Sunday, April 03, 2011

Spilling Over : Fire Fall at Yosemite Journal Quilt and March Sketchbook Challenge

This journal Quilt came before the sketch below. I was thinking about the magnificent "fire fall" at Horsetail Falls in Yosemite National Park. It's not lava, but a trick of the light. The water fall is seasonal, only when the snow melts, usually in February. If you can be there at just the right time while the sun sets, you can see an amazing light show :

The Fire Falls

After watching the PBS documentary on The National Parks, I was also remembering how the park officials used to stage a fire fall for tourists. They built a gi-normous bonfire, then pushed it over the cliff. It looked spectacular, but I have to say, I'm glad they don't do that anymore.

"Thousands of people from around the globe would line the meadows and

roads every evening to watch the spectacular event of fire falling more than

3,000 feet from Glacier Point to the valley floor. In fact, many came to

Yosemite just to experience the "Fire Falls." From 1872 to 1969, for almost

one hundred years, every summer, at exactly 9 p.m. a man would stand at

Camp Curry below and shout to the man at Glacier Point above "Let The

Fire Fall." At that instant, the man tending the Fire at Glacier Point would

shout his answer down, "The Fire Is Falling," and they would

immediately begin pushing the burning coals and fire over the cliff. It was a

spectacular display of falling, descending fire! Over 3,000 feet of brilliant,

flowing, glowing fire cascading down the sheer wall of Glacier Point."

A Spiritual Experience

In a recent TV documentary interview one of the 'old timers,' that called the fire down, emotionally said, "we always thought it was like a spiritual thing, like a church experience." With his voice breaking, he said “people were deeply touched. Each night when the event ended there would be deep silence, or almost reverence.” He said “people would be weeping everywhere. Then, after a minute or so, hesitantly, someone would break the silence with a weak applause. The applause would then escalate into a roar.” It was an awesome event, a momentous occasion. Everyone was blessed, the rich and famous as well as the more common folks. All races and colors of people from all over the world were somehow deeply touched by the Fire Falls. The old timer said “it riveted the people together.”

Enjoy these pictures!

The Making of Fire Fall
I started with the blue background fabric--a piece I dyed in 2009. One of my self-imposed requirements for these journal quilts is to use some of my own hand dyes. I thought this blue worked well for the sky ...

After choosing the base fabric, I started in on the cliffs. I'd been thinking about a mono-color collage, so I pulled out my bag of black scraps and started laying them out. Then I decided it needed more dimension to make the rock faces, so I pulled out the yarns and started building a composed fabric. My friend Lois (by way of Lynda) gave me a skein of silk from China. It has strands of copper in it. It doesn't show up well in the picture, but that little bit of sparkle adds to the piece. Once I had the cliffs "built," I covered it all with black tulle, and stitched it down to hold all those bits in place. The orange is the last bit of a striking Halloween fabric. The orange wave seemed appropriate for this piece.

The binding is a basic envelope treatment, turned right side out. I did that before the quilting--because it would not have worked afterwards. Turns out that quilting the sky pulled and shrunk things enough to pull it out of square. On a small piece like this, I don't think it's a problem.

For the quilting, I decided to use on of the Beyond Meandering designs I learned in the Chris Lynn Kirsch class at the Sewing Expo. The wave in the sky seemed like air currents. That's a fun filler pattern to stitch out.

Finally, I added the beads to the fire.

The sketchbook sketch came after the journal quilt. I wanted to document the process, so I glued the inspiration picture int my journal. Then I decided to draw a rough sketch in pencil. Then I colored it in with Neocolor 2 water-soluble crayons. Above you can see the BEFORE water version. Below is the AFTER water version to soften and blend the colors. I LOVE these crayons!

This rough sketch took all of 15 minutes start to finish. I remember how I would agonize over drawing anything back in January. How things that should be quick took 3 hours. Maybe that's the difference between doing it to start, or at the end. By now, I know the subject and drawing it is easier.


Karen M said...

Beautiful! Really interesting to read the story behind this piece, and to learn about how you made it, also. All the texture, from the yarn, hand dyes, and beads really works here.

Lori W said...

I found you by way of the Sketchbook Challenge. I really appreciate you saying the process of making the quilt AND the history of the Fire Fall. Makes it more than a piece of cloth. Thanks.