Saturday, January 1, 2011

Secret Project Revealed!

Recently I have been working, off and on, on a project that I was keeping a secret.  Why a secret?  Chiefly because if it didn't work out, I didn't want anyone but myself to know about it!  (I know--very silly!) 

Sometime in the fall I read about a contest in my QUILTING ARTS magazine, a contest for art quilts that would then become a part of their 2012 calendar.  The theme was "Feeling Pet-ty" and what contestants were to produce were 12"x12" quilts that portrayed a pet.

My first brainstorm (and I still think this was a super idea!) was to do a quilt called "My Granddogs."  For this I needed photos of the three granddogs in my life, Twist (Rob's border collie), Rolie (Kathy and family's miniature poodle), and Ace (Susan and family's Labradoodle).  I had a good picture of the young Twist, and Susan sent me a batch of excellent photos of Ace.  The problem was Rolie.  Since he is solid black, getting my hands on a good picture of him proved to be nearly impossible.  So, despite having put in a lot of work on this plan, I decided to try something else.

I decided to make a portrait of an unconventional pet, thinking that there would be hundreds of dog and cat portraits.  I wanted something different and edgy.  I delved back into my childhood.  I immediately thought about the little critters we used to call "horny toads."  My friend Kitty and I used to capture a baby horny toad, put it in a shoe box whose lid had holes poked in it, give it water in a bottle cap, but we never knew what to feed it.  So eventually we'd let the little thing go.  How well I remember how we'd stroke the baby between its horns, claiming that this hynotized it, though I'm sure it was just frozen with fright.  I can still remember how soft its little under belly was, in contrast with its spiny back.  (Incidentally, in those innocent 1950s, I had no idea that "horny" had a naughty connotation!)

After doing a search for images, I discovered that these are really lizards, not toads, and their official name is "horned lizard."  I found a wonderful photo online, wrote the photographer for permission to use his picture in a quilt, and then I started to work.  This quilt is now finished, but I am not going to publish here pictures of it, since it's soon to be competing with hundreds of others.  (But I will send my readers who are interested photos via email!)  I wish I had more time to perfect this quilt--I can see lots of flaws.  But the Jan. 7 deadline is approaching, and so I have photographed it as instructed and will send three 8"x10" pictures to the contest, along with a narrative about its inspiration, construction, and materials.

Meanwhile, though, I'll show you the images I was working on for the Granddog quilt.  And actually, all is not lost, for I have ideas for a Twist and an Ace product, to give to their owners!

photo above (taken years ago by me) and
below a traced image after I
scanned and enlarged the picture

Here is Twist, traced onto
muslin.  After hearing about
friend Linda's embroidered pet
portraits, I plan to do that for son Rob!

Here is Ace, a photo above
and then a picture printed onto  regular
paper after I doctored it
a bit with Photoshop.

The Ace portrait printed onto fabric,
appliqued onto a string-pieced background.
I had intended to turn this into
a pillowtop for Susan for Christmas, but I ran out of time. 


  1. Alice, what unique ideas you are pursuing! It will be fun to see the finished product(s). As for now, just seeing these pictures of these sweet dogs has produced a lot of pleasure. I wish I could hug and pat Ace right now. So adorable.

  2. How brilliant to think back to the horned toad of your childhood. That should make a very interesting entry. I wish you had encouraged me to enter, but I wouldn't have thought of something so neat. All those dog photos are going to make some sweet gifts.

  3. Yes, I think your "horny toad' is an original idea. I can't wait to see it. Your granddogs are cute. Especially, Ace. Both Ace and Twist are interesting names. Did you ever name your horned lizards?