Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Technique shouldn’t be first!

Brain storming is good! Especially in a creative field….that’s what creativity is about isn’t it?  I’m always amazed by people who hold back from sketching out or even thinking about a fascinating idea because they don’t know how to make it.   First envisage your mountain, then plan how you will scale it!!!  but if you can’t see it in the first place, you will almost certainly end up in the same old rut! (forgive my mixed metaphor addiction!).

I NEVER think “how will I make this?” until I have at least the basics of my design idea pretty much worked out.  It’s the composition that’s important first, second and third.  Craftsmanship in execution is necessary but it should be driven by the idea, not vice versa.

Okay – so how do I proceed?  First I think about my idea, what does it mean to me?  what do I see, hear, feel, sense?  What aspects of the particular scene, emotion or abstract problem are intriguing to me?

Second, I make a lot of sketches…..often whole walls full!
Third, I decide where my main values will be and assess the value sketch for balance, interest, focal point etc.
Fourth, I pick out a colour scheme….
Fifth, well you know fifth! – time for a cup of tea!

And now I’m ready to tackle the design …..I don’t like my sketches to be very big..I do like to keep the possibility of serendipity!  also I don’t need it that big to know where the main shapes and values are.  So my sketches are usually about 5” by 8” or 6” by 6” or something of that order, depending on the shape. I draw a grid on them and determine the scale: 1” = 5” ,or whatever.

Then to the design wall…working from back to front I block out the piece on the wall i.e.I cut out (using the gridded sketch as a guide) the background piece and then the biggest shapes and put them up on the wall.  Now I check for balance and interest.  Do these shapes relate to one another?  Are the proportions correct? Are both the positive and negative spaces intriguing?  As I add on more and more shapes I continue to check for the key elements of a strong composition: harmony, tension, rhythm and movement, proportion and balance.
When I have the last piece on, then I look to see what can be removed with no loss to the strength of the design.   Simplicity, economy!

IMG_1189 IMG_1190  IMG_1191 IMG_1192

So above are 4 of the first 400 steps  (I’m not kidding!! there’s a lot of toing and froing)  in blocking out Cement Works. (third one scrolling down).

The last step is to figure how I’ll stitch all this together.  It is good to have an excellent working knowledge of many possible techniques…then I think you should use the ones you are most skilled at.  If I can piece anything I will – it’s simple, effective and neat.  If I can turn under long straight edges and applique, I will.  If it’s a raw edge applique, I’ll probably use a narrow zigzag in as close a color as I can get – unless I want to emphasize the edge..in which case I’ll contrast.   I’ll make the piece as well as I can….but the composition will have come first!

And now for a nice cup of tea!  if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

4 comments:

Nina-Marie said...

Your borders of your design wall surprise me, Elizabeth. You have so many ideas, colors, textures all around the piece you're trying to create. Do they prove to inspire? Or maybe to remind you of the direction or theme of the piece?

virtualquilter said...

The only step you missed out was the one where you fall out of love with the idea, put it away somewhere for threemonths/years, only to find it again just when everything wants to fall into place.
Judy B

Jackie said...

I agree that technique of assembly should not be the primary consideration, that's why we have more than one technique. But I am also confused about how you place fabric on your design wall: do you fold under a seam allowance as you place them there?

Elizabeth Barton said...

in answer to Jackie...since one should always make visual decisions visually then the piece on the wall MUST look exactly as it will when stitched together....therefore if I intend to do a turned under edge applique (such as on a piece with long straight sides) then Yes I turn it under before pinning onto the wall. hope that's clearer!