by Sandra Bruce
The inspiration for subjects of my Matrix quilts come from many sources. I always have my eye open for possibilities everywhere. I read online daily, and ran across a photo essay by a photographer, Muhammed Muheisen, of Syrian refugee children. below is a link to it:
I was captivated by these little faces. How much beyond their years they all look. As a mother they are difficult to look at. I knew right away that I wanted to do the face of Zahra Mahmoud, a 5-year-old refugee from Deir El-Zour, Syria. Her eyes! I knew they would be very challenging to do. Here is the original photo:
My first task was to get permission to use the photo, and it took a bit of detective work. I went to Facebook first, as I had seen that Muheisen had a page there. I located his page and wrote him a message asking for permission to use his photo. His reply was that he worked freelance for Associated Press, who owned the photo. After several phone calls and emails, I finally got the right department at AP and received permission, which came with a fee of course, to use the photo to make one quilt (not to be sold) and also use on my social media. Once I got the contract and paid the fee I got busy working. Here is the crop I decided on.
My deadline of May 1st came about coincidentally with finding Zahra. I planned to enter her into a competition assembled by Susan Brubaker Knapp, Jane Dunnewald, Judy Coates Perez, and several other quilt artists of The Artist’s Circle, called “Threads of Resistance”. Here is their site:
With only 2 months to complete a 34″ by 58″ quilt I knew it would be close, but I finished it in a record 5 weeks. Here are some progress shots. The first 1/3rd went easily and quickly. I fudged the background color as I knew the color in the photo would be tough to match and there was no time to go look for it or even to dye my own.
I knew there was the Sonoma Quilt show coming up, and I was fortunate to be the Featured Quilter there. I planned to work on Zahra while there, no time to lose! I also knew that I should get the eyes done first, as I needed every bit of concentration I could muster to do them. No distractions, no music, no radio, total quiet. I got busy and got them done. So, the really amazing things about her eyes: when I first got the high res photo from AP and I enlarged it on my computer to get a closer look at them, I could see the reflection of Muhammed taking the photo, of people in the background, of the blue sky, sand……it gave me goosebumps. I had to simplify those things but still give the impression of what was there. Lots of piecing, despite simplifying!
I also taught my Matrix class to a great bunch of ladies, including Arlette, who flew up from Houston to take it, and 2 ladies who were back for a second class to make a different sample piece. By the way, I am returning to Sonoma the weekend of June 9-11 to teach Material Matrix again, and my quilt Color Dance as well. For info call Broadway Quilts at 707-938-7312.
Back to Zahra….once I was back home the rest of her went pretty fast as I was in high gear.
Top done. Onto the long-arm. I think I used every shade of pink thread I had.
The finished quilt. The title: “Zahra, Age 5, Syrian Refugee”. She is done, and entered into the competition. I have also entered it into the Pine Tree Quilt show coming up on May. I am happy with the outcome, and at the same time, sad for all the children like Zahra, who have had to endure what no child should have to. In my quilt my love goes out to her.