I grew up in the 1970s, when Fourth of July fireworks were things you lit off in your backyard (the risk of losing your finger or bursting an eardrum adding to the excitement), not something you braved a crowd to passively watch.
I loved celebrating the American experiment in democracy; our government of the people, by the people, for the people; the melting pot that later became a salad bowl as we struggled with cultural assimilation through cooking metaphors. At my elementary school we didn't have 'Back to School Night,' we had 'Multicultural Arts Night' and we sang the Rainbow Blues about how "all five colors should be treated the same: Red, Yellow, White, Brown, and Black!" We knew this America didn't exist yet (that's why it was the Rainbow BLUES, dude). But the flag was a symbol of what we wanted America to be, the ideal we were working towards. It represented the richness of our diversity.
Then I grew up, wandered out of my liberal bubble, and 9/11 happened. The flag came to represent something else, and come the Fourth, I couldn't bring myself to dress my kid in the Old Navy shirt. But I couldn't quite let go of the red, white and blue either. It was my flag too, goddammit.
And BOOM the American flag was reclaimed. Almost made me stand up and recite the Pledge. This isn't a member of the masses huddled before the Statue of Liberty asking for America's acceptance; this is an American. The other side has their confederate flag - our stars and stripes convey a different ideal. Of course the only thing that could make this image more American would be to quilt it...
I had just seen this video of Jack Edson working on a portrait quilt, and in one frame you can see him using the grid method - which you'll recognize if you've ever taken a drawing class. Genius.
I also loved the way he incorporated a variety of traditional blocks into his portrait quilt. I'm not totally comfortable with improv and decided to use one consistent, traditional block throughout. The disappearing nine patch was easy to do en masse and had pieces of varying size so that i could play with gradual color changes in the background.
The eyes and lips were the hardest sections (although the stars were no Fourth of July picnic either) and I just had to have faith that it would be okay once it was all sewn together.
I treated this like the full time job I don't have and worked 6-8 hours a day (made possible by j, who made me endless pictures "for the next quilt" while I sewed, and to Mr. Responsibly, who stepped in when making pictures just wasn't enough).
I used the American Quilter's Society free pieced letters for the bottom. I paper pieced all but the O and G, and only messed up a couple of letters before I realized I needed to print out a mirror image for the paper-piecing to come out right.
And there was that typo that set me back...
I quilted it with a wavy flag pattern that seemed appropriate. Her finished size is about 42x 58.
Right now it's hanging at Gather Here, a local stitchlounge/store that sets an excellent example of using creative energy as a means of political engagement. Their windows are currently filled with small pieces that were embroidered, cross stitched, and crocheted by customers and community members bearing the message "You Belong Here."