Saturday, 1 August 2020

An Imaginary Voyage of Discovery in the South Pacific

My partner, Janine, sent me this wonderful compass as my inspiration piece for this quarter's quilt.  I was quite overwhelmed to receive it.  



Knowing that all my fabric was, at the time, in my studio where I couldn't get it during lockdown Janine also very kindly and generously sent me some fabrics, including the marvellous piece of map which went into the quilt.

The compass immediately set me thinking about great endeavours.   I love the stories of Scott and Shackleton, and sea-going adventures, like Darwin's on the Beagle.   A couple of years back, we visited the Discovery in Dundee, and I was really taken with the laboratory and its portholes.  






Then, having a particular interest in plants and horticulture, I read up about some of the great plant hunters who travelled the world bringing back new (to us) species from round the world.  In my head all these things finally came together in this quilt, combining science and adventure.



The story goes...

It is sometime in the 1800s.  The occupant of this cabin, the Scientific Officer of HMS Persevere (Leith), has gone on deck to watch as the tiny South Sea island they have just visited recedes out of view as they head further south.  On his bench are some shells he picked up there, and a piece of Ipomea pes-caprae - named Goat's foot morning glory because of the shape of the leaves - which grows on beaches throughout the world.  Its seeds are dispersed in salt water.  It is not a great discovery as it is already well known but it was beautiful to see and he may paint it later - he is a competent botanical artist.  A Monarch butterfly has found its way on board and will hopefully evade the killing bottle.    The Scientific Officer has been delighted in the last month to receive a letter from his wife, enclosing a studio portrait of his three little girls who he hasn't seen for a year.  He hopes to find more letters from home next time they reach a port visited by packet ships.    He misses his family very much, but until then he will be busy examining rocks and barnacles under his travelling microscope (currently in its box away from the salt air), and writing notes for posterity about beetles of the South Pacific.

Porthole view



Monarch butterfly

A family picture




A real, and a stitched shell


I had a lot of fun making this quilt and imagining the life of its subject has been a hugely therapeutic bit of escapism. Thank you so much Janine for such a lovely prompt!

[Note: Leith is part of Edinburgh where I live, and contains a large port.  The motto of Leith is 'Persevere' - a good motto for the times!  The little Victorian girls in the photograph are actually my great grandmother and her sisters in the 1800s.  The butterfly is a tribute to my grandfather, an entomologist.  I still plan to use a picture of my other great-grandmother as a stand-in for the Scientific Officer's wife, but she is currently in a box somewhere at the back of the attic!  The woman of this era who were not fortunate enough to be adventurers themselves deserve a lot of sympathy and recognition.]

17 comments:

  1. A beautiful art quilt with a back story to boot, what more could anyone ask for Catherine? This is stunning, full of rich detail and fine work - a real triumph!

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    1. Thank you Fiona - I really have fun imagining the back story!

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  2. This is really lovely. Wonderful story. Beautiful work.

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  3. Catherine, can I just say I am blown away by how your mind works and how you execute your vision?! As I read along and saw the progression of the pictures I just kept thinking, "Wow! I could never think that." And isn't that the beauty of this Endeavourers group? Being a part of it is such a blessing in my life. Thank you for inviting me to join. Maps, shells, morning glories, and the sea are all favorite things of mine so this quilt ticks all the boxes! It's absolutely wonderful, my friend.

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    1. Thank you Maureen - it was a bit of escapism for me under the current circumstances! So glad to have you in the group, and isn't it a good one?! :-) It's become so interesting and exciting to see everyone's different approaches each time the reveal is due and I agree with you about it being a blessing in life.

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  4. The details in your quilt are amazing, and I enjoyed reading the significance of all those details as well. Well done!

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    1. Thank you Wendy! I keep thinking of other things I'd like to add in :-)

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  5. Beautiful. Detail exquisite. Love the history of the inspiration.

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    1. Thank you Debbi! I wish I'd given myself more time to make it, but a lot of the pleasure is in dreaming!

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  6. Wow Catherine you have outdone yourself once again. This piece is fantastic. Every detail is beyond beautiful. I love the backstory. Bravo on another stunning piece!

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    1. Thank you Martha! I really enjoyed working on this one! :-)

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  7. Gorgeous. Beautiful inspiration and a really lovely response to it. You took me there to the ship with evocative details!

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    1. Thank you Ruth - lying in bed imagining the ship has been a great antidote to worrying about real life! :-)

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  8. This is an amazing quilt and reading the story you've created alongside it made me feel I've been on that adventure myself. I love how you've used all the detail and history to weave such a captivating tale and so beautifully illustrated it with all the detail in your quilt. I think we should find some other objects for you and you could make a book of art quilts and adventure stories :)

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    1. Thank you! It was such fun to think about and make I could easily imagine doing more and getting very obsessed with them :-)

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