Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Clean Plate Club" - Nellie

"Clean Plate Club" (17"x 13")

Cotton and  Silk fabrics
Wood, paint, and yarn embellishments
Hand appliqued and painted
Machine pieced and quilted
I grew up in the era of adults admonishing children to "Clean your plate.  There are starving children in China."  Consequently, no morsels get left on my plate ... and that's what I brought to my interpretation of Rian's chosen photo of a sumptuously filled plate.  Also, I've dined in some elegant Chinese restaurants here in the states and in Hong Kong so I've experienced their ornate and gilded decor ... another element I chose to feature from the photograph.

The first thing I did was convert the photo to black and white to determine the balance of values.  A strong contrast of light and dark dominates with a lesser amount of middle values.  My piece has the same balance but with a different distribution ... the middle values ended up concentrated in the red panel on the side.

I was curious to use an automatic color generator just to see the palette of the original picture.  That was fun.  The site lets you browse for and download the chosen picture and then gives this kind of result.  As you can see, I chose a limited palette.  There's no violet listed.  But since it was part of the fabric that I wanted to use for the table top and it had wonderful spots of "reflection", it became part of my piece.  The value works and it looks great with the metallic gold.

The plate is made from a silk crepe.  I stabilized that soft, draping fabric by ironing two layers of Sulky Totally Stable cut in circles the size of the plate.  This is a paper product and intended to give fabric stability for machine embroidery.

Now, I wish  a heavy-weight fusible fabric had been used instead of paper.  There are wrinkles in the plates edge because Sulky's paper stabilizer came loose and wouldn't "refuse" again.

I wanted the outside edge of the plate to be raised.  Just a circle of batting almost did this.  I ended up inserting another circle cut from light-weight cardboard to stabilize that edge.

In the meantime, the silk was clipped and glue basted to the underside of the plate.
The coloring on the plate to indicate the presence of food was done by smudging oil stick pastels onto a cloth and then rubbing the pigment on the plate.  I also used white acrylic paint with shimmer and then coated it with acrylic medium to leave the sheen of a dirty plate.

Initially, free-form cut pieces of cotton were fused to the plate.  I thought those would give the effect of tracks made by the chop sticks having scraped through the food.  That's not what happened so they got buried under layers of pigment and paint.

The foil paper from a chocolate wrapper was cut into the spiral patterns that decorate the table top.  I could move the paper shapes around to play with their placement.  I also used a length of gold cord to indicate the lines on the edge of the table while I was composing.  The final piece has French hand-dyed silk ribbon couched in place by machine.

I traced the gold paper spirals on the background and machine quilted them with a heavy red thread.  The red side panel is also quilted with that same thread.  Slightly smaller spiral patterns are machine quilted in the background of the table top with fine black thread.

A mixture of metallic gold pigment powder and fabric medium is painted inside the quilted spiral patterns that decorate the table.  I love the precise effect of quilting, then painting for this piece.  There was good coverage with just one coat and the fabric is soft, not stiff, where it's painted.

The wooden chop sticks are sewn on with clear mono-filament thread.  A strip of red-orange chenille yarn is couched over the seam of the side panel.  That fabric, by the way, was an accidental discovery.  It's part of an old outdoor cushion cover made from fabric I had bought in Hawaii a looooong time ago.  I had dug it out to use as the backing for this piece.  It just happened to be laying in the right place for me to see that the widest stripe would be perfect for the front.  The outside edge of this piece is finished with a heavy brown chenille yarn couched by machine.

I've used the same dimensions (17"x 13") for this second challenge as I did for for the first one, my self-portrait.  I intend to use this measurement for all the rest as well.  The orientation of the rectangle will vary according to the subject.

PS:  There's been an addition that makes this piece more complete.  See it here.


  1. The 3-D effect of the plate is great! It jumps right off the quilt. And I can relate to the "clean your plate" club!

  2. I too am part of the clean your plate club! Love all the techniques you used and your use of all the values in the photograph. The automatic color generator can be a very useful tool and your editing it down to the perfect colors is wonderful!

  3. The richness of color, the dimension, and the range of techniques you used to create this are amazing. A beautiful piece.

  4. You have successfully created the "After" of Rian's "Before" picture!

    Lovely swirls with the gold paint and quite an involved "empty" plate too. Very well done, Nellie!

  5. This is fun. I learned so much reading your techniques, and I never knew about the color generator, so I am deeply indebted to you for that!!

  6. Clean plate! So much fun. The sauce left on the plate is just fantastic. I could almost taste the dish. The whole thing is yummy.

  7. Another understated and elegant piece- your fabric choices are lovely, reminiscent of those fancy Chinese places you mentioned. As always, your attention to detail astounds me.

  8. I think you got all the right elements in this one! The gold spirals and the spirals of the quilting on the background fabric work so well together! This is such a great job and it has the Nellie signature look!!

  9. I liked your design/construction narrative, a delightful peek into your creative process. I was tickled by the 'clean plate' - interpreting Rian's photo to its most likely conclusion - clever, indeed.

  10. A very involved process that produced just the right look. The piece is very elegant too especially with those gilded designs. I also like that it looks like a little snapshot of the table. Nice job as always:)


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