Nailed it

Well, nearly, just got to write my name on the back and snip a few thread ends and this one will be done. I'm getting better, it's not even the 11th hour. This quilt is for the Through Our Hands exhibition and has to be delivered on Friday morning.

I've not been able to get it on the wall for a decent photo. I think that will have to wait till it's hanging in the gallery.

Restless Heart
2015, Laura Kemshall
Digital print by the artist, hand written text, machine quilting, bronze nails
Available for purchase, please enquire.

I really enjoyed doing the quilting on this one. The bird is freehand stitched to try to suggest his feathers. The large handwritten text in the background is also freehand quilted.

After all the quilting was done, the final stage was to pierce the border with nails.

I've quilted a 3/4" grid onto the black linen borders and inside every square there's a nail pushed through from the back.

When someone came round the other day, they remarked that it was a pretty violent thing to do to a quilt. I suppose it may look a little brutal. It's actually a very methodical and slow process. I'm not hammering the nails through, each one is carefully pushed through by hand and the repetitive process is quiet and meditative. 

Mind you, it did get a bit awkward at times. No more working on my lap on the sofa for fear of getting spiked.

I usually prefer to let the work do the talking but I suspect this one might require a little explanation.
Like most of my work, there's a lot of symbolism in there. It's not just a picture of a bird and a load of nails. Well, not to me. I just had to write a brief bit about it for the exhibition catalogue. Here's what I said:

"Will your restless heart come back to mine?"

I'm exploring the fragility and vulnerability of everyday life; the anxiety that surrounds the precious and precarious happiness of our existence. The birds and thorny hedges that are recurring symbols in this work are simple metaphors for loved ones and home.

The nails were collected by our roofers as they replaced the roof of our house. They thought I was bonkers when I asked them to save them, I didn't dare say they were intended for a quilt, they'd have thought I'd quite lost the plot. Seems appropriate that the nails were salvaged from our house and now represent a nest.

Really quite like how the nails look on the back of the quilt too.

I'll be back soon with some shameless promotion for the exhibition this quilt is heading for.

Bye for now,


  1. Love your concept behind the piece, beautiful

  2. It's just gorgeous and I love all the symbolism. Fabulous work!

  3. Oh my word! Another stunning piece that demonstrates a variety of well honed skills to give a conceptual message. Innovative use of materials; keen observational drawing; transposition into digital media and onto cloth; detailed use of quilting detail and a thought process that led to a concept led object. I strongly believe in the principle of apprenticeship skills - 10,000 hours to truly master skills - which led to the "masterpiece" This quilt is yet another example of how your thinking and making skills dovetail into each other. Just one question - after the exhibition, will the nails be removed for easy storage? So are they temporarily fixed in place, or are they permanent.

    1. Thanks for your kind words everyone. It was quite an undertaking to get the nails through the quilt and they will definitely be staying in! I'm not quite sure yet how I'll store the quilt, I guess I'll have to worry about that after the exhibition. My first problem is how to get it to the gallery, rolling it is not easy!

    2. Ha - as I was reading the above I thought 'Well, she won't be able to roll this one' - and then you said it yourself. And I am not sure posting it anywhere is going to be that easy either!

      But it is a quite stunning piece. Quite, quite stunning!

    3. I don't know how big it is, but I would consider folding it, rather than rolling. If you used expanded polystyrene pressed into the nails around one half, then carefully folded/rolled through a hinge section, then placed the other half of the quilt onto the top side of polystyrene, you would then not damage the quilt with extra nail holes. But you would need a car with a rear seat that dropped flat, to take it.

  4. What a fabulous idea. It IS like the hedgerows!!


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