If you're thinking that science & quilting just don't go together, then you wouldn't be alone, after all, when your average person is thinking about math and physics, it's a pretty sure bet that they are not having warm, snuggly thoughts! But here's the deal... the person I want you to meet and get to know today is not your average person, and the quilts she creates are not the fleecy, "pretty-pretty", comfy quilts our grandmothers made!
So without further ado,
Meet Kate Findlay
Kate is an art teacher at a private elementary school in Henley-on-Thames, England with a background in textiles. But she has spent the last two terms on sabbatical in order to concentrate all of her efforts on a line of quilts that she is particularly obsessed with. It was in 2008 that Findlay first saw photos of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelorator, in a newspaper article and found herself so inspired that she has been creating making fabric-based artwork inspired by the accelerator and its experiments ever since. “I’ve been living and dreaming and sleeping and eating hadron colliders,” she says.
Now I figure I know what you're thinking right about now, because how in the world can something so dry and boring as a physics experiment inspire a beautiful quilt, right? Because that's exactly what I was thinking when FaceBook friend Anne Moser suggested that I since I had a science background, I might be intrigued by Findlay's quilt series. I honestly wasn't expecting much when I clicked that link, but what I saw literally
|The Alice Adventure July 2011|
Size: 200 cm square.
Materials: Cottons, sheers and synthetics.
|Here's a closeup of Alice Adventure. |
The detail is extraordinary!
|Kate at work on Alice Adventure |
in her studio
Below you will find a very interesting interview of Kate that was conducted by Dan Nosowitz for Popular Science's website (on 3/12/12). You can read his entire post by clicking here.
|Above is the ATLAS inner detector,|
the inspiration for “Inner Eye.”(below)
PopSci: How long have you been making quilts? Do you work with other materials?
Kate Findlay: I have not been making quilts that long, really. My first one was in 2008, about six months before I started work on the Hadron Collider series. I have always been a painter in my spare time, mostly landscapes and still-lifes, but I work exclusively in fabric now, even when doing more pictorial pieces (like my Henley river series on my website).
|Inner Eye February 2010|
Size: 120 cm square.
Materials: Silk, synthetic fabric, pvc fabric and sequins
PS: Where did the inspiration come from to look to the LHC?
KF: I was reading The Times in September 2008 and came across an illustrated article about the LHC. I knew about it anyway, but something just struck a chord with me and I immediately started researching online to find more images. I was very excited by what I found and knew without a shadow of doubt that this was something I wanted to develop into a body of work. (CERN gave me permission to use their photos.)
PS: What about the LHC spoke to you as regards quilt-making? Why that connection?
KF: The LHC is a remarkably beautiful machine. Its symmetry, the repeating motifs, [and] the colors were all things that I was drawn to--for any textile artist, pattern and color are top of the list and the LHC has all these! The other aspect I particularly liked was the idea of a regular circle within a square; I wanted to explore variations on this theme. Working in fabric is extremely slow and laborious, and there have been a number of occasions over the past three years when I wished I was just painting the subject. But fabric has an added dimension, its texture and sheen, which has really worked for me in making these pieces.
|Breakthrough November 2009|
Materials: silks, synthetics and cottons,
a metal ring wrapped in gold cord, metallic mesh.
KF: I did know about it, but in a pretty general way--just what had come up in the news and through people talking about it. I have always liked science, but certainly wasn't paying much attention to the physics of it all. That has changed with this work, and I have been reading up on the physics discoveries of the 20th century and what the current theories are, although I confess I don't understand much of it!
PS: What is it about the LHC that you're trying to capture in these quilts? How do you choose the colors, patterns, and techniques that go into them?
KF: When I started, I was just enjoying creating pieces that had a flavor of parts of the machine I had seen images of. As I read more, I have been trying to get some of the physics concepts into my work. One of the things that has struck me most is the aspect of scale--the huge Hadron Collider is trying to split infinitesimally small subatomic particles--to find out how our vast, vast universe is put together. So I have found aspects of astronomy creeping in to my work as well as studies of how atoms are formed and split.
|Does the Dark Matter? October 2010|
Materials: cotton, synthetics and silks.
******Findlay used traditional patchwork for her three earliest pieces, “Breakthrough,” “Inner Eye,” and “Does the Dark Matter?” But creating circles in this fashion with fabric can be really tough, given the way fabrics stretch and move. After six to eight weeks of sewing, and down to the final piece, she says, “My heart was absolutely in my mouth.” Until she finished, she had no idea whether everything would line up and lie flat.
|Atomic April 2011|
Materials: Cottons, silks, synthetics, satin and sheers.
Her recent pieces incorporate more of the subatomic world itself. Her quilt “Atomic” shows the structure of a chromium atom in dots overlaid on a detector. “It’s the combination of huge and tiny,” she says. “I am aware the atom has far more space between its electrons, but that is where artistic license comes in.”
Kate hopes that her unusual source of inspiration will capture the interest of a more diverse public, folks that might not generally be drawn to more traditional fabrics, patterns and projects, and ultimately she would love for her collection to stimulate more people to become use fabric, quilting, and patchwork as a form of artistic expression.
Her collection debuts next year in a series of exhibitions throughout Southern England. So if you're planning a trip in that area, there ya go, but here's the bigger question...
Do you think there's a chance Kate might share this fascinating collection with us at an upcoming Quilt Market/Festival?
And if so, would you be interested enough to come see it?
So... what cha think?
I'd love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below!
And please free to share this post in any way you deem appropriate