What is Home? One

I have some news: my husband and I are moving – after twenty years in our current house, thirty+ in our current town, and for my husband, his whole life in this immediate area – to a new home about fifty miles away and located in another state. We will be leaving our house in about ten days. We are really looking forward to the change and the new experiences we will have in our new home while reflecting on all the memories we have made here.

So, as you might imagine, my time for art activities has been cut to nothing right now. I figured I might fill in the gap a little bit with some home-themed art from my past. I’ll be doing a short series of posts on this topic.

As I looked over the images, some from quite some time ago, I am struck by how home means something different to each person – we all have different physical locations, memories, structures for our homes – and yet I think it is one of the most important concepts there is in our society. I know that my home, not just my house, but my home, means everything to me.

In my earliest years of doing art, I made a lot of house portraits in fabric. I wrote a general post on this topic about three years ago in which I focused on a couple of pieces I did for a book, including my role in the production process. Now I will give you more detail on individual portraits, as I remember them.

Almost all of them were done as commissions, either through a local shop or through my own booth at art fairs.

I worked from a photo supplied by the buyer or taken by me, and in the beginning I followed the construction methods you see in these: I would seam together “grass” and “sky”, and then, following the pattern I drew on gridded paper from the photo, I constructed the house with hand applique. I then added a border, quilted it, and applied a binding and a hanging sleeve.

Later on, I did a few using machine applique techniques – I’ll mention those as they come up.

Size-wise, I can’t tell you exactly, but the pieces are all around 18″ to 2 feet wide by say 15″ to 2 feet high. It depended on the house size and shape.

I apologize for the photo quality in so many cases – these pictures were done in the 1990’s before I had a digital camera. I wish I had taken photos of details, but – film photography was expensive and I felt lucky to get even these shots.

Let’s begin.

I did this portrait as a commission from my son’s kindergarten teacher – it was of her parents’ house and meant for an anniversary gift, I think. (As a note, my son is now 35 years old, so this was a long time ago!). I was quite proud of the porch awning and the small tree on the right, where I applied netting over cut-up fabrics to make the foliage.

This house was a large stone home in Lansdale, PA, commissioned by a couple. The husband liked it but I don’t think the wife was as pleased. I also think no matter what, she was always going to be disappointed. In the end they paid me. I took that as good enough.

I have recorded the address of this house as being on Claudia Way, Lower Gwynedd. I looked it up and yes, that is correct. I remember at the time enjoying the coincidence of Claudia depicting another Claudia.

This house was in Wyndmoor, PA. I remember that in real life, it had a mass of rhododendrons in front that almost obscured the facade. I knew I would need to do some yard work or the picture would be of a big green blob. I took the photos of this house myself, as it was a commission from the shop, and I remember working hard to get some idea of what was behind that mega-vegetation (in fact I think I might have gone right up to the house and squeezed behind the bushes).

I did this portrait as a commission from a friend who wanted to commemorate her friend’s wedding. I think she may have been a bridesmaid. Anyway, this house is in Georgia. Those pine trees in the back almost drove me crazy but in the end they sufficed. The border fabric was a home furnishing fabric; I could not find cotton fabrics with a pattern and colors that met the color and design specifications.

OK, that’s it for now. More later!

27 thoughts on “What is Home? One

  1. Nancy Bell Scott

    These are spectacular, Claudia — beautiful and full of life. And I know what you mean when you say “home” means everything to you. Same here. That’s the main reason I’ve always found moving to be an exciting adventure. Enjoy your upcoming move!

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I wish I could have taken better photos of them, but, it was so long ago and I was a terrible film photographer. Anyway. It seemed like a good way to commemorate a new home, showing other houses. I’m also working on a Tiny House, hope to finish it before we go.

  2. memadtwo

    Your houses always have so much personality.
    Are you moving to be closer to your granddaughter? In any case, good luck! I hope you have a spacious studio space waiting for you as well. (K)

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Yes, we will be closer, that will be so great. And my art space will be above ground (no more basement). I am looking forward to it all right.

  3. Laura (PA Pict)

    How funny that your other post today made me think about these fabric house portraits and then I scroll down the Reader and find a post all about them. I imagine these pieces were very time-consuming to create, not just in the real terms of all the cutting and placing and stitching but also the research and planning.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Yes, you are right, the preparation for each project was substantial, but if I did my work up front the actual construction went so much better. As time went on I developed a method of doing these and how to create each feature, as well as knowing in what order to do things. I like doing them because there were so many varied steps, in fact, and always something challenging about each one.

  4. Alanna

    Good luck, Claudia. That’s a big adventure! I’ve been in my place for 30 years and I cringe if I ever have to move which I will someday. It’s a lot of stuff to pack up at a lot of memories.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. We’ve lived within one mile of here for 31 years and 20 in this house, so the packing up (and discarding) is interesting especially since we are on such a tight timeframe (not complaining, selling the house in 3 days is nice). I am ready to get out from under the weight of these possession and memories and enter a new phase andthe move is facilitating that goal, though, so I’m not complaining! I will be glad to start in on my new life.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I believe every house (every building, really) has a spirit or soul and if I try to faithfully capture the building’s appearance I think some of its personality will come through too. (You can tell I really like buildings and architecture!)

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          That is good to hear. I did these so long ago, and I am surprised to encounter my earlier self in them, displaying the same philosophy I have now. Sometimes you don’t realize how far back in the past your own convictions were formed or grew until you have a tangible reminder like this.

  5. Pingback: What is Home? Two | Claudia McGill and Her Art World

  6. tierneycreates: a fusion of textiles and smiles

    Home is where you make it right, thought somedays I miss my old home in Oregon so terribly. It wasn’t as awesome or as big as my current home in Colorado but it was my special sweet home that I lived in for 14 years and had just right for me.
    These pieces are amazing – thanks for sharing them!

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I agree, you can make a home anywhere, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have a new location that fits my time of life.

  7. marissthequilter

    I agree that the concept of home is enormous and vital.
    Your move to your new home is imminent as I type this and I wish you a smooth transition and exciting new discoveries as you make your new home.
    Thank you for showing us the house portraits you made in the past. I am in awe of the detail and perspective. They are masterful. I also enjoyed your honest descriptions and chuckled in places.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. Seeing these photos again really took me back. I am surprised how much I remember about each one. I do think I improved my skills as I went on as far as getting the proportions and persepctives right. I don’t have photos of the first one I made (of our own house) but I can tell you that though I was quite proud of it, it was troubled in a lot of ways to say the least! As for perspective, I learned everything I know from Ernest Norling’s book on perspective which I might have mentioned before. I still refer to it all these years later.

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          I worked my way through the chapters trying out the things he showed (using my own drawings but following what he was teaching) and for the first time I actually understood what I was doing (and doing wrong, if I wanted correct perspective).

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