Self Portrait Behind the Pixels Quilt

“Self Portrait Behind The Pixels”, 70″ x 70″, made in November 2016.
This is me, an actual human being behind my online presence. As we talk to each other online, please don’t forget that I am a real person behind the pixels. Let’s all be more understanding, respectful, and kind.
This is a concept that probably rings true for many of us; however this idea did not guide the design. In fact, I found its meaning after I made it.
It started with a selfie on Instagram – something I rarely post. Hey, I just got some highlights in my hair!

I cropped the image a bit, placed it in a grid, and applied some digital effects. Why a grid? It’s freeing. It makes an enormous project approachable – just make one square at a time. A grid makes it easier for me to find order and to help make a design come to life. It gives me a sense of clarity and confidence. Without it, I’m a bit overwhelmed and design is daunting. It just so happens that a grid gives a digital, pixelated effect that I love. And it’s pretty perfect for quiltmaking.

I brought the image into the Procreate App on my iPad, and used the Apple Pencil to translate for sewing via foundation paper piecing (FPP). Here’s a video of my process:


Here’s the resulting image.

And here’s the lines-only version.

I brought it into Adobe Illustrator, cleaned things up a bit, and established my color key. I gave myself the constraints of only using the fabrics that I already have, and only prints.

I separated each square into a FPP pattern and printed them off.

As I started making blocks and throwing them on the design wall, I felt a bit iffy about the fabrics. But I just told myself to go with it.

FPP is definitely one of my happy places, so I gladly just focused on that.

A bit more progress, and still a bit nervous. I worried that the eye was too weird. I powered on.

Finished with the blocks, now to sew them all together.

Then peeling off paper from the back. Oddly satisfying.

And the top is done! I changed up some of the background fabric choices, even using the “wrong” side of the fabric to give some value variation, a first for me.

Rather than quilting it myself, I sent the quilt top to my friend Laura Pukstas who has a longarm quilting machine. I told Laura that it’d be cool to have horizontal straight lines on the background, with the shapes (hair/eye/etc) to be outlined and filled with whatever she thinks is good. I love what she did.

So while I didn’t set out to make a statement quilt, it happened anyway. This design was guided by the simple art concepts of a grid, polygonal shapes, and materials constraints, yet I happened upon its perfect narrative at the end, without even thinking of assigning any meaning during the making process. Fascinating. I wonder how intentionally connecting meaning early in the process will affect my work.

I’ll leave you with this: Let’s look through the pixels, see each other as the beautiful humans we are, and make more of an effort to understand one other before passing judgment online.

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  1. Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century | Angela Bowman Design - December 21, 2017

    […] 136, where you’ll find my self portrait quilt. Want to see how I made this quilt? Read my Self Portrait Behind the Pixels post, where I share quite a bit of my making process. (hint: I love to use […]

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