Chemical Attraction: Art in Everything

Chemical Attractions began as an accident of sorts. Way back in early 2016, I was asked to demo my applique method for a local group here in Arizona. The Valley Quilters Guild in Green Valley, AZ had asked me to join their Quilt Academy

and to focus my lecture time on applique. In the interests of time allowances and sticking to a specific framework for the lecture, I wanted to design a block to demo that would emphasize making clean curves and neat points with layering and the need for the occasional lining fabric, while still having a simple repetitive structure. The resulting design was the block you see here.

This block fit all my parameters. Simple points, lots of curves, light fabrics with dark fabrics, and repeating elements. I started to think it would make a nice pillow when I was done.

After the demo and lecture I posted a photo on my Swan Amity Studios Facebook page and was surprised when some of my more science grounded friends asked me if I was modeling the block from a flat orbital molecule.

Well my quilty friends, my Masters Degree is in Nineteenth Century British Literature. I assure you that prior to this experience, I had not one clue what a flat orbital molecule looked like, let alone any plans to quilt one. Yet, I consider myself fairly open to new ideas and given how pleased I was with the block I spent a little time looking up orbital molecules and seeing if some of them would make nice blocks. Now I won’t vouch for perfect translation (liberties were taken for

certain), but some of the results were starting to suck me in deeper.

I was starting to think this was a project that deserved a whole quilt rather than the original pillow concept.

I had started this project with left over fabric from one of my favorite batik solid lines, Hoffman’s Me and You fabrics. I had been using all of these fabrics to make my raccoon family for my Meet the Bandits pattern and didn’t have very much left. Recognizing what I planned to add was no small amount, I immediately requested more of all the colors I was using, making the choice to stick with all black backgrounds, three values of grey, their beautiful zinc white and a powerful red. These colors stuck with the original colors used in the first block with only one addition. I also decided that since I had started with a 20” block, I was going to make every additional block a base of 10”, with rectangles and squares to make it easy to shift blocks as I began to lay the quilt out on the design wall.

In the process, I found where the gaps would be, where I would leave negative space and where I would need additional elements. Throughout this time, I continued to take suggestions from friends in Chemistry and Biology regarding other representations they would like to see and what they felt wasn’t fitting. The final version of the center began to take shape.

I added borders and got ready to write the pattern. By this time it was early May and we were preparing to leave for Spring Quilt Market in Salt Lake City. I decided to wait until after Market to quilt Chemical Attractions and work on the pattern.

Here I should mention that I have a longstanding opinion that art can be found in everything. I felt I was proving this idea by making a beautiful quilt with Chemistry. I have several friends who have enjoyed that I feel this way and while I was gone to Quilt Market, they were sending me messages, encouraging me to quilt this quilt (now measuring 76” x 96”) in a manner that kept it in the hard sciences.

Let’s remember that am an English major. I couldn’t visualize any of the ideas my very well meaning friends were sending me. My own brother (a high school math teacher in the Portland, Oregon area) was the one that broke through, suggesting that I should quilt Chemical Attractions with mathematical principles. At first this idea made me laugh. How would I do that? Was he suggesting that I quilt equations onto the quilt? That didn’t sound fun or attractive. And then he sent me a few images of fractals and mathematical visual proofs. Thales Theorum I began to agree, but I will admit I was intimidated. I never felt I understood many of these math concepts and to represent them well I was going to have to quilt with significant accuracy. This was going to be a challenge, but I was so intrigued. I started to feel passionate about taking this leap.

To allow myself time for a little research and to stabilize the quilt for what I already knew would be a lot of quilting, I took the time to ditch all of the applique in the quilt.

I also took advantage of the fact that my dear friend and quilting cohort, Kathie Miller, is a former high school math teacher. I borrowed every math book she would give me, including geometry and began asking her innumerable questions about things I had found while searching the internet.