Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reliquary Box or the Slow Friday Fabric Challenge

In 2009, the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network of greater Dayton hosted a challenge to design quilts based on Celtic works, particularly the Book of Kells. The Centerville/Washington library owns a facsimile copy of the Book of Kells and as a part of the celebration of the donation of the book, we did pieces either drawn from the Book of Kells or Celtic imagery.

At the time, I did quite a bit of research and found that the Book of Kells had been carried into battle, a monk carrying it, holding it high in a special box which had been made for it.

During the middle ages, boxes which held sacred artifacts, such as bits of the true cross, saint's bones, or sacred texts were kept in special boxes called reliquaries. I pictured some of on display at the Cloisters in New York on my blog,

When this challenge came up, I decided now was the time to give this concept of making a reliquary box to hold a fiber version of the Magnificat. How hard could it be? I was particularly interested as I wanted to make a fully three dimensional piece of work. (the first two pictures here are of enameled reliquaries of the type I was interested in.)

Monymusk Reliquary
I was particularly taken by the Monymusk Reliquary which you see here. Although fairly simple, I loved the shape. You can read more about the Monymusk reliquary here.

I have to say, that although my idea didn't work very well..I learned a lot. It did require me to do some thinking as to how to accomplish this and in some cases my way was the hard way.

You can see that my general shape is ok..but the "flappy" parts just below the handles are too small.

I created this by taking a piece of Peltex, laying a piece of batting over the top of it and then a piece of fabric. Since I didn't have the gold I wanted, I just took a piece of fabric I had and didn't like and used that. I quilted the general shapes, then painted the whole thing with Jaquard metallic paints.

On the two side panels, I painted the images, sort of icons, directly on the sides of the box. I then quilted around the rough shapes so that they would look a little like enameled images. Within the circles I glued pendants and buttons with the shanks cut off to look like the embossed bits on the Monymusk reliquary.

Each of the pieces were done free hand and individually. Life was made more interesting because my Bernina 440 decided that the upper tension was going to be TIGHT and even though I had it set at the lowest tension, it was still pulling the bobbin thread up to the top when I was doing satin stitching. Shredding the metallic thread was also an issue (shredding was happening in the upper tension discs).

The images of Mary are mine but I developed them from medieval examples. These were painted with Jaquard paints as well.

On the bottom edge, I used a piece of Tyvek which I had painted gold, stitched over, melted, then ironed it. I was trying to go for some of the wonderful work that Jan Beaney and others do which look like antiqued and distressed pieces. I love the richness and the texture.'s as lot harder to do than they make it sound...I'm going to have to play with this more to get the look I intended. I thought that the stitching would help guide the melting...NOT.

The ends (here you see the annunciation) were quilted first, then painted, then I painted the images on pieces of Cindy Walter's stabilized fabrics. I then quilted them over batting and then satin stitched them to the ends.

This one, I goofed on. My hands are so numb from the chemo that I couldn't feel that I was painting on the paper side, NOT the fabric side. I discovered this when I soaked the piece in order to remove the paper and started to remove the image. I quickly dried it off, cut the image into an oval, quilted it and stitched it on.

I then used a very wide zigzag stitch to connect all my bits and pieces together. I'm not sure I'd do it this way fact, I'm not sure I'd do this again. At least I tried it. The only other thing I was thinking about was rendering one of my niece's photos of Iona...only Iona is a Scottish Island, Not an Irish one. :(

Sorry guys...hopefully the next one will be done much more quickly than this one...believe me...I had NOOOOOOO idea.


Sandy said...

ahh yes, but Scots speak a form of Celtish. as do Wales, Cornwall and the Isle of Man.

I think you have done a very good job. It has the feel of the naivety of the image of the first relquim you posted.

If you wanted the gold aged more, you can rub something like black paint on and rub it off again. It will stay in the hollows.
Sandy in the UK

Tobi said...

A more ambitious project than you envisioned! But you did a beautiful job with it.

Marilyn Wall said...

Lisa, you amaze me.

Michigoose said... may recall that originally it said IRISH, and we were allowed to put a Celtic spin on it...if it were Celtic in general, I'd even be able to pull on my husband's Spanish roots as he is the grandson of Gallegos and that's Spain's Celtic region in area of Lugo province. :)

I still hope to put a lining in it..(I was thinking of coating cardboard or plastic canvas with fabric and gluing it in so that it is stiffer...I'm not sure if I'm going to do that or not..

fndlmous said...

fantastic work. As someone who has also made reliquaries, I fully understand the intense amount of work they require. Did you use the Janet Edmonds book as a resource in your planning? An excellent technical reference.

Michigoose said...

fndlmous, didn't know it existed...I'm sure it would have made life a lot easier. I've never made a quilted 3-d anything before, except for dimensional work ON quilts...I'll look it up. What I had in my mind was Maggie Grey's "Raising the Surface with stitch" but of course this is a far cry from the stuff in that book and that was only surface/embellishment technique. Thanks for giving me the heads up.


fndlmous said...

The actual title is "Beginner's Guide to Embroidered Boxes". While it certainly starts at the beginning, it goes much further than you might expected. The shapes shown in your pictures are well represented, as well as many others. A lot of the work is done by machine,a real time saver. The pictures are phenomenal.
Pat f in Winnipeg
aka fndlmous