Taking a Second Look

Taking a second look at a failed project can spark new inspiration.

After a project is complete and I send it out for to a several calls for entry. If the work is rejected I evaluate. Something about that completed project did not work. When I look critically at my own work I look at three areas.

  1. It could have been that my skills were not up to the challenge.
  2. Maybe the composition missed the mark.
  3. The quality of the digital image may have missed the mark.


I must admit, I am used to rejection. Not being included in shows is part of the process of getting better at what I do. Taking the time to evaluate the reasons a particular submission was not included in an exhibition is a source of inspiration.

 “How can I reimagine this project?”


When I select an image to work with, I am telling a story through my work. I can talk about my work at length by the time I am done. I have a number of completed projects that failed technically or compositionally, but the story is still engaging. One of these failed stories was “Tom and Jim”.

The quilt began with a picture taken of my father, James King Lowers and his brother, Thomas Houston Lowers; posing at the side of their home in Victor Colorado. I have a couple of these photographs taken with the brothers in a costume. This picture is of them dressed up as soldiers. At the time they were mesmerized by Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders”. Despite guns at the ready, they look nothing but cute.

Since the photo is over a hundred years old it is not a "high quality" image. There are scratches. It is a little fuzzy and the sepia print makes for a low contrast image. In my first attempt working with the image, I scanned it as a high resolution. I didn’t improve the image before adding  a series of overlays*.

*In photo manipulation software, a filter is a particular effect that can be applied to an image or part of an image. Filters can be traditional photographic filters or they can be complex programs used to create a wide variety of effects.



I made an obvious misstep when ordering the fabric. When an image has a vertical orientation rotate the image 90 degrees so the usable print is larger. When the fabric came from Spoonflower I realized that error and another big one.


In an attempt to add a "playful" quality I used a filter with warm colors that would blend well with the sepia print. What I failed to understand was the image was not enhanced by adding layers of photo filters, fabric or paint that further obscured the figures or made the composition visually busy.

The final “nail in the coffin” was the quilting. In attempt to bring the figures into focus, I used fine thread (Superior Threads “So Fine”) in lighter flesh tones. By the time I was done, the faces were thick with thread and looked horrible.

Lessons were learned.

In my next post you will see how this picture was reimagined.

Until the next time........

You can see my work…….
New England Quilt Museum
Lowell, Massachusetts  •  July 11, 2018 -  September 23, 2018
Sacred Threads
HeART Gallery, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toledo, OH – October 18-30, 2017


Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018
Under The Western Sun
Handi Quilter
October 4 to December 1
"Art Quilts"
California Heritage Museum
Santa Monica CA
December 9 - March 18 2018
Art Quilt Quarterly 
Issue #8
Page 38
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