Oyster Mushrooms - Earthy Elegance

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Oyster Mushrooms - Earthy Elegance
72 in
60.5 in
0 in
Photo Credit
Diane Powers-Harris
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The inspiration for Oyster Mushrooms - Earthy Elegance came from a photo taken by myself the day before Hurricane Irene's devastating blast through northern New England in 2011. Purely by accident I discovered these mushrooms on an elderly still living yet partially decaying maple tree in my yard. Afraid they wouldn't be there after Irene's visit, I rushed for my camera to preserve them for posterity. Doing research to discover more about these fungi, I was excited to learn they are an edible epicurean delight.

I was truly surprised by how well the photo turned out as these mushrooms were located about 15 - 20 feet above the ground. After enhancing and greatly enlarging the photo in PhotoShop, I uploaded it for printing on fabric by Spoonflower. Since this was a photo printed in gigantic proportions onto fabric, I like to think of it as a modern day "whole cloth" quilt.

While reading an exhibit catalog, one quilter's mention of couching yarns caught my attention. The idea for couching stuck in my mind. Since I don't work with yarns often, this necessitated visiting a yarn shop to see what was available that might suit my needs. What a delightful wonderland was just waiting to be discovered with many appropriate options with which to work.

As I worked on this piece, I became immersed in the tranquil beauty and elegance of my subject, however it quickly became an adventure of exploration and experimentation. Starting with the mushroom gills, I began machine couching them with a lovely creamy white wool yarn with a thick/thin spin and slight curly texture. The next step incorporated intense thread painting to highlight the mushroom flesh showcasing the many colors caught by the camera, but are not readily perceived by the naked eye. Additional yarns enhance the tree bark and mosses with a final layer of machine quilting providing a felted tapestry like result.

Thinking to elevate the mushrooms slightly so they wouldn't become lost, I decided 3 layers of batting (yes, 3), similar to trapunto was required with only the single traditional batting layer under the bark/moss area. The folly of incorporating 3 layers of batt was immediately apparent commencing my adventure of exploration and experimentation! The quilt sandwich was thick and awkward to maneuver through my trusty Bernina 930 sewing machine. Each gill needed to be couched in a single long unbroken stretch. Not wanting to clip the yarn creating loose ends, I bit the bullet doing a return stretch of couching back to the base of each gill. This allowed a slight shift to the next gill. After completing all the mushrooms, having saved the most difficult for last, I now had to tackle lowest one. This one was a bear to do because needle breakage had become a huge problem as the quilt was shifted to maintain continuous couching.

Misreading size requirements for this to be eligible for entry in a specific competition necessitated adding previously unplanned for borders. A mistake that was meant to be, the borders provided needed focus for the mushrooms. Wide purple binding creates a dignified statement to complete an elegant project. Enjoy the view, but please don't pick any of these tasty epicurean mushrooms for your dinner!

For those of you with inquiring minds, all work was done on a traditional domestic sewing machine! During the course of creating this fiber art, 196 different threads and over 30 yarns were auditioned, many of which were not included.

Since the mid-1980's I've been developing my expertise as a quilter coming into my own expressive style more recently. My most current works are fabric interpretations of flowers and wildlife based on photographs. Usually working with "fussy" cut fused raw edge applique, lately I've been exploring other means of expression such as enlarging and printing photos on fabric then threadpainting them to death, as is seen in this quilt! I find my art both challenging and rewarding as I seek new ways to make my work come alive for you, the viewer.


National Quilt Museum, Paducah KY - Juried into 25th Anniversary Challenge exhibit, "The Gala of the Unexpected!" where it placed 3rd. It will now tour all AQS shows concluding with AQS Paducah Fall 9/13/17 - 9/16/17
100% cotton fabrics - cotton sateen for fabric printing, 2 commercial, 1 Cherrywood hand dye, and 1 poly cotton for backing. Various designer/hand dyed and commercial yarns - composed of rayon, new wool, merino, alpaca, silk, acrylic, cotton and viscose. Numerous polyester, rayon and cotton threads; Warm & Natural batting.
Artist's photograph edited in PhotoShop; printed on fabric by Spoonflower; free-motion machine couching, thread painting, and quilting

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