Monthly Archives: July 2013

Things that make you smile

I mentioned before that I love Kelly because she never fails to make people smile.

Today I want to share this piece:

Life Study 16 quilt

Life Study #16 ©2011 Dahlia Clark 9 x 9 inches

This photo is set as the wallpaper when I start my iPad. So I see it…let’s just say many times per day. And yet, it never fails to make me just a little bit happier.

My Life Studies pieces explore the complexity of emotions in relationships, often in a playful way.

Life Study #16 is a very colourful example of a parent-child relationship. I think it functions as a rorschach test; between opinions of friends & family, and comments I have overheard at shows, there is no agreement on whether this piece portrays a sweet relationship, or an overbearing one.

What do you think it portrays?

Kelly – completed

Kelly - completed giraffe textile art

Kelly ©2013 Dahlia Clark 38 x 53 inches

The combination of the odd perspective, the compelling shapes, and the contrast of values makes it hard initially to identify the subject as a giraffe. Then when it clicks, she seems so gentle and approachable that you just want to reach out and touch her.
— a snippet of my critique of Kelly

Kelly - completed giraffe textile art close-up

Kelly ©2013 Dahlia Clark 38 x 53 inches – Detail

I have an interesting emotional relationship with this piece. It feels like I have created something that will go on to have a life of it’s own. It doesn’t belong to me, in a similar (but less intense) way that my kids don’t belong to me. I’m not sure if it is because it is “Kelly”, or because it is so captivating. Watching people look at this quilt is such a treat. It never fails to make them smile. It never fails to make me smile for that matter.

I am pleased to announce that Kelly is a finalist and will be shown in the International Quilt Festival, Quilts: A World of Beauty, in Houston this Fall. I hope she brightens many people’s days while she is there.

Kelly – in progress

In March I took a dye painting course with Hollis Chatelain at Asilomar in California. It was an incredible two weeks, with an abundance of hard work, wonderful people, and beautiful walks.

drive to big sur

I had dye painted before, but the instruction from Hollis was what I needed to be truly effective with it. Those two weeks were invaluable.

When I came back I began painting Kelly. I can’t thank my family enough for agreeing to survive without me for two weeks, and then supporting me in disappearing into the studio at every opportunity when I returned.

One of the most challenging parts of dye painting is estimating how much a colour will lighten or change when washed out. You can see how much the colours changed in this piece. First is a picture of it mid-painting. Then the same area after it has been washed.

giraffe being painted

giraffe painting after washing

Kelly – initial design

Have you ever had a moment stick with you so completely, that you knew you just had to do something to honour it?

giraffe and warthog, kenya

“hold on…just a little higher…”

It took more than a decade, but this is how my latest artwork began:

Many years ago a good friend of mine was working in Africa. Eventually I became frustrated with letter writing, and remarked to my husband that I wanted to fly over there, sit under a tree and really catch up together.

Wouldn’t you know it, we unexpectedly received some money. So we booked tickets to go to Kenya and Uganda, and meet up with my friend.

We arrived in Nairobi sleep deprived, jet lagged, and culture shocked. Trying to nap in our budget hotel was not working; the heat, traffic noise, and the lunchtime proselytizing in the park across the street were just too much to compete against. I suggested instead we get out somewhere, and do something to ground ourselves. So we grabbed a taxi and headed to the Giraffe Center, the closest nature area to the city.

The Giraffe Center breeds endangered Rothschild giraffes, and reintroduces them to the wild. Interestingly Woburn Safari Park in England also has a successful breeding program for Rothschild giraffes. I say interestingly because my father worked there when I was little, and I have many stories from there. Like the time he was converting a double decker bus for transporting giraffes, and cut out the upper level while he was standing on it. Which, admittedly, may well have been a better choice than cutting it out while standing underneath it.

Of course I have seen many giraffes, between Woburn, various zoos, and in the parks in Africa. At the Giraffe Center though I first had the wonderful experience of feeding them. Getting up close to the giraffes on the feeding platform was incredible. These gentle giants were the perfect ambassadors for our introduction to Kenya, and I have wanted to capture that moment in art since then.

Kelly initial sketch of giraffe

preliminary sketch for dye painting Kelly, 2012

My July newsletter contains an article about the Giraffe Center. If you would like to sign up for it you can do it here: newsletter