem to represent the evolution of this part of the country. This rich, black soil is what drew the farmers to settle this frontier throughout the 19th and early 20th century. As the farmers came to till the soil, the towns and industries to support them developed around them—evolving into the Midwest we know today. As farming methods evolved, farmers could handle more and more acreage, and the resulting economic changes squeezed out small farmers.  Those old-fashioned farmers moved on, and left their homes and barns to stand as long as they might.

To me, this is “The Midwest” in a nutshell, and the farmhouse I depicted (just a mile from my home) is quite typical. This one isn’t terribly old and still seems quite structurally sound, but the exterior is deteriorating from exposure to the elements.

Midwest farmhouse detail

Techniques

In this first photo you can see how I used fabric and then machine stitching to depict the landscape—the rolling fields and the forest beyond the fields. On the tree I used some light-colored thread stitching to show the low winter sun shining on the trunk and branches.

The second is a close-up of the sky. This is fabric I painted with fabric paints as I find it easier to paint that hunt for just the right fabric sometimes!

art quilt,corn fields,midwest,landscapeart quilt,painted fabric,sky. tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One last detail to share: the binding I used has meaning to me. It’s an old-fashioned print, which seems rather out-of-place on a modern quilt, but that was just the point! These old farmstead seem rather out-of-place anymore on these huge tracts of land. There’s a warmth and sentimentality about them, but they’re outdated, relics of the past—–like the little strip of fabric around my picture!

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art quilt at International Quilt Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Commissions

Art Quilt Pet Portrait

“Your package was delivered yesterday and there are no words to describe how beautiful and perfect the dogs came out.  Your web site, the photos do not capture the beauty of your work.  

It is funny how things happen I found you online and just knew you would do a great job and I am totally impressed with the finish work. 

Thank you again and again.
Dog Portrait Art Quilt
I share this email referencing these art quilts because it meant so much to me. I absolutely loved working on this commission and I’m pleased with how these pet portraits came out. The most important thing, though, is how the client felt about the pieces I created.
Accepting commissions isn’t like creating pieces for art fairs or galleries where you hope someone will like it and purchase it. I’ve done that and it has its own challenges. Customers commission quilts from me because they already have an idea of what they want, they just need it made. My job is to bring their dreams or desires to life. I try to incorporate my artistic vision and expression into a piece that not only meets the desires of the customer, but exceeds them.
One of the things that continues to touch me deeply is the trust my clients offer me. I’m a complete stranger from the big world of the internet. I understand that. I share these excerpts from emails not to brag, but to share my appreciation for the trust someone placed in me. I’m always grateful that someone had faith in me and absolutely delighted that they are so pleased with my work! What a wonderful way to spend my time—artistic self-expression and making dreams come true!

Photos can be combined into a beautiful art quilt!

I once had an inquiry about commission for an art quilt essentially designed by the customer. She asked if I could combine 3 images into a single picture for an art quilt. The quilt was a gift for a friend and the first image was his view from his home. Nice, huh?

DSCN2793[1]

The next image is a photograph of a sunset taken through a shop window so there’s lots of reflection. It’s a beautiful sunset–not sure if it was a painting or a print of some sort.

DSCN3984[1] etsy

 

Then she included this image of 3 horses running through a stream.




 

 

So the request for the commission was to combine these 3 images into a single image.

Here is my art quilt:

Amy Cavaness Designs art quilt of horses

I tried to replicate the outline of the mountains from the “view” photograph, with the beautiful sunset colors in the sky and mountains. I couldn’t find a fabric for the sky that I liked or thought would work, so I got creative with my watercolor pencils! They were my tenuous, early effort at fabric painting.

The horses running through the water fit nicely in the foreground. I did the whole quilt in raw edge applique. You can see in the background I used both hand-dyed and commercial print cottons. I did use a bit of watercolor pencil for shading on the horses. They weren’t large enough to do the shading with piecing.

raw-edge applique horses detail

 

This piece was made about 6 or 7 years ago and was one of my early landscapes. The water and rocks came from “themed fabrics” that I cut up and rearranged and appliqued to mimic the picture. I’m not a big fan of using these fabrics anymore—I’m liking the challenge of creating the artwork through interpreting with fabric. It’s like a painter cutting out pictures from a magazine vs using paint to create their image. Both are fine—it just depends on what the artist wants to use. I do like how this came out, and the customer was very pleased with the finished piece—as was the recipient.