The 8 of Cups came about after going through a rough period emotionally last fall, it was a cathartic piece that I created for an upcoming exhibit called Rituals that will open at International Quilt Festival, Long Beach in July.
I began by drawing an anatomical heart from an old medical illustration engraving, extending the arteries into curving vines to represent new growth and life. I feel like when I create imagery that is painful but transformative, it helps me on a deeper level internalize the meaning behind it. Below the heart I drew veins from a heart, going upwards, which feel like barren trees, but also have the symbolism of roots to me. The fabric is 3′ x 6′, the finished piece needed to be 24″x 60″.
Using acrylic inks and a 2 inch wide brush, I painted over the drawing with large brush strokes of color.
The only way to get a photo of the whole thing was to stand on the table, unfortunately there is a large shadow falling across it from the window.
Now the thing to keep in mind is, I really didn’t have a definite plan here. I tried not to worry about whether it would come out “good” or not, because really that is not the goal. For me it was about processing feelings, thoughts, aspirations hopes… just what was going on personally.
Cicadas, I love the way they buzz in the trees, communicating with each other in circular pattens of sound and I think the growth cycles and transformations they go through in life are fascinating.
The Moon: deception, disappointment, dishonor
Strength: acceptance, courage, optimism, heroism
2 of Cups: resolution, harmony, partnership
2 of Coins: need to balance, energy, amusement
The World: new life, the end of a cycle, attainment of purpose
Cancer crab: represents someone
3 of Swords: betrayal, separation, clearing the way for something better
Grieving the death of relationships, closure and renewal
Hanged Man: suspension, meditation, transformative thinking
6 of Swords: letting go, moving beyond sorrow, the road to recovery
Wheel of Fortune: positive change, progress, beginnings
Eight of Cups: Moving on and letting go. Time to change direction in life. Dissatisfied and disappointed, wanting something entirely different, but not knowing what. Finding courage, taking time to rest and heal.
The cards represented are ones that have come up multiple times in recent readings, so I think their meaning is significant and so very apropos.
While trying to gain perspective on things, the card that turned up most often as an outcome in tarot readings was the 8 of cups. It expressed exactly how I felt and helped me realize I need to be more assertive in taking control of my life.
Being a tea drinker, using tea cups felt like the perfect imagery to pull all these disparate symbolic images together to represent this card. After painting deeper shades of the various colors around the cups, to separate them from the background, I painted white around a scrollwork design, which feel like flames and feathers, passion and lightness.
I felt like it needed a strong graphic element, so I added a large 8. Then I used a gold paint pen to add decorative details to the scrollwork design.
The cups still blended into the background, so I added a rough and bumpy (like the road in life) outline to the cups, mimicking the style of the 8 and bringing them forward visually.
I wanted the quilting to have less loft and dimension and instead have more stitched illustrative details, so I used wool felt instead of batting. Luckily I had a big piece of yellow felt that a friend gave me during a recent purging that was just the right size.
I placed a layer of Mistyfuse between the felt and the painted top and did the same with the back. I wouldn’t do this with batting because the fusible web penetrates the batting, glueing both the top and back together reducing the loft of the batting, but for this project it’s not a problem.
For the back I used left over fabrics that had Mistyfuse already adhered to them from the Agave quilt I made several years ago. I don’t do fusible applique very often so the fabrics have just been sitting on the shelf not getting used.
For the quilting on the cups, I am using back thread in an illustrative way adding strong black lines to echo the illustration style of the vintage anatomical heart with monofilament in the needle across the middle of the cups.
I decided to continue using monofilament for stitching the feathery flourishes since I do not want to obscure this part of the painted surface with lines of thread and because the monofilament is relatively clear, the more noticeable holes punched by the needle through the fabric gives another kind of visual patterning that I think is kind of interesting.
I chose to do my curvy meandering fill stitching that is reminiscent of leaves and flourish-y shapes in the white background areas to contrast all the linear stitching on the cups with Bottomline thread which is generally used in the bobbin. It’s a lighter weight thread, because I wanted the stitched lines to be more subtle.
After the quilting was finished, I marked out the finished size: 24″ x 60″,
sewed a tight straight stitch just inside the marked line, then trimmed it to size.
To finish the edge, I chose to do an untraditional binding with 3 different cords that picked up the colors in the quilt and used them to make a couched twisted cord binding.
Because I like experimenting and trying out things differently, I always learn something new with every project. Sometimes I discover a great new way of working and sometimes it turns out that my initial idea created unexpected challenges or wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.
I used wool rayon felt instead of batting, because I wanted a flat smooth finish for this piece. I used felt a friend had given me that she most likely had sitting around for about 15 years. I had two issues that popped up from using this.
The first one was the stiffness of the felt, compared to batting, made it more difficult for manipulating under the harp of the machine. I think 30 inches would be the widest I would recommend working with felt. Wider than that and I could see some definite limitations to quilting the surface smoothly. I had to roll and fold the piece to work the central areas which sometimes got a little cumbersome.
The second issue came about after I fused my top to the felt. I had a fair amount of rippling of the top due to it not fusing completely in all areas or staying fused for the duration of the quilting (it’s possible there may have been a finish on the felt that kept it from adhering), as well as some possible shrinkage of the felt by the high temperature and steam used while fusing.
After the cups and flourishes had been quilted there was a significant amount of buckling in the white areas, I don’t think the fusible web was even sticking anymore at that point, luckily the open areas were not very large, maybe 9″ at the widest so it didn’t present too much of a problem and it all smoothed out nicely with the quilting.
Conclusion: would I use felt again? Yes, but I would take size into consideration, if I was working on a particularly large piece I would probably use a lightweight batting instead. I would also pretest the wool to make sure I didn’t have a problem with adhesion when fusing. I think a newer piece of wool felt wouldn’t have had the adhesion problems that this one had, I suspect it had a finish on it.
Thank you for sharing your thought and creative process. I recently purchased some Bombay inks and am excited to use them. I am curious about the cards you have – were they purchased stamps or did you draw them freehand? They are fabulous! I love the dimension of this piece – I could look at it for hours.
Thanks so much, Judy, for sharing your process, especially your inner process. Love the way you used Tarot imagery and symbolism in such a personal way. I envy your ability to commit to a long-term piece. I guess that’s part of the quilt process, which is why I’m a painter and collage artist. Great to have you aboard Sketchbook Challenge.
Thank you for making these great tutorials, Judy. I know that I can do this now. From (the other Judy from Ozark Piecemakers)