Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Building a roof

I am starting a new piece in my architectural series and the first component is a portion of red tile roof that will appear in a lower corner. This is going to be a big piece, so the scale of this roof is bigger than what I have made in the past. I noticed that the roof tiles that I have top stitched with black thread have a more dimensional, rounded appearance than the unstitched ones. Can you see that in the photo? Do you agree? I can't begin to explain what artistic principle this demonstrates—just a lucky discovery, which got me thinking about lucky discoveries, and in general, how we figure things out.

I have never done any actual roofing, but I have created tile roofing in several fabric pieces. Ray has done some roofing projects over the years and it is a simple, yet fascinating process. It is all about overlapping materials in a way that keeps rain from finding its way under the roofing material. Same principle whether it is barrel tiles, palm fronds, wood shakes or man-made stuff. The first time I made a tile roof was for this piece:

I was having a hard time getting it to look right, so I did some research on tile roofs and learned that the early tiles were made by hand and the rounded form was achieved by laying a slab of clay across the maker's thigh to form the shape of the tile. Of course one's thigh tapers slightly, getting wider closer to the body. This slight taper is what allows one tile to overlap the one just below it. It is a small, subtle taper, but it not only makes the tiles overlap, it makes the difference in fabric in making them appear to overlap. I may have made the ones in the photo at the top taper less than they should.

For me a big component of what I love about making art is the "figuring out" part. There are a wealth of books out there with helpful information and patterns for how to do things and achieve particular effects, but for me, figuring it out for oneself is much more satisfying, and I dare say, more creative. That, of course is how art becomes your own. You figure out your way and I figure out my way.

I remember how Ray learned to do roofing. My parents were having an addition put on their house. The roofers never showed up and my Dad could not find anyone else to do the work, so he enlisted my brother and Ray to help him. They did some research, then they climbed up on the roof with their hammers and figured it out.


  1. Fifty years, or so, ago, I "invented" a way to make a seam that was finished on both sides of the fabric. With much excitement I showed my friend. She let me down lightly, explaining how years before somone else had invented the French Seam. I thought a French Seam was a hairdo! Oh well, it was a great feeling to just figure it out on my own! Love, Del

  2. I totally agree witht he black thread stitching and the effect it brings to the tiling. The finished piece is marvellous as well, it's perfectly authentic. It's exiting to wait and see the end result of this new project :)

  3. The figuring out is definitely the part that engages me even with the little frustrations of trying this and that and sometimes ripping.
    I enjoy the researching of my subjects too.
    Do you have your batting behind this piece or maybe stabilizer? Do you add all the pieces to the batting later? The stitched tiles do look dimensional.

  4. Do you think the enhanced dimensional effect is because the black thread cancels out the slanted lines of the checks in the fabric? Either way, it works. And they are lovely shades of red and orange.