Friday, March 13, 2009

Elements and Principles:line and texture


Line is not used much in the art quilt world as a predominant element though its secondary value is significant. In traditional whole cloth quilts, line is created by the quilting stitch. The stitched line also creates texture of course. Surface design techniques can create line too. Line is a more delicate element and, I think, is more appropriately used in a smaller format – where the viewer is drawn close to the work. When does a line become a shape and vice versa? I think a shape should be considered a line when it’s so thin as to be one dimensional….so even though I’ve used very skinny shapes in many of the black and white series of quilts – I do think they’re shapes not lines!!

I have experimented with a very bold line in the piece that’s going to be in this next Quilt National – trying to make the line really stand out – here’s a detail.


Texture in quilts is seen as the pattern on the cloth where the shapes are generally so small…they are considered more as a surface variation. If texture is a dominant element, then the other elements should be somewhat subdued. I think you have to be careful though because using texture might lead technique to predominate rather than the overall design. I’ve run into this problem with my drowned city series of quilts.

I’ve found that the shibori texture is so strong, you really have to let it be the dominant element. Trying to use it very occasionally within a piece is extremely difficult as it stand out so much. You have to balance it very thoughtfully.

What I found worked best was to have all the fabric shibori patterned, but some of it with a very low contrast of values, and some much higher contrast.

It was also difficult to get shibori pieces into shows because I’ve found that jurors either like shibori or don’t! one judge dismissed a piece as “too much shibori!”.

Of course for us shibori lovers, there can never be too much shibori!!!

I’ve always admired Jan Myers-Newbury's, Sylvia Einstein’s and Nancy Halpern’s quilts and they love to use highly patterned fabrics in a multitude of textures. If you notice they are successful because they allow the texture to totally predominate and not fight other design elements. If they added in strong, solidly or boldly coloured shapes, the compositions would not work as well.

Overall, it's important to think and plan carefully, choose the element you wish to predominate, don’t have a battle of the elements!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!



Tangled Stitch said...

I love the way you illustrate the points that you teach. Lovely art quilts and wonderful information. Very inspiring.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Texture could indeed be the background - especially if it were soft and low key - but if it were high contrast and bold then it might battle with other bold elements. which would be fine if that was what the piece was about: the battle of the elements!! if you want the footprints to stand out though, I think you'd soften the texture at that point. and yes by texture I'm indicating both pattern and the physical texture you can achieve on quilts - if they're not overly flattened with glue!!! (my pet hate!)