Thursday, September 11, 2008


I had an email from someone recently asking me to describe my process. She wanted to know how I worked from a photograph to a quilt. In a nutshell, when I have an idea, I usually begin with some research, collect lots of images, do drawings and then cut out the fabric. (if you want a whole nut - then please take a workshop!!) (all puns are made with full cognizance if you were wondering!)

Last winter, when the leaves were down, I became fascinated by the wiggly dancer-like shapes of the old dogwood trees in our yard. Egon Schiele always painted trees as if they were dancing! So I took photos of several of the more anthropomorphic ones! I then copied the outlines onto fabric, cut them out and stitched them onto a very wintry quilt.

Midwinter 44"w, 26"h

In the spring of this year, I remembered all the lovely may trees of my childhood. Their proper name is hawthorn. They don’t grow very well (sadly) here in the south – I miss them and lupins and delphiniums and lilacs and …and…and ….however I don’t miss being cold and damp all the time! I wanted to make a quilt featuring hawthorns and we have none in our garden so I went to the internet and printed out as many different pictures of hawthorns as I could. Then I painted fabric in a dry brush scumbling sort of way which left quite a bit of white exposed – yellow green and green dyes. I then drew the outline of the trees onto lots of pieces of “hawthorn” fabric and cut them out…I made a back ground of a gentle valley – and of course a few cottages….I wanted to contrast the more formal house shapes with those of the trees. I spent a lot of time arranging my village!!! Moving the houses and trees around to get balance and interesting negative space – also a flow of values.

Green Houses 47"w, 35"h

In the summer I remembered how 3 summers ago I had taken a photograph from the rooftop café of the Tate St Ives Art Museum. The people in the café were completely disinterested in serving us so I never got my cuppa tea. (and you know how important that is!). I later complained and they sent me postcards – but not of cups of tea….anyway I remembered the picture – how you could see the edges of the houses close to the bay caught with the sunlight, and the water so cool beyond. It took a while to dredge out the photographs. I used them to make full size sketches in pencil and then divided those up to find one section that just fit my memory.

Edge of Light 40.5"w, 24"h

So you can see – I usually start with a visual memory, track down the source of it, or a source, and work from that to derive several different possible compositions. Then I let those percolate for a while so I can find (or make) the most interesting design of the elements that compose the piece.

It takes a while…so I think perhaps a cuppa tea is in order….

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!


  1. P.S. yes, all the quilts are for sale - most are around $200 psf, email me for more info.


karenviser said...

Thank you for your generous insight into your design process. It is very helpful! I hope to take a class with you next summer at Arrowmont (fingers crossed!) to learn even more.

Karen said...

I can testify that your classes are marvelous, I really enjoyed the class at Art Quilt Claremont a few years ago and I still review the techniques.