Saturday, May 2, 2015

Special for Derby Day: horses + quilting

Today is the Kentucky Derby, which probably doesn't mean much to most of you, but in Louisville it's the biggest day of the year, when rich people come to town to party and the rapidly obsolescing sport of horse racing has a day in the sun.  Today I'm pleased to bring you a Kentucky Derby post that also has to do with quilts -- and if you think that was easy to accomplish, think again.

You've probably heard of Eadweard Muybridge, the early photographer who in the 1870s was able to capture a horse's gait in stop-motion.  Before his work, people thought horses always had one foot on the ground, but the photos proved that at one point in the gait, all four feet are airborne.  An art pal of mine told me that if you look at paintings of horses in motion -- for instance, those of Degas, a great portrayer of race track culture -- you can tell exactly when Muybridge came along because artists suddenly changed their depictions.

The Horse in Motion, Eadweard Muybridge, 1878

So in the fullness of time, a quilter came up with the idea of not only making a quilt out of Muybridge's horse silhouettes, but to do an animation of the 12 different frames.  The quilter is Nina Paley, and you can see the animation and read all about the project on her blog, here. (You don't have to actually read anything but you MUST go to the site and watch the horse gallop for a bit.  I command you!!)

Nina Paley, Horse Quiltimation, 2015

I think this project is wonderful and I spent a long time wandering around on her blog and website reading about this and other quilt projects. Basically her expertise is drawing, and working out ways to computerize elaborate quilting designs to execution on some truly impressive huge quilting machines.  If you're into computer-aided quilting, make sure you check out what she and her partner, Theodore Gray, a science geek, are doing, here.

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