A Tiny Touch of Nature — the Endeavourers’ Reveal Day

So, after all my deliberating about what aspect of nature to portray for the Endeavourers Nature theme, what did I choose?

It even surprised me.

I thought I might draw from an antique source, or maybe some vast and awe-inspiring landscape, but then, this tiny little wren beckoned

Sedge Wren, seen while harvesting wild grass seeds, December 2017.

I realized she was perfect.  There she was, a plain brown bird in yet another of Houston’s plain flat muddy fields that is about to become another plain little neighborhood, and to me she personified all the things in nature that we need, even though we don’t ooh and ah over them.  No charging lion here, no dancing crane, no migrating monarch — just a streaky, secretive little larva-eater.  

Birds of Texas says of the Sedge Wren, “Its transient nature may have to do with its unstable habitat, which changes annually with natural flooding and drying cycles.”  We have plenty of unstable habitats and flooding cycles here on the Gulf Coast, so I hereby nominate this bird for Official Bird of Houston.

Three years ago, I had taken a picture of a Carolina Wren, and made some practice quiltlets from that picture

Carolina Wren, from March 2015.

I thought that for the Endeavourers challenge, it would be great to make a series of these bird pictures as a wall hanging, but I didn’t get that far; I only got one small square done.

With the Carolina Wren, I really liked the lines of the twigs and vines around the bird, and tried to work those into my pictures.  For the Sedge Wren, I liked the lacy green-gray lichen in the yaupon shrub around her, and wanted to find a way to emphasize that.  Also, there were too many branches taking up space and attention in the photograph, so I simplified the composition.

Photo and three possible backgrounds. Lumiere paint on top right, Dye-na-flow paints on bottom two squares. I chose the bottom right one to proceed on.

I worked on a few different versions.  I started with old linen damask napkins, because I like the way their patterns add movement to the background of the quilt.  I tried Jacquard Dye-na-flow and Lumiere paints.  I expected that the linen wouldn’t take dye well and I would get subtle, faded colors, but the colors came out very bright, even when I diluted the dye.  The Lumiere paints had more subtle color, but I didn’t dilute them enough to get good blending, and they made the fabric feel too stiff.

I put the bird photo through some filters in Photoshop Elements®.  Then I printed one on tee shirt transfer paper and ironed it on.  That did not work so well on the textured linen.  I printed another on cotton printer fabric, and that one came out beautifully.

The iron-on transfer didn’t make good contact with the linen, causing blank white areas; but the Dye-na-flow paint took up well. Too well for this project.

Three different colors of Dye-na-flow paint, blended.

The painted background.

Machine quilting added to suggest leaves and shadows. At this point, I was a little worried. But I know I just have to power through and finish before I judge.

Appliqued bird added on.

Rayon braids and ribbon stitched on in loops to suggest the lichen.

Fabric crayons used to shade in the bark.

This piece has a combination of fibers.  The fabrics are cotton and linen, the battings are cotton and wool, the embellishment ribbons are rayon, the threads are silk and polyester, and the binding is a dark green shot silk from Burma.

The completed Sedge Wren.

I do not consider this a  finished piece that I would enter in a show or give to someone.  If it was a painting, I would glaze the whole thing to unify it more, but I don’t really want to paint textile medium all over this and make it stiff and sticky.  I wish I had added extra stuffing to the body of the wren to capture her roundness.  And, as a birder, the fact that her beak is too short for a wren is driving me crazy.  The ribbons as lichen don’t work that well for me, they are too busy looking.

But, I do really like how I saved the branches from being a flat white expanse by using the fabric crayons.  And I enjoyed capturing a moment from nature and portraying it.

The photo and the finish.