i completed my first large work yesterday - after years of working small - and i must say, it feels good!

here it is:

one of my goals for 2014, in addition to the challenge to produce larger work, is to write about the work when it is finished so that i might better understand my process, consider the practical aspects of working large and, hopefully, learn from any missteps I might have taken.

requiem for fukushima had its genesis in my digital sketchbook:

i sketched while remembering the disaster in fukushima japan at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, where three reactors melted down and a fourth caught on fire after a quake and tsunami in 2011. i thought of the red "sun" in the japanese flag, thought of the zen rock gardens that are so lovely in japan, and i thought about how the rows of raked rock could be symbolic of the radioactive waters traveling in waves across the oceans

another digital sketch:

at this point i determined that the work would be about remembering radioactive fukushima and the "death" of life as it once was there; a requiem. 

i knew that i wanted to reference the rock gardens as a design element. i had also decided that the work would be 42" square and that i would use raw canvas for the ground. the raw canvas is simple, pure, honest - as was, i imagined, fukushima  before the disaster. i began experimenting with ways to portray the raked rocks/waves and came up with using a reverse appliqué technique that made sewing the long, curving lines i envisioned much easier than cutting the lines and then trying to sew them down:

i also made a small study piece (discussed in my previous post) to try out some of my ideas for constructing/sewing:

once i had a general idea of what i was going to do, i built the stretcher frame over which i later stretched an old sheet, providing a layer of support for the front canvas layer:

i cut out a piece of canvas and pinned it to the stretchers and propped it up on my easel; not the easiest way of working and i'll definitely change that next time! my idea for the design had changed over the days, and i thought more about using the large red sun from japan's flag in the piece, as well as elements that referenced the textile traditions of the kimono and obi. i photographed some of the ideas to look at as i went about the day doing errands, etc. (i love technology that allows me to "work" when i'm not in the studio!) here are a few compositions that i considered:

i finally decided on a variation of the last one:

i knew i would never be able to successfully sew this on my machine without first fusing the elements in place. using pellon's wonder web, i backed each piece and placed it where i wanted it within the square. i had traced the outside of the stretcher with a blue mark-b-gone pen so i knew where the edges would be, and the blue line later came off easily with a damp rag. i had everything laid out on top of an old mattress pad so i could iron/fuse on the floor:

once everything was together i wrangled with the whole thing at my trusty bernina to get each piece sewn around the edges. i had determined that for most parts i would use a neon orange thread; a subtle reference to radioactivity. the stitching was wonky and looked pretty bad because of trying to sew and handle all the weight and stiffness of the canvas. what to do??? at first i thought of going over the stitching with a neon orange sharpie; it looked pretty good on the samples, but i didn't like that the ink wasn't acid free. i also realized that one wrong move with the pen could spell disaster for what i had done so far, totally ruining the work. i decided to go with the wonkiness and add two more lines of intentionally wonky stitching. it gives a nice feeling; a sense of being drawn:

after everything was sewn, i left the work for the day. when i came back in the morning, i realized it needed a bit of tweaking on the right side and added three red rectangles with the same fusing and sewing technique as before.

i ironed everything smooth again and then began the onerous task of stretching it… it took four attempts before i had it centered properly, but i finally claimed victory!

Requiem for Fukushima. 42" x 42" x 1.5" mixed fabrics on canvas. neon thread. 2014

: : karen anne


  1. Wow. Having the opportunity to see inside your head as you are creating is really something! I know that you are doing it for your benefit, but it is absolutely wonderful for the observer to get some insight into your creative process...love it! And you!