Monday, June 10, 2013

Quilting Inspiration in Southern France

It`s been almost 3 months since we have been back in France and, as is very typical of life in general, the time disappears very quickly. Although I have not had much "quality" stitching time, my mind is never far from the subject. As we travel around the area, my camera is always poised and ready to capture new ideas and inspiration, old ideas and inspiration, and of course, objects of beauty that are always inspirational.

These wildflowers are growing on the sandy banks along a quiet country road in the  camargue (a region of salt lagoons surrounded by marshes near the sea). At the end of this road stands the Romanesque cathedral of Maguelone, built in the 1100's. The quiet, serene setting of this cathedral, standing alone in a vineyard between the etang (a lagoon) and the sea, makes it one of my favourite places to visit. And of course, the opportunities for inspiration are limitless.

Below are some examples of how I use these influences in my work.
Above the main portal of the cathedral of Maguelone, is an early 12th century marble lintel, sculpted into scrolls of acanthus leaves. The acanthus leaf is a very popular symbol of the area, and it's motif is therefore frequently found in needlework patterns. This scroll of acanthus leaves would work quite well as a border just as it is.
In my sanglier quilt (see my post from Aug. 25, 2011), acanthus scrolls became a major design feature of the quilt.
In spring, when the Judas tree blossoms, much of the landscape in the Provence/ Languedoc regions becomes a sea of magenta. Here, at the recently uncovered ruins of the ancient city of Glanum, near St. Remy-de-Provence, the site was completely enclosed in a wall of these blossoms when we visited in early May.The soft grey/white of the stonework provides a perfect backdrop for the powder puff display of the fluffy pink blossoms.
An example of how these colours have influenced my choices.
The stone-grey ruins of this early medieval mountain top village, at les Baux-de- Provence, high in the Alpilles mountains, is a very typical example of the colours found throughout the countryside of Languedoc and Provence.
The stone-grey linen of this apron reminds me of these shades of grey.
The medieval abbey-town of St. Guilhem-le-desert, nestled into a ravine in the Herault gorge in Languedoc, grew up around the 11th century abbey-church of Gellone. The grayish stone buildings, with their red-tiled roofs, against the brilliant greens of the wooded landscape, have inspired colour choices like the apron and the placemat below.
Hand monogrammed apron made from linen and cottons.
Here brown and off-white toile de jouy are paired with natural linen. The little stripe of red was added in homage to the red tiled roofs.
The Jardin des Plantes in Montpellier, founded in 1593, is the oldest botanical garden in France. My collection of photographs of this garden are a constant resource for me when looking for images of foliage.

The golden-yellow and white awning on our balcony provides not only shade, but also a bold burst of colour every afternoon. Against the intense blue sky, the colours appear all the more brilliant.
These golden yellow and white placemats with the olive branch are hand appliqued and machine quilted. They are a homage to the warm, golden sunlight that brings so much intensity to the natural colours of the southern regions of France.
What a pretty calico this variety of flowers makes, at the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.

The "Espace Van Gogh" in Arles is the hospital where the artist spent time from December 1888 to January 1889. 
These table runners share a similar colour palette to that of the gardens.
Here at the medieval gothic chapel of Sainte Chapelle in the heart of Paris, the floor tiles immediately caught my attention. Floor tiles can provide an excellent resource of images of the symbols and motifs associated with a region.
These free motion machine embroidered napkins were inspired by scroll work.
One of the many wrought iron balcony railings in Montpellier that seem to have been designed for free-motion quilting. (How very thoughtful of the designers!)
This 13th century rose window in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a "mosaic stained glass window quilt" waiting in the wings to be constructed.
The rose window of another cathedral in Paris is a perfect design for boutis. Some day! Possibly soon? Hopefully soon!

During the last 8 years, my resource file of ideas and inspiration has grown almost daily. Although I will only use a fraction of the images I have collected, they all have a general influence in what I do, so I will keep my camera poised and ready whenever possible.


  1. What a beautiful place. I can see why you feel so inspired there. I like how you showed photos on your work alongside the places that inspired each piece. You are very good at capturing the essence of each location in your work. I always assumed my ideas simply were born from my imagination, but your post makes me wonder how much of my daily life creeps ink my works subconsciously. xoxo

    1. Hi Michelle. I think that anyone who is creative is influenced by what we see in our daily life, and we incorporate it into the things that we create. I like the fresh, clean colours and lines that you bring to your work, and I would guess that it's a reflection of where you live and the way you live. (I could be completely wrong, but it's fun to think about it).

  2. My goodness, I don't know how I missed this post earlier. So much to see! What a wealth of source material you have there! I was also quite struck by those tiles.

    I particularly love those olives placemats. Olives seem to be naturally elegant, and your design is perfect. I was just admiring the olives over at Anna Scott's blog today too.

    Was that a touch of boutis on the linen apron? That's also a very refined design, just a perfect balance.

    I hope you're stitching up lots more!

    1. Thanks for your very kind comments. You are very right about the wealth of resource material available here. This past season, I have been working very hard to take as many reference photos as I can, because I know that we won't always be spending as much time here as we have been.

      You are right about that being boutis on the linen apron. I made several of the same design a number of years ago.

      I have recently started a few new boutis pieces and am in the process of putting together a post about my latest boutis adventure. It should be up in a couple of days. (I hope!)

      Thanks for the reference to Anna Scott. I'll check out her post.

  3. A beautifull place!!!
    Thanks for post

    1. I do love the south of France and I find a lot of inspiration for my work there.
      Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  4. Oh, wrought iron balcony railings in Montpellier very nice. I like it! I have a collection for nice iron balcony at: lam lan can bang sat dac