A Quilter With a Vision-
MJJJP: Thank you so much for allowing us to talk to you about your beautiful quilts. They are absolutely stunning and unique. First let me ask how long have you been quilting/embroidering and are you self taught?
Sandi: I have been embroidering for about 40 years, and quilting for around 10 years. I am in my mid 50’s and started embroidering when I was a teenager. I loved the hippie look of the 60’s so I would embroider my clothing with flowers, birds, Native American designs, Chinese and Japanese designs. Then I started doing large embroidered designs to frame and hang on the wall. My older sister got me interested in quilting. My 2 sisters, my mom and I are lucky enough to live close together in the Chicago area, and we get together every week. During our get togethers we assembled several quilts, quilted wall hangings and pillows as family projects.
MJJJP: What made you decide to do something as unique as quilted Michael’s album covers, it is a fantastic idea and really beautiful idea?
Sandi: I really enjoy looking at the art work that Michael’s fans have created. So many people have done drawings and paintings that are so beautiful. I was thinking that I wanted to create a unique needlework tribute. I had read about several other needlework projects featuring Michael Jackson:
All of these are wonderful and inspiring. I thought that maybe my project could be different in that it would tell Michael’s history as comprehensively as possible.
I began working on this project in summer 2013. It consists of 9 inch squares that depict life events of Michael Jackson, bordered by rectangle strips with MJ quotations. It will probably end up being more than one quilt, since I have a lot of topics to cover and I am only on the first topic:
1. Album covers
2. Michael’s animal friends
4. Celebrity friendships
7. Fun photos
8. Humanitarian events
9. Iconic pictures
10. J5/the Jacksons
11. Movies/short films
13. Important places
15. Superbowl halftime show
16. The trial
MJJJP: They are all so beautiful. What fabrics, materials, wool, etc do you use for your quilts?
Sandi: I wanted to print photo images on fabric, then use needlework techniques on top of the photos. My one rule is to leave Michael’s face untouched by needlework. An exception to that rule is if it is a painting of Michael’s face rather than a photo. The Dangerous album cover has a painting of Michael’s eyes, and I embroidered his eyebrows and eyeliner.
This is how I am doing the album covers:
1. I find a high resolution photo of an album cover on the internet, then copy it into Photoshop. I resize it to a 9 inch square.
2. The 9 inch square photo is then reversed and printed on Transfer Artist Paper, a special paper that can transfer photos onto fabric (the image has to be reversed because it is flipped over when ironed onto the fabric).
3. The TAP image is then ironed onto white kona cotton fabric
4. Various methods of needlework are used to enhance photos, depending on what I think will work with the original design. So far I have used embroidery, felt applique, quilting, beads, lace and patterned cotton fabric.
MJJJP: I know this is probably a difficult question because being a quilter I know how the type of quilt differs, but how long does it take you to finish a quilt?
Sandi: I can give you an idea of how long it has taken to do the 9 inch quilt squares I have completed so far: the Dangerous album cover quilt square took around 90 hours, and the Forever Michael quilt square took around 10 hours, so there is a big range depending on how complex the design is. When all the squares are done I will be sewing cotton strips containing MJ quotations around the sides of each square, then sewing all of the squares together. Then laying that on top of backing material and edging the whole thing.
MJJJP: Can you tell us how many quilts you have completed and which album covers that you chose?
Sandi: I haven’t completed an assembled MJ quilt yet, but I have completed 7 quilt squares of album covers: Forever Michael, Dangerous, Music and Me, Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, and Got to Be There. You can see large photos of the completed squares here https://sites.google.com/site/michaeljacksonstoryquilt/album-covers
MJJJP: I believe when you worked on Dangerous, you said that you when you finally sat down and looked at the album cover you noticed such detail in it, it became quite difficult for you to do. Are there any things that really stand out to you now that you see on the Dangerous album cover that sticks out in your mind that some of us, who have not looked so closely at it have missed?
Sandi: I learned a lot about that cover by studying it so intensely. There are only 3 colors used for most of the cover: shades of blue, shades of red, and shades of yellow/gold/brown. The standout exception to this is the violet colored queen on the right. The only green in the entire cover is the green goose next to the dog king on the left, the slightly green frog to the right of the center portal, and the green feathers on the violet queen’s head.
I find it interesting that there is so little green, since MJ was such an environmentalist. Another thing I noticed is the total absence of plant life, with the exception of the vines twining around three of the pillar maidens and the apple inside of the Adam/eve bubble next to the violet queen. Interesting that there are lots of animals, but no plants. Maybe because this painting was done with a “circus” theme – the red/blue/gold seem to evoke a circus atmosphere, along with P.T. Barnum and the animals. Plant life wouldn’t fit such a theme.
MJJJP: These quilts must all be very personal to you why do you select the album covers you choose, are they your favorite musically or aesthetically?
Sandi: I want to create an accurate history with this project, so I am doing every album cover that Michael officially released as a solo artist. Later I will be doing the album covers from J5 and the Jacksons. I am trying to decide whether I want to extend the project to albums released after his death – the Michael album is so controversial, I am not sure whether to include it. It would be fun to do, though, because the painting on that cover is so intricate.
MJJJP: I am a quilter myself and am so impressed with your embellishments, the embroidery involved, etc are wonderful, I wondered if they are hand quilted or machine quilted or do you do both and what are some of the techniques you use in making of these?
Sandi: All my sewing is by hand. I find it to be very calming, and a great thing to do when under stress, or in a waiting room. It is my “therapy”. My favorite embroidery stitches are chain, feather and satin stitch. The trickiest thing to figure out was how to recreate Michael’s hair. After several experiments, I settled on black felt embroidered with a loose scroll stitch.
MJJJP: What is next on your list of album covers?
Sandi: I am currently working on Ben (the original cover version with the rats). After Ben, I will be doing Blood on the Dance Floor. That should be a real challenge – the clouds in the background, the mirrored floor. I am ordering some special red satin fabric to create the red leather suit and silk shirt.
MJJJP: I read on your Facebook Page that fans have been enquiring about doing a group project quilt. Is that something you would be interested in doing or heading up?
Sandi: Yes, that would be great fun. I think it would have to be a separate project from the Story Quilt, because I imagine it would be more like what the Japanese fans created. A collection of quilt square tributes that people could send me and I could sew together.
MJJJP: I am inspired by your artwork, because that is what it is, a rare talent that shows your love for Michael and his music. I hope you will continue to share your talents with the MJ Global Family and keep working, who knows you may complete his entire musical catalogue and show these beautiful pieces somewhere. Maybe on his birthday or at special time of year. Do you have any thoughts of what you are will one day do with these beautiful works of art?
Sandi: I don’t know what I will do with these quilts when I am done, but I think it will be a LONG time before I finish! Maybe I can bring them to a fan gathering someday. I am doing this to show my love and respect for Michael. Thank you for your interest in my project. There are so many of us who want to give back to Michael some of the love that he gave so freely, and this is how I am giving back some of that love.
We thank “Sandiland” for her time and sharing her talent, and thoughts regarding her work on these impressive quilts. Please like Michael Jackson Story Quilt FB Page and keep up to date on these beautiful quilts. You may also, follow Sandiland on Twitter.
Special Note: Michael’s fans created a quilt that they gifted to him and his children – Please see the love sewn into each panel – Thank you Qbee for sending us the link.