The other day, I started working on a new quilt — or maybe a wall hanging, or banner — of the sixteen signs of geomancy. This is because trying to execute a tarot deck banner would drive me nuts. I managed to get about six of the signs assembled out of some 2″ squares that I’d cut from scraps.
Since then, I’ve assembled a total of twelve of the sixteen figures, and I’ve started layering bands of fabric around each figure to connect those figures to their elemental correspondences. At left, for example, is the figure of “Carcer” with two bands of green around it. I’ve decided that I want the inner and outer elements from John Michael Greer’s The Art and Practice of Geomancy included in each figure, and a black or white stripe depending on whether the figure is Stable or Mobile.
In retrospect, I should have put this white or black band between the inner and outer element. I should have also layered at least a 1/2″ to 1″ band of the background color of each figure around the 4×3 block that constitutes the figure itself, in order to make the figure stand out more deliberately. It would make Populus, for example, stand out more directly (upper right of the photo), and it would have made Aquisitio (middle figure of the three in the first column) and Amissio (not shown) look more like their official figures and less like checkerboards.
No matter. My friends Daniel and Scott, both high-level, high-performance engineers, always say “build the whole prototype first. That way you know where all the mistakes are.” It’s good advice — without seeing the whole prototype, in all its beauty, its flaws, its opportunities and its challenges, you can’t know whether or not you’ve thought through all of the possible mistakes ahead of time — and you certainly won’t see the places for improvement, until you’ve actually made the whole thing once.
For example, the image at left might be how I’d want to lay out the figure Acquisitio in the future: a red field with six distinctive and specific black dots, a yellow band for the Inner Element of Air around the red field, a white band around the yellow field (for Stable), and a red band around the white band for the Outer Element of Fire.
The number of individual seams in this design is daunting, though. A quick count reveals thirty seams just for this one block: an estimated 30 seams for each block, multiplied by sixteen blocks, is … 480 seams just for the blocks, plus the border-bands between each block. We’re talking several days of work for a banner of this type, assuming that you have all the fabric on hand.
I don’t have all the fabric on hand, even for this prototype. All the blocks I’ve made so far, have been made with fabric scraps I already had on hand. It turns out that I don’t do much work in citrine, amber, maroon, yellow, or red — and I’m going to need to buy new or hunt in bargain bins for those colors.
It also reveals to me that I cannot make this banner “on spec” and put it up in my Etsy store. I need to source about 25 different fabrics (in terms of both color, pattern, and texture) to make this banner, each in sufficient quantities to match everything correctly: right dye-lot, right hue, right quantity. Fat quarters will likely suffice for the background colors of each panel; but for the rest I’m likely to need yardage. A lot of the current “scrappy” stuff I’m using to prototype is also ‘broadcloth weight’ rather than full-texture (By the by, in the 1800s, “broadcloth” was thickly woven enough to mean “this will keep you warm at sea on the open deck of a ship in winter” — when did it come to mean “cheap cotton fabric so thin that light will pass through it”, anyway??) fabric, as well — so I won’t be able to price this quilt/wall hanging until I’ve made it at least one more time, using new fabrics.
I can estimate, though. A lot of fabric in the broadcloth range is around $0.02 per square inch. Although I haven’t worked up any of the blocks to their full size, I’m estimating that the panel will be around 1742 square inches, or about $35 in fabric. That’s without any labor, wear-and-tear on my machine, or any of my labor. Let’s say that’s $0.35 on top of that dime, or $0.37 per square inch. So, 1742 x $0.37 is … $644.54. Round it up to $645.00.
That’s a lot for a wall hanging. I made four of those elemental banners for a bit more than that (and I have a pair of them for sale that you can buy now, today, for $750) — and those were a LOT less work than this particular project. There are queen-sized quilts that go for $800 (which is an obvious case of a master artisan undercharging for her services, by the way). Clearly, this is a thing to think about before I make another one of these banners beyond the prototype.
What do you think? Would you be interested in a geomancer’s banner or wall hanging?