I had chosen to bring the unstoppable, breaking through barriers power of the elephant into my life by creating images of elephants. This began with pencil and paper, sketching elephants in my journal, and progressed to the idea of making a large wall quilt. But I did have some doubts. Making the elephant quilt would be a significantly larger investment in time, energy, and money and my logical brain began to kick up a fuss. It could be a disaster. Who did I think I was imagining that I could create a quilt of this size? Others had made elephant quilts, elephant art of all kinds, in fact. How was my work going to measure up, what need was there for it at all? Better just quit before wasting all that time and money.
Boy oh boy, my inner critic can put a damper on things! In fact, it had been stopping me from expressing myself creatively for most of my adult life. I was pretty accustomed to listening to it.
But not this time. By this point, the elephant energy of breaking through barriers was in full force and was…unstoppable.
I started researching, and I was drawn to a photo by photographer, naturalist, and lover of wild places, Pete Short. So, with butterflies in my stomach, I drafted an email asking permission to use his photo as the inspiration for my quilt. I sent the email late at night and went to sleep wrapped in the hope and fear of anticipation.
In the morning, although I thought it likely too soon for a reply, I couldn’t help but check my email. To my surprise, Pete had responded. My stomach tightened as I opened it, my breath on pause.
Pete warmly invited me to use his photo, he would be honored.
Texture and Color
Now the work began in earnest.
I purchased dozens of elephant-colored fabrics. I hung a large muslin hung on the wall and positioned my sketch of Pete’s photo under my husband’s ancient projector.
I drew the basic shapes onto the muslin, then continued drawing and refining it, adding in the parts the old projector was unable to keep sharp and proportional at such a large size.
Elephant tunes: songs that make me feel unstoppable
As I worked I played my “nothing can stop me” playlist, especially “White Flag” by Joseph. I discovered this song shortly after the elephant symbol and had screamed “Elephant Magic!” I broke out the brushes and painted my elephant, feeling the intense feelings of powerful and unstoppable conviction that rose in me every time I heard that song, every time I felt the spirit of my inspiration. I wrote the words of my elephant magic.
With this foundation, I began the slow work of the fabric collage, using the colors that drew me, cutting the freehand shapes and gluing them in place.
As I worked, whenever fear raised objections, I repeated the mantra of the elephant magic:
No White Flag…No Surrender…No Barriers…
…Nothing Can Stop Me
Once the elephant was complete, I took it to the sewing machine and stitched all those little bits in place.
I cut the stitched elephant out from the muslin and lay it on a fresh piece, which I would be using for the background. I drew in the general idea for the background, marked the position of the elephant, then carefully rolled her up and tucked her away for later.
Using Tsukineko Inks, I began painting the background. I used a lot of water so the inks spread nicely, and created some watercolor effects. I also did not paint the area behind the elephant to reduce the amount the these precious inks I needed.
I brought back the elephant and positioned her to make sure I was covering everything.
Until the background was complete.
I hung the background on the wall, pinned the elephant in place, and began adding layers of fabric to enhance the color and add depth. I used tulle (my favorite was the black tulle with glitter!) and a couple of strips of hand-dyed cotton in the sky.
And added golden tulle, and cotton cut to look like billows of dust on the bottom.
And then it was time to stitch it all down…and the elephant was complete.