Charting the Whitney Flame Topaz

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Charting the Whitney Flame Topaz

Interesting how things turn out…

Back in September I learned that the company that has been printing the freezer paper patterns for all my Birthstone and Diamond Diva patterns for the past 3 years decided to end all their freezer paper production. And they didn’t tell me. I learned about their decision after placing a large order for a major distributor and they responded by saying, “Oh, yeah, by the way we stopped doing that about 6 months ago.”

They played an essential part of my business! They were the only commercial printer I knew of (and that they knew of, too) who printed on freezer paper. “There goes my business,” I thought.

After a short while of grousing and a wee bit of panicking, I made some calls, including one to my local reprographics guy who prints the paper charts for the Birthstones. He agreed to experiment with a roll of freezer paper I had purchased from a shipping supply outfit. After a bit of tweaking, he printed a stack of absolutely perfect freezer paper patterns.

I was thrilled! Not only had I found a more economical option, but his shop was just 4 miles from my house. He could turn around a job in a few days and I could pick them up myself. No shipping charges!

freezer paper roll

Perhaps a new process?

Star Chart Materials
Star Chart Grid Partway with Major Sections

Now that I had found a local printer who could work with freezer paper, I realized that this had the potential to change how I created my gem charts.

For the past 25 years, I’ve charted the gems by hand. I used store-bought freezer paper rolls and double-sided tape to assemble a chart the size of the finished quilt.

I’d tape the assembled freezer paper to my design wall and layout a one-foot grid of pencil lines. These corresponded to the one-inch grid lines on my mock-up. I’d then transpose the major sections and interior facet lines onto the freezer paper using the mock-up as my guide and the grid lines as my reference.

Once all the facets were drawn, I’d take the chart off the wall and begin coding each piece with a Unique Identifier code and a Color code. Oh yeah, and then there were the hash marks, those tiny little slashes across each line segment that are invaluable in piecing the whole thing back together. (Click on the image below to see what I mean…)

Charting Hashmarks
Click the image above for a quick video showing the tedious but critical task of adding hashmarks.
Star Chart In Process 1
Star Chart In Process

Charting the Whitney Flame in a new way

While I loved everything about creating a chart by hand, I wondered if the discovery of a local freezer paper printer created options not available to me before. Now that I could simply give my reprographics guy a thumb drive and have him print out freezer paper copies within minutes, could I now do all that handwork in Adobe Illustrator?

I decided that charting the Whitney Flame Topaz was the perfect opportunity to experiment with a new process.

I wanted the final design to be enormous — 10 feet by 5 feet. I don’t have a very big house, so finding space on any of my walls to accommodate a 10-foot stretch of freezer paper was going to be hard. I also wanted to use commercially-available solids, so matching the colors might be challenging, too, across a stretch of 10 feet.

In addition, I want this design to be a true tribute to the gorgeous Whitney Flame Topaz. My goal for this particular work is to portray the color and shape as closely as possible to the actual gem. Think of it as creating a portrait of an actual gem. I don’t normally approach my gem designs with that intent. I like to interpret the gems in my own way. But this one was different. I wanted her gorgeous glow to shine through.

Whitney Flame Topaz narrow and straightened
Whitney Flame Topaz (Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution)

The process….

I loaded an image of the gem into the software. Then I overlaid the facet lines on top of the gem image, easily adding and removing facet lines at will.

Once all the facets were in place, I selected my colors. I downloaded KONA swatch images from the e-retailer I knew would have a good selection and from whom I wanted to purchase the fabric. (I did this because I wanted to make sure that the e-retailer carried all the colors I wanted to use.)

I renamed all the colors so that they lined up in a value progression by hue and took a screenshot of the line-up. I was able to add this image to the Adobe Illustrator art board I was using so that I could easily reference the color swatches as I added a color code to each facet in the gem.

Once all Color codes were in place, I dropped in the Unique Identifier codes and hashmarks.

Finally, I dropped in several “cut lines” that allowed me to crop the image into approximately 15″ segments that my reprographics guy could put through his printer. The files are on my thumb drive and I plan to head over there on Monday.

Fingers crossed! I’ll keep you posted on developments.

All that to say, what appeared to be a major set-back a few weeks ago may actually have been one of the best developments in my art-making process.

Interesting how things turn out.

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KONA Color Chip Image
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