This is one blog where I’d really like some input from readers! Where d’you start with your design? what is the beginning point? Looking around the Art Quilt world I see several starting points. It would be worthwhile coming up with a list so that when the well is dry and the Muse has gone on holiday (all nine of them! not that there is one for Art Quilts sadly, they were mainly concerned with different kinds of poetry!), one had something to turn to for direction.
Given that composition is an arrangement of elements (shapes etc) on a two dimensional plane in a harmonious, balanced and yet intriguing way…how d’you start? How d’you find the “entrance” to the maze? Where do the shapes, lines etc come from? I find I am not good creating in a vacuum – though virtually any sense can spark something that has me thinking “hmmm it would be interesting to see if I could get that onto cloth,I wonder if....”.
The idea for this piece: Beehive was more conceptual – thinking about people in tenements or skyscrapers as being like bees – we’re not bee- shaped so our spaces are rectangular – but they are all stacked.
The piece on the right, however, Visions,was inspired by the Hildegard von Bingen choral music I was listening to at the time. I was thinking about the notes pouring down from the dark spaces above in a cathedral like the light broken into specks of colour flows down through the stained glass windows.
The piece on the left, Petra, was begun with a much more abstract concept: what if I bent these windows shapes into an arc? I love those “what if” starts to a piece!
Of course, many of my quilts begin from a straight visual image, but frequently this is not a new photograph, but rather one I took years ago that has haunted me. So it was 30 years before I made the piece The Red Gate based on a photo of an old stairway ginnel in Whitby, UK.
I love commissions that indicate ideas: here was the statement I got from a church in Atlanta: “ an original design to incorporate the thoughts and feelings in the mind of a person about to enter a sacred space..(plus) subtle representation of major liturgical themes: Trinity, gospels, Twelve Apostle, and incorporating some of the major colours used in the passage of the Liturgical year)”. (and, I’m sorry, I don’t have a picture of the quilts!but they are in The Trinity Presbyterian Church on Howell Mill Rd. and if you go there, and they’re still hanging in the Narthex – send me a picture please!) The church leaders’ request immediately flooded my mind with ideas. Feels great when that happens!!
So, whether it be music, memory, mathematics or a visual image, I generally begin with an actual idea. But I know a lot of quilt makers don’t – and not only quiltmakers. Yesterday, I went to see the MFA exit show at the local U and was surprised by how many of the artist statements indicated that the person began with a mark, and that mark led to another and another, until finally they felt there were no more marks to be made. This is a more discovery type of composing: if I play this note, then what note will sound good next to it? and so on. I know Emily Richardson composes in that way and her quilts were quite wonderful – shimmering light and shade. But I think that’s a very difficult thing to do and get right. And how about you? where d’you begin?
If you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth