There’s a wonderful quote from Emily Carr, the Canadian painter of the wild forests of Western Canada, that is something to hold in mind while making a piece:
"The subject means little. The arrangement, the design, colour, shape, depth, light, space, mood, movement, balance, not one or all of these fills the bill. There is something additional, a breath that draws your breath into its breathing, a heartbeat that pounds on yours, a recognition of the oneness of all things."
What is the difference between a quilt that simply portrays a pastoral scene, or a still life or a skyscraper or a pattern of squares and triangles and one that brings those things to life?
As Robert Genn says:
“Don't .. leave your (design)to the vagaries of nature or the limitations of your initial conception--but rather to your own higher nature and finer sensibilities.”
Get out your quilting books…catalogues from major shows – and find the pieces where there is more there than a simple portrayal of the subject matter. What have they done? What elements have been added, changed, or subtracted? (let me know if you think there’s another verb I should have in this sentence!)
When I stood under the Cement Works recently to take photographs, I was struck by their rusting height, how abandoned and dusty they were and the repetition of shapes. There was also a sort of old lady elegance to the site. To achieve a feeling of more height, I can make the shapes taller and narrower, and emphasize their curvature at the top. I can utilize a very vertical design structure to the piece rather than a horizontal, curving or circular one.
I can take the shapes that I find the most interesting and repeat them more often than they occurred in reality, and drop out those shapes and lines that were less intriguing, or only occurred rarely. I can choose the many colours of dust: cream, sand, brown, grey, dusty pink etc to emphasize the dustiness, make the dust palpable, soft and inviting!
I can bring out the rustiness by pulling out the contrast of the markings on the various surfaces.The shapes are crowded together with gantries towering above them connecting one side of the plant to the other…can this be emphasized by slightly changing height and placement? of course….let’s move a few of these things around!
People may say “but it’s not like that in Real Life”! but the quilt, (I hope)won’t be about real life, I could just give them a copy of the photograph for Real Life, or the address for that matter……. The quilt (and possibly quilts!) will be about what I saw, what I felt, what I thought about when looking at it and similar structures – I want to convey this by subtract, add and change. And now I’d better get down to it!!
Next post I’ll write about the blocking out process.
So, if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth