Saturday, March 31, 2012


A heard a motivational speaker recently talk about the old standard "Success is 90% perspiration...etc." and I've certainly read and tried to heed enough variations of "Just Make Art," in the past couple years.   So... after getting good advice about my large workshop piece (I've decided to call it "Background Noise") I've decided to leave it as is, and get started on sandwiching and quilting it.   But remember these horribly ugly units?
The were so unappetizing that I never even took a picture of them separately, just cropped out of another photo.  Well, I couldn't seem to let myself just scrap them.  They haunted me.  So I decided to disassemble them and try to make something of them.  Over the past week or so I've spent all my spare time studying other artists who work with strip piecing techniques.  I've created a Pinterest board for them and have over 250 pins at this writing.  So I'm starting to understand more about the process.  I've also gone back and studied the process photos I took of classmates work to dissect how they arrived at their ideas.

Long story short, I've been playing with the pieces, deciding not to throw them out, but see what they can do.  I had to wait a bit until another yard of the Amy Butler Quilting Solids "Mango" arrived because (Orange Again) it seems to be the focus of the group.  (Thank you for the quick delivery!) Please note it is NOT as bright as it looks here.  There is a distinct contrast between the neon orange in the "filmstrips" and the large solid.  I like to see it in a photo.  In reality I could not get the yellow to merge with it's yellow neighbor, but here, it really does.  Unfortunately (or maybe not?) it seems to want to be a large piece...  Unfortunate just because it will take me forever to finish and quilt it.

Here's where I am as of last night:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Progress on the Restructuring

I've been back from the workshop for four weeks now, and just yesterday got the time to finally assemble and partially square up my quilt top from the workshop.  I am sort of happy with it... but wonder if I should continue trying to bring more balance into it... for example there are more dark beige and fewer white strips on the top.  I have decided to hang it the other way up.  I like that better but still can't decide if it's "done."

I'd originally intended to "restructure" it more upon completion, but the comments in the workshop review were just to keep it as is. Nonetheless the lack of any hierarchy or focal point eats at me.  I'm contemplating adding a few darker strips:  

Two is not enough, and I just barely have enough of that darker stuff to make three strips.. I could try to put together more of it from scratch... if I even have enough of the fabrics.. or would a different pattern work as well?  Better?

I know my typical inability to leave well enough alone, and usually I regret it when I go too far, so I'm resisting for the moment... but will keep pondering.  The quality of the work is not as bad as I'd feared, but then my standards are not too high!  I keep telling myself that excellent workmanship should be a given, that if I expect to be accepted as an artist, I can't pass off shoddy construction techniques.  They're not "arty," if they're not intentional!    There are definitely bad seams, bad pressing, and un-flat areas, but I think that after quilting it will be acceptable.  I was surprised that many of the students brought "quilt tops" to the workshop for their presentation, and that Nancy even said, next year bring 5 quilt tops... as if the "finish" was just not important.  I guess the point is not to spend time on it, if the piece doesn't really merit finishing... but this feels wrong for me, at least at this point in my "career."  (Although I admit to a large number of UFO's that I have no interest in finishing.  Need to let them go, if they're not worth the trouble!!) 

How to quilt??  Does it scream for more horizontality? Or contrast?  WWNCD?  :)

Here's a closeup...

Liberated Log Cabins Completed

Liberated Log Cabins
After taking this class with Gwen Marston in May of 2011, these partial blocks languished in the UFO drawer until sometime in January, when I realized I needed SOMETHING I could be proud of to take to the Nancy Crow workshop.    I enjoyed the free-form design and piecing, and especially the very free-form echo quilting.  It didn't get big raves at the workshop, but then I didn't expect them, in that company.  I showed it to Grateful Threads and at the Moonlighters Guild show and tell, and both of those venues seemed to like it. I was especially gratified at the GT's comments on the quilting.  I am eager to do more in this vein, but freer.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Nancy Crow Workshop Report

Finally - I have a little time to write about the workshop.  Where to start?  It was amazing, wonderful, inspiring, motivating, fantastic.  How's that for a start?  The title of the workshop is "Strip Piecing and Restructuring."  The process was well defined and structured enough to teach the techniques while allowing for plenty of creativity on the artists' part.  There was also plenty of fun and camaraderie, shared dinners, games of dominoes, late night giggles.  Practicing with others saying " I am an aritist, I am an ARTIST!"

Everyone was very conscious and considerate of each other's work and privacy and agreed not to blog or post others' work without their express permission.  So I will only show my own work here.  If I find that any others have blogged about their own I will link back to them.

The general process taught in this lesson involves "making fabric" by free-hand cutting selvage-to-selvage strips of fabric of various colors and values, then sewing them back together.  We started with simpler assignments and progressed into more complex striping then re-cutting and re-sewing.  The lessons covered the many properties of color (warm/cool, values, etc.) as well as design and composition.  Figure/ground theory is at the core of Nancy's composition theory, more so than other artists I think.  Although I felt good about understanding the theory from my architecture school days, I found it very challenging to achieve with the strips of fabric as my "pallete."   By the end of the week we were to achieve one major piece using these techniques as well as the concept of "units."  I.e.  the concept that repetition and variation are what help the eye to understand something.  (The opposite of the very technical term, "mish-mash" which is what some of us produced in the first exercise!)
Here is my first exercise, done on Monday evening, reviewed on Tuesday. My lines were inconsistent, (some wonky, some not) and the composition very "controlled."  Funny, I THOUGHT I was being improvisational.  I definitely adhered too strictly to the dictum to use brights, or use neutrals, or use contrast...  In retrospect,  it is pretty much of a mish-mash.  Learning experience. I used several of the neutral parts in my final piece, and will probably find ways to reuse a lot of the other parts.

I was one of only two people who were there, or studying with Nancy, for the first time.  Some have been going for 8-10 years, on and off.  So there was a little bit of a learning curve for me in figuring out how literal I should be about the assignments.  I tend to be very rigid at following the "rules."  One discussion was about the fact that there are very few truly "bright" colors, they are what we think of as "acid" or almost neon.  So I was confused when I was the only one using those bright colors in the assigned fabric which was to include "brights."  I learned that all colors and relationships are relative.  For an assignment to use "light and dark values" I thought it was obvious that I'd use almost-blacks and almost-whites.  The other students produced much more elegant fabrics by combining fabrics that were light and dark in relation to each other... but not in extreme...

Our next assignment was to "make fabric" and we were given a list of different recipes to use as a basis for our creations.
Here are some of my "made fabrics."  
The next assignment was to work on cutting up and restructuring the fabrics we had made, with the eventual goal of combining them in groups to create units.  Compositionally we were to use create figure/ground studies which used the concept of repetition or units to create cohesiveness.

I created some really ugly units that featured big splotches of orange. (What IS IT with the orange, anyway??)   It took me all day to create three of them, while others were coming up with dozens!  Finally I gave them up and decided to use my light/neutral fabrics to create a background for whatever units I ended up using as my figures. I started with cutting the selected pieces into a variety strips of 1", 1 1/2" and 2." Then I started stripping back together the different size pieces linearly.  It took me MUCH MUCH longer than I'd anticipated to create a fabric this size, and I had to make some extra to get to this point. I was only about 20 minutes from being able to strip them all together, but ran out of time in the end.

Nonetheless, the reception was pretty favorable for the "background" as a piece in it's own right.  No one argued that the ugly orange units should be done away with!

I could go on and on, about what I learned at this workshop, but I will try to be brief!  The things I loved MOST were:

Learning from a true master
Learning from so many very skilled students - some who are masters and internationally acclaimed in their own right.
Learning how other artists approach the design process.
Learning how different architecture is from art.

Things I can't wait to spend the next year practicing:
Colors, everything about colors!
Selecting and working within a palette, which can eventually become part of your "voice."
Figure/ground, and line vs. shape
Sewing lines
Making units
Using printed, patterned fabric to make interesting fabrics and units.

If only I could just SEW!  I can't WAIT to get my new space cleaned up and furnished!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

FFFC #66

Out of pure laziness I'm cross-posting my entry into FFFC Challenge #66.  I was determined to get this one done relatively close to the deadline.  I was sewing up until about five minutes before I had to be at work, so my last seam was wonky, but I will fix it soon.  I enjoyed doing this one alot.  I would never have known how to do the lines, without the help of some of my classmates at the Crow workshop.  I will soon post about that amazing experience, I promise.

Here's my entry, slightly late, needing a little straightening, ironing and quilting, but "done."  I have never been a good one for following directions, so after reading the basic challenge and looking at some of the links, I just jumped  in and started my own project, and only noticed this morning that you had actual directions and a step by step example!  Oh well,  I was really excited about jumping in because the challenge seemed to relate really well to a workshop I attended last week in which we worked on using line in compositions as well as working with color families and values. 
I used the colors from Van Gogh’s Starry Night as my color inspiration. 

My inspiration source for “line” was not a photo but generalized from the motif of repeated units, usually squares, containing lines.   There are many abstract quilt artists who work with this idea, and I’ve always been intrigued by it, so I thought this was a good time to try it out.  I first thought I would use curves to hint at the curving shapes in Starry Night, but realized I didn’t even know how to do straight lines yet! Maybe I can incorporate the curving lines in the quilting.  Here are some links to a few art quilters who use lines that I was especially inspired by :  Nelda WarkentinCory VolkertPaula KovarikCatherine Whall Smith, and Lisa Call.  I especially love the way Lisa Call treats lines in her work.  I saw this piece at Quilt National last year and was spellbound by it.  It’s hard to see in the photos but the light objects are done with quilted lines and the rest of the piece is very heavily quilted as well.

Looking forward to thoughts and comments.  This was a fun learning experience for me, thanks Cynthia, for such a creative challenge idea!