I do view each art project like a scientific experiment. Controlling some things, testing variables. Here is my thinking after about five more hours working on Bullseye experiment #1.
I enjoyed playing with the colors, finding myself adding more gold and orange, less white and yellow. This added middle values, altering my original idea, which was for sharply contrasting darks and lights with no middle values. I use a sequence for color decisions: 1. decide range of values of light to dark, 2. decide hues that best express idea, often a named color scheme like complementary or analogous. 3. decide color temperature, and intensity. All decisions are based on whether the work needs more harmony (repetition/sameness) or more variety (contrast).
One of the most important things to do when designing any art work is to periodically evaluate progress. The low tech way to do so is to step back and squint at the work, which reduces detail and color information. Another way to get a fresh view is to use a reducing glass or mirror. Modern technology offers another tool, the digital photo. My step back revealed light areas of my dark background fabric which confused the design. I darkened the areas with markers.
I had used up my fabrics that had fusible already ironed on them, so dived into my stash for any other whites, ivories, yellows, golds or light oranges. I used plates from my kitchen cupboard to make templates, drawing around them in pencil. I had been using scissors to cut the circles, but tried a small diameter rotary cutter and found that faster and more accurate. I pinned, then attached pieces with water soluble glue. Fabrics without fusible were translucent and tended to fray. I decided that intensive quilting would overcome those flaws. This is a quilt I am making as a learning experience, not a quilt destined for a highly competitive show.
I was slightly distressed that this quilt was not consistent with my other work, not expressing my personal “voice”. I want to add an element that is in most of my other works…words. I will write some thoughts about roundness with markers in the center area. I want to use some of the fancy decorative stitches on my sewing machine that I use very rarely. Here the current state of progress:
I have presented a challenge for Ohio members of Studio Art Quilt Associates: Create a work that fits the SAQA definition of an art quilt. The work should contain at least one bullseye motif. Longest side should be no less than 24″ and no more than 48″. A bullseye is a simple traditional quilt design, a circle or concentric circles centered within a square. Several bullseye blocks are cut into quadrants and their parts exchanged and rearranged. There are an infinite number of ways to expand and modify the design.
For experiment #1, I set limits for myself. I began with nine bullseyes, arranged in three rows of three. I chose 10″ for the squares and grabbed a coaster and jar lid for circle templates. I wanted a stark contrast between one light value and one dark value. Because I had quite a few yellow pieces of fabric that already had fusible ironed onto them, yellows, light oranges, ivories and whites became my lights. I chose browns and burnt sienna as the darks.
After I had made the nine blocks, I tried various arrangements of them: rows, border, and circular. I photographed each in order to better compare them. Photos reduce the size of the compositions and allow for simultaneous viewing. The circular pattern pleased me the most.
I pieced the squares. I needed a wide dark brown border to make the outer bullseyes complete circles. Once the pieced squares were appliquéd to the dark brown, I cut fabric from behind them to reduce layers in quilt center. I began adding circles and elaborating the design intuitively. Pins hold the work together to keep options open as I rearrange and refine the design. I’ll glue and fuse when I am happy with it.
Here is the progress at the end of today, followed by three of the designs I considered at the beginning. In my next work session I’ll think out the logic of the outer circles of the bullseyes…should they appear to be overlapping? One more day of tinkering should finish the design, then I’ll move on to sewing.
I made a fast and fun 12.5″ x 12.5″ quilt…only three days from the idea to the finish. The sketch was made of large simplified shapes. I chose a face, because I have a presentation next week on making art quilts with faces as the subject.
I traced my line drawing onto a piece of fabric in permanent fine line marker.
I gathered bold bright fabrics, digging through boxes of plaids and polka dots.
I worked flat, with my base fabric pinned to a piece of foamcore, glueing my cut fabric shapes to this base with tiny smears of glue in the center of each piece. I pinned together these layers: white tulle with glitter, the fabric collage, a thin batting, and a backing fabric.
I used only two colors of thread to quilt, peach and teal blue. Details were added as I sewed: eyebrows, creases in the hand, including a long life line, spirals in the cheeks (the symbol of life journey in some cultures). As I got to the nearly- finished stage of sewing on the binding, I composed a poem to explain the quilt’s story. Every quilt has a story.
Here’s the result:
It may sound a bit odd that I need recovery time after a retreat, but I do. I spend a lovely seven days in Portland, Maine. I went a bit early prior to Susan Carlson’s Monday through Friday class teaching her fabric collage technique. I am a bit sleep deprived. I got up early each morning because I did not want to miss a thing, but my hotel room faced a lively bar that had music thumping until 1:30 am every night. Yesterday I spent a really long travel day coming home. I missed and had to reschedule plane connections going to Maine and coming home, but eventually arrived safely each time!
This retreat has been eagerly anticipated. I had spent weeks refining two drawings, then a full day choosing fabrics to take. I was not sure which project option I would choose. I picked the one that I felt would allow me to learn the most: a head and shoulders view of a Toggenburg goat named Cindy.
I had read both of Susan’s books about fabric collage and I had been following her blog for a year, so nothing she presented was a great surprise. It was very useful to practice the technique with input from Susan. She urged me to use colors brighter than I would have otherwise chosen. It took days of practice until I began to select smaller bits of fabric from many sources rather than a larger piece from a single fabric. Generous fellow students helped by donating vivid fabrics that I never would have purchased. Here are photos taken on the first day and fifth day of the retreat. I will have to set the project aside until I finish things that have a June deadline, but I’m keeping this collage project propped up in my studio and will work on it a bit to keep my motivation up.
Cindy on Friday
Cindy on Monday
Teacher Susan Carlson
My art-making time is precious. It must be fiercely guarded against usurpation by perceived worthy endeavors like obligations to family, kindness to friends, and responsibilities to organizations with missions that I believe are important. “Not now” is a useful phrase. Everyday necessities like cooking, cleaning and laundry are insidious. They can be time-urgent, yet unimportant, in terms of reaching larger life goals.
Procrastination and fear are lurking threats to creativity.
I use two strategies against procrastination: making appointments on the calendar and actually writing down my goals with step-by-step plans to accomplish them. The solution to fear is to do something; just get going and begin work. I tell myself “Making art is not like brain surgery; no one dies if I mess up.” I have been forcing myself to do things which frighten me for over 50 years and recently I have realized that I am less afraid than many others I meet. Fear never goes away, and I don’t expect it ever will. If I take action, fear seems to hold less power.
I received a lovely gift on Sunday. A member of my art quilt group, who loves making 4” x 6” fabric postcards, gave two postcards to each person at the meeting. How generous. The signed one, I will send to a friend. An unsigned one I chose from the box had a nice teal and white print of a bird on a branch.
I could not stop myself when I got home. I took the print postcard apart and pieced it with fabrics that were meaningful to me and which coordinated in color: a hand-dye I had made, the waistband of a skirt and collar of a shirt that I had salvaged from my mother’s closet, some charm squares given to me as a gift. The bird image on the print was indistinct, so I searched my bird identification books for a species of appropriate body shape. A Northern Parula, the smallest warbler whose terrain includes Ohio, fit perfectly in both color and body shape.
I ironed fusible to the back of pale blue fabric, drew the perky little warbler with inktense pencils and a fine line Sharpie, and ironed him in place. My finished quiltlet, is 10 1/2” x 12 1/4”. Because it has a lot of hand-quilting, it was a four-day diversion from my backlog of unfinished projects. But making it was fun.
I’m not yet done with my quilt that I’m trying to finish before the end of December. I’ve finished quilting on it. This is the second day it has been drying, spread out on the living room floor. I rinsed it in the bathtub in cold water to wash out the blue marker and to dampen it for blocking. To block the quilt, I squeezed out excess water without wringing, laid the quilt on a clean sheet and stretched and scrunched it to be a more accurate rectangle. The stretching and scrunching were aimed to get each of three sets of measurements to be the same: three measurements side to side, two measurements top to bottom, and both diagonals. I directed a fan on the quilt to hasten drying. This process does occupy most of the center of the living room, so I’m grateful for spousal cooperation for this venture.
While the quilt was drying, I cut fabric for the binding and hanging sleeve. I also cleared my design wall so it can become my photo backdrop. This involved putting away several projects that were on the wall. This was useful to organize my workspace and update my current projects list. I’ve finished one project on my list, but added three more. There are now 24 on the list. My definition of a Current Project: A project that is named, has a sketch or actual-size cartoon, materials have been gathered, and some work has begun. Current Projects do not include ideas or unnamed sketches; they have their own files.
blocking the quilt
projects in bags and project list