Quilters Lead Pieceful Lives.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Purple Prisms

A while back I saw this image on Pinterest:


You know how excited I get about op-art and 3D images, and turning them into quilts.  So this one was very intriguing.  After much digging, I determined that it was the work of Victor Vasarely, a major force in 20th century op-art.  You can read more about him and see other of his pieces by clicking here or here.  However, I could not find anything specifically about this piece! It is not on any of the Vasarely sites...I do not even know its title.  I tried contacting the Museo Vasarely en HungrĂ­a, but they never replied to my email.                                                                                                                                            
Looking at this piece, you can see that it is a variation on the standard tumbling blocks pattern. The main differences are a) some of the blocks are rectangles rather than squares (actually, the tumbling block "squares" are really hexagons!), and b) there are black filler pieces in between each "block". These fillers separate the blocks and add extra depth.

So...how to turn this into a quilt? Actually, the design was rather easy! I printed it, drew horizontal and vertical lines through all the vertices, and got a very well-defined grid. It was easy to transpose this grid, including the diagonals, into Excel and then use its tools to shade appropriately. To get the dimensions, I started with 1/2" x 1/2" as the size of the center square. That meant the intersecting middle row and column were also 1/2" wide.  From there I worked the dimensions until I got to the last row and column which are both 3" in size. This resulted in 37 columns and 31 rows, and a finished size of 43" x 58"!  Certainly a large work (no idea how big the original is), but I felt this size was necessary to create the depth required for the best effect.

Here is my finished piece:


I chose to use 4 shades of purple (plus black) rather than the blue of the original (although some of the shades look similar).

So the pattern, plus the judicious use of light, medium, and dark colors seems to pull the viewer into the center of a distant pit. You feel like you are falling inward.

On the other hand, if you look at the outer edges, they almost appear as a street view of apartment balconies and buildings.  Or are they prisms fracturing the light into various shades? (Hence the name: Purple Prisms.) But perhaps you see something else altogether.

Construction proved to be much more of a challenge than the design phase. This involved cutting and piecing many half-square triangle and half-rectangle triangle pieces. Half-squares are easy; it was the half-rectangles that gave me fits! For certain of the smaller finished dimensions you can not  follow the standard tutorial instructions. Why? Because the seam allowance is such a large part of the actual piece that you have to account for it when putting the two halves of the rectangle together. I am not exactly sure at what point this happens. If anyone is interested in solving this mystery I have a full write-up available and would love to hear from you!  Unfortunately, I did not realize this issue existed until I had finished several columns!  Hey!  The points aren't meeting up correctly! Rip...rip....rip...rip!!

One good aspect of the construction is this: when you make the half-square and half-rectangle pieces, you get 2-for-1!  That is, cutting, 2 black pieces and 2 purple pieces, then slicing, dicing, and sewing back together, results in 4 finished pieces! So, as I cut and pieced one column, the corresponding column on the other side of the center was simultaneously being built!  Made it seem like a faster process.

The other nice feature of this pattern is that every other column is made up of simple square or rectangular pieces. That is, the "halfsies" are in the even numbered columns and took a lot of time to do, while the even numbered columns are simple fabric pieces that went up quickly.

To quilt it, I used clear monofilament thread, and ditched it on both sides of the even numbered rows. You can see that the seams on these rows go uninterrupted from edge to edge, while the seams in the odd rows are broken up by some of the vertical solid blocks. The "wow" is in the pattern....why distract with any kind of noticeable quilting?

When the body was done, it was time for the border. Like many of my op-art pieces I wanted that extra POP!, so I figured a black border would be best. As I played with the fabric to see what size to make it, I was not satisfied. Since there are black pieces on all four edges, it looked like they were bleeding into the border. Hmmmm.....   I consulted with a quilting friend and she suggested no border at all! She felt that anything would present too much of a frame that would detract from the illusion. Perhaps Vasarely felt the same way as his op-art pieces all appear to be unframed!

As with some of my more recent pieces, I knew I wanted to mount this on stretcher bars. Having it just hang loosely from a sleeve would lessen the impact; it needs to be taut. So I still had to add fabric to allow the piece to be mounted. I sewed on 2" of black fabric to facilitate the wrapping around the frame. However, it is only seen from the sides, not on the front, so it is completely functional and not part of the finished work.

Note: The piece is mounted on the rectangular frame; the apparent curve in the photo above is just camera distortion.

And there you go.

One more treat:  to demonstrate how the piece actually came together, I created a slide show of photos after each two columns were added.  It's a pretty cool thing! If you have two more minutes, click on the link to see how it went: Construction Slideshow