In Progress: Marabou Stork for Special Exhibit at IQF

Big announcement! Guess what?! I’m having my own special exhibit in at the Houston International Quilt Festival from October 29 through November 6th!! This is very exciting for me (did you notice?) as this will be the first showing, the first (but not final) incarnation, of a collection of work I am calling “Specimens.” My hope is that this becomes a traveling show that grows and shifts through the years, just like I do.

Why “Specimens”? Here’s part of the write up for the Houston application:

When scientists collect species for examination or classification they are called “specimens.” For the past 20 years I have been collecting specimens of my own in my own way. I tend toward the endangered, the unfamiliar, even the extinct—the animals balancing on or tipping over the borders of existence. For existence is not guaranteed. In fact, for we humans it is decidedly a choice, not only for ourselves, but for a myriad of fellow earth inhabitants.

The show will include ten of my biggest and most relevant work, including:

Plus one.

Since I love to give myself challenges and deadlines, I am also creating a new quilt to premier in Houston. Besides, I want to make good use of my studio time this summer, and my husband needed something else to stress about. Deep breath, dear.

Actually, this is Tom’s fault. Last year, as we were writing my post, “Sort It Out: Organizing Fabric”, he noted just how many old suitcases I had stuffed with fabric scraps (the ones I admitted to at least). And then he remarked how it had been a long time since I had made a quilt using fabric scraps. He was right. Samuelsaurus Rex, my beetle and butterfly series, and various fish (specifically my bettas, goldfish, and trout) had been constructed solely with scraps, but I had slipped back into the lure of all those luscious fabrics just waiting to be purchased and collected for a specific project. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just a different approach to the collage aspect.

So, that put the scrappy idea back in my head.

Four suitcases opened and ready for the picking.

Then, earlier this year, National Geographic published an interesting article about vultures written by Elizabeth Royte and photographed by Charlie Hamilton James. And it clicked in my head to make a quilt of this scrap eating creature out of my fabric scraps.

Fast forward a few months and I’ve been offered the use of vulture photos from a friend (nature, landscape, and portrait photographer Joel Davidson). Perfect. I described to Joel what I was looking for–an amazingly ugly head and neck with an open wing, though not necessarily a full wing spread (I don’t feel the need for another huge quilt—a la Stevie the Croc—just yet). Joel sent me a couple more vulture shots, and also some marabou stork images. These were stop-motion like with multiple wing views. I was drawn to his stork images, though I was not familiar with the bird at all.

Before any work was to be done, I had a play date to attend to. No argument was to be had.
Djinni gives her opinion on image choice. Note thumbnail sketches. By tracing an image onto tracing paper, I can pick and choose the stork parts I want (head, wing, legs, tail) all from different poses. The sequence photos from Joel Davidson were perfect for this.

As Joel mentioned to me, marabou storks fit the bill of being quite ugly—among the “World’s 13 Ugliest Creatures”, as I found out from the internet. Like vultures, marabou storks eat carrion and other “scraps”, so it fit that bill too. I did a couple thumbnail sketches of each to see which appealed most to me. It was a dilemma. But then while doing some internet research, I came across a photo of a flock of marabou storks in unusual colors. Yellows, oranges, and reds—oh my! Color… that pretty much cinched it. Not that I need permission to make an animal in wild colors, but it stimulated my imagination at the right time.

So finally I have a new quilt to work on! A Marabou stork, otherwise unnamed at this point.

However, I did come up with a future vulture quilt idea that I could get excited about. Maybe next year.

Nothing like staring at a blank canvas. Getting started is one of the hardest parts. It was amazing how many distractions I came up with on this particular day. But then Stevie the Croc reminds me that she started out like this too.
Finally I picked up the pencil and started moving it across the piece of flannel. It didn’t take long to see I was going to have to glue other pieces of flannel to either side of this one.

When I teach a class, and someone is making a design from their photo, I have them make a tracing and then enlarge the line drawing to full size, slipping it under the foundation fabric to then re-trace, giving them a guide to follow. For myself, I sometimes do that, and sometimes I just draw it directly onto the foundation fabric, like I did this time.

When I free-hand sketch a design, I start with a pencil. When I’ve changed the line so many times it’s confusing, I then make a more definitive line with a colored pencil or marker. If I keep making changes and it again becomes confusing, I’ll switch to yet another color of pencil or marker to keep it clear which one I want to follow.

A little extra foundation fabric and a few design adjustments and it’s enough of a guide to get started. I’m happy with the pose and the relationship of one body part to another. Minor adjustments and the legs and feet can happen as I progress.
Using the foundation fabric as a cheat sheet, indicating basic color ideas.
Both Djinni and I start pawing through my fabric scraps.
I started pulling out yellow, peach, orange, and red-orange scraps. They’re kinda wrinkled.
A quick spritz with a water bottle and they start smoothing out all on their own—no iron required. A little trick I discovered while trying to keep my helpful kitty cat from launching onto my design board. I tend to keep the bottle filled and handy.
Now the fun starts. I pick up one piece after the other, laying them in place as they are, just a quick snip here or there. It’s serendipity at it’s best. I group color and value together to create a larger cohesive area.
I knew I wanted to work the peachy-oranges into yellows as his neck progressed down. I match the shapes to the outside edges of the drawn shape, but do not trim to that outside line yet.
Using up those bits of fabric I initially pulled out, letting the muse take over, it moved along pretty quick.
Nothing is glued yet, so time to pin the heck out of it before Djinni cat takes a flying leap at my board, telling me it’s time to play again.
Stork or hedgehog. Up close it’s a toss-up. Time to break for the day, start gluing tomorrow.
Keeping me company, studio visitors, Felix and Kali.

And so it begins. Stayed tuned for future progress reports!


48 thoughts on “In Progress: Marabou Stork for Special Exhibit at IQF

  1. Congrats! I love your work and hope your exhibit gets a ticket to travel and that it travels to a town near me. I cannot imagine how fabulous they are are in person.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For me, this is the best lesson yet! So great to really see the very beginning of what we all know will become another of your great “Specimens” This helps me see the process very clearly. I am looking forward to both future installments of the Marabou as well as enjoying your spectacular finished piece!! Love your work Susan!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Susan (great name! :-)). I sure hope this one turns out well – going through a bit of messy, scary stage right now! But that will be for the next post…..


  3. Fantastic!!!!
    Can,t wait to see the exhibit it in Houston!
    I will be there Friday-Sunday..I have two quilts in special exhibits..
    Susan from Georgia will be there as well..maybe we can connect if our schedules align!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Looks fun! And isn’t that what vultures do…pick through the salvage left behind! I will savor seeing this project take on its own identity step by step. Thanks for the M adventure!
    Julie (darlenes friend) from Colorado 2016

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations on the IQF special exhibit! I am looking forward to seeing your work in person. Already signed up for next June’s workshop in Harpswell – looking forward to learning!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Am I correct in thinking that your initial placement of fabric is based primarily on shape, like a jigsaw puzzle? If so, at what point do you pay attention to patterns in the fabric? (For scales, feathers, and such.) Do you watch for those selections from the beginning or go back with a second layer? Or some of both?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ellen – good questions! This piece is a bit of an exception as to how I’ve been working for the last few years. More like Samuelsaurus Rex from 2001 (see previous post). It’s oriented toward the scraps I pull from the piles, as opposed to the patterned fabrics neatly folded in stacks. Some of the scraps are patterned, others not. It’s very immediate, intuitive, and serendipitous. There’s overlapping, so not so much a jigsaw, but I do look at the given shape as to where it might fit, so maybe a little. Definitely a looser approach – even for me! You’ll see more in upcoming posts!


  7. Thank you for sharing you process. I was so excited when I saw your name under special exhibits in Houston this fall. I am going to be there and I will finally get to enjoy your work up close in person. I am over the moon because I will have one quilt there this year you must be absolutely thrilled to have a whole exhibit. Congratulations, I can’t wait to see Stevie and friends.


  8. I will be interested to see what sort of background you decide to use as this progresses . Realistic, design, etc. Looking forward to learning how you make your determination. Sometimes I find myself drawing a blank on backgrounds after the main part of the work is finished.


  9. I will be interested to learn what sort of background you decide to use for this piece. Design, realistic, etc. Sometimes I draw a blank on backgrounds once I have completed a piece. Looking forward to future updates.


  10. Congratulations on your upcoming solo exhibit, Susan. That is certainly an achievement to be proud of! Looking forward to further progress on one of the ‘World’s 13 Ugliest Creatures.’ If your early photos and progress are any indication, she’s going to be a stunner!


  11. Thanks for sharing the process, love watching your work come together! I think “one of the ugliest” will morph into something quite stunning. Congratulations on your special exhibit at Houston!


  12. Thank you for such a wonderful blog, Susan. You are so generous showing your work in these steps. And, of course, I like you fur-friend helper, too!
    Congratulations on the special exhibit for Houston IQA. It will be a huge success and delight to all the viewers.


  13. That will be an absolutely awesome exhibition. Congratulations.

    Regards Lisa Walton **************************************************************************** Vice President – Studio Art Quilts Associates – Dyed & Gone to Heaven – Facebook –

    NOW AVAILABLE on AMAZON Creative Journeys – eBook Series – Beading on Fabrics


  14. Hi, so are you saying you are using flannel as your foundation fabric? If so, isn’t it difficult to draw on? And if so, then why use flannel and not muslin? I can see that the scraps will stick to it better before you pin or glue them on, but sill, it seems like flannel would move around too much……


  15. Another interesting and useful blog explaining how you work. Thank you for sharing all your wonderful expertise. Glad Joel’s photos worked so well for you!


  16. Seeing your drawing and beginning to lay color is inspiring me to do another piece! (I finished gluing together a Bug, I have not sewn it yet but, my grandsons like it so much I have it hanging in their room as it waits to be quilted!)


  17. So fun to see one of your masterpieces from the very beginning. Thanks so much for continually taking the time to write all this down. Your fans applaud you!


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