Sunday, August 5, 2018

Artsy Chair Quilt Inspiration from Europe

Are chairs evil? That's the health buzz - sitting around all day is killing us. Maybe in 25 years everyone will work standing up, and  chairs will only reside in museums.

I love interesting chair design, and making an art quilt depicting chairs has been on my bucket list forever. (But buying a bucket chair has never been on any of my lists.)

So during our July week in France and Switzerland, I photographed chairs with quilt potential. We spent the first part of our trip in the Alps, where magnificent mountains dwarfed spidery lifts like this: 
They're so scant that they would be difficult to replicate in fabric. Maybe with bias tape? Or thick black embroidery thread?

One of the most astonishing tourist attractions of the Alps  - and the world - is the Mer de Glace, a mountain pass with a massive but rapidly-melting glacier that you can walk on - and in. From afar, it looks like a river of gravel, but there's a glacier down under that grey stuff.

The glacier is still large enough to host a human-built tunnel. Inside, it is the most incredible shade of blue; plus it has items carved (with hot water?) from the ice, including a statue, a bar, and this throne: 

And here it is occupied by royalty (DH is a prince among men.)

After the Alps, we tackled the rolling hills of Lausanne, Switzerland. Last week I talked about its mind-boggling outsider art museum.  Another fantastic place is Mudoc, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, which is hosting a show about design and weaponry called "Line of Sight." From the catalog:
"Designers play a central role in the development of firearms....Guns are required to be reliable, compact, ergonomic, durable, adaptable, attractive - even aesthetically pleasing....In general, discussing the relationship between design and violence is often taboo." 
A highlight was this chair by Goncalo Mabunda, an African artist and anti-war activist. It's the outcome of an effort to disarm Mozambique - a campaign that has collected over 800,000 weapons, and distributed some parts to artists to upcycle - read the story here.
The black-and-white catalog photo provides a clearer view of the piece's beautiful silhouette: 
And speaking of the Bible (beating swords into plowshares), at St. Francois church in Lausanne, we found these 14th century choir stalls: 
Love the quilting designs on top, but the seating doesn't look comfortable. Fortunately there's distraction from hard surfaces: One set had carved figures on the arms - a mermaid on one side....
And someone who has lost his nose on the other. 
Voldemort? Is that you?
Tourism makes one hungry, so we ate at a cafe with these: 
They're remniscent of lace....brains...Swiss cheese?!
Here's how the auto-trace function in my graphics program (CorelDraw) traced it:
It would be fun to simplify and arrange in fabric. There are so many possible technologies - Bias tape? Applique? Reverse applique, cutting holes from a single bright red piece of fabric? 

I also loved these asymmetric branches...
...and the black-and-pink color scheme. (Note the ubiquitous ashtrays. Unlike California, Switzerland allows smoking in outdoor restaurants. Which makes sitting outside breathing mountain air in beautifully designed Euro-chairs not quite as intoxicating as it should be.)

And speaking of bucket chairs, this green one was in an architectural firm's window: 
 
I traced it by hand in my computer program. It's so helpful to sketch and/or trace chairs to understand the perspective. The back legs are  always shorter than you think. 
And finally, the piece, er, chair de resistance. At the end of our trip, waiting for the airport train in the Lausanne station, I spied this on the opposite platform. 
Only when I examined it closely in Photoshop, was I able to discern that it's an ad for an exhibit by Rasheed Araeen, a London-based Pakistani-born artist who creates luminous geometric painted quilts (including the one above), and complex 3D architectural sculptures. See plenty of his work here.

Here's my first sketch that came out of all this inspiration. 
Top row: Tree chair, red mesh chair, glacier throne.
2nd Row: Hand, Ohio Star, handgun.
3rd Row: Swirl, spools & notions, branch;
4th row: Swiss cheese, stippled, and feathered.

Note on copyright: I would not create a replica or tracing of any designer chair without the artist or copyright holder's permission. As general inspiration, like the adaptations in the sketch above, I don't think there's a problem. 

Feel free to borrow my photos for inspiration, and if you need more, try googling "chair quilt." When I did, I found:  
  • A whole lot of chairs with quilts thrown upon  them; 
  • Chairs upholstered with quilts (especially 1930's quilts); 
  • Designer chairs that are puffy in quilt-like ways (like this by Ronan Bouroullec), 
  • A gorgeous 2011 book by Alethea Ballard with collage chair quilt blocks (no financial affiliation). It's a fun way to use up large-scale novelty prints (Look inside here): 
  • And a few more quilts that depict chairs. Here's a Pinterest page with about twenty. And here are three-and-a-half more. 

I would love to see/hear about your artistic chair quilt! 

More quilt inspiration from Europe is in my last three blog posts: 12, 3.

UPDATE: Wonderful little chair quilts by art quilter Terry Grant are here. The way they're hung is also enchanting. 


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