Friday, April 3, 2009

Construction: 2 forward, 1 back – if you’re lucky!

A couple of years ago I remember seeing an old building here in Athens and thought one day I should get back down here and photograph that! At the time I was making quilts about the black and white beams/plaster on medieval houses in England – the black/white contrast is so strong and graphic and the old beams made wonderful wavy lines and curves. I made about a dozen such pieces – you can see them on my website on the Buildings page. The biggest and (possibly?) best is going into Quilt National next month – as per their rules I’ve not yet “exposed” it!!

athens cement works a

However, after that large piece –( it was about 90” wide at one point though I finally got it cut down to 69”) I felt I was finished with that theme – for a while at least. I then got intrigued by the steel mills in Ontario and have now made 7 pieces based on one trip across the lake to see them! And finally, I remembered the old Cement Works and went back downtown to photograph them. It was a gorgeous day and I took a bunch of photos. this is just one, there are more on the March 23rd blog.

sketches cement works

I made a couple of dozen of different sketches, sizes, arrangements etc. I like to to just play with the images at first, sketching them out, getting used to the shapes thinking how I might simplify them, which details are the most intriguing, which can be left out…where the repetitions and rhythms either occur or could be made to occur. I think it’s really good not to be rushing at this stage.

Plus! If I’m lucky I may come out with more than one idea for a piece.

Having chosen the design I want to work from, I tried several different arrangements of values before picking one and then working out my colour scheme, pulling out fabrics from the stash. I usually work from a complementary scheme with 2 main colours, but lots of values, and a few sparks of other colours!

I decided upon the right size and height/width ratio and then marked that out on my design wall – first with strings made from ripped off selvedges. I usually weight the vertical strings so that I can be sure to stay straight, and will check the horizontal ones with a spirit level. Then I choose a background fabric – this can be one piece, or several pieces sewn together. This always takes me ages – it’s important to get the value right even if only small areas will show at the end. Then the placing of the first piece – nope don’t like that – I love the piece of fabric but it has too much depth in itself, it looks almost like a hole in the fabric, try another. Then the second, and the third…then I decided that the third piece (the sort of pale green one) needed a little more contrast on the left hand edge..found white fabric and cut a light reflection and placed it. Then a couple more…

IMG_1188 IMG_1189 IMG_1190

then I decided, no I wanted a bit more depth to the back ground piece, so that needed to be changed. Pull everything off!! start again. I decided to piece the background with the deeper blue arcing around as when I could faintly see when I pushed the contrast on the original photo.


And so it goes…only a thousand or so more steps to go!! Even though you have the main plan worked out ahead of time, and know all the values and temperatures, it can still take many trials and errors…

there will be another episode!!! so, if you have been, thanks for reading! And do feel free to make comments – I love them!!! Elizabeth


Jackie said...

Following Marianne's question--then how do you assemble? Do you cut the pieces large enough and press under a quarter inch? then you could piece or do any kind of assembly?

Elizabeth Barton said...

you can cut by eye, or make a large cartoon on freezer paper and cut out templates. Actually I do neither - I grid the sketch, work out the ratio i.e. 1" = 5" or whatever, then calculate the size, sometimes I'll use a protractor for the angles. other times a straight edge extending from the original. Then I'll draw the actual shape on the cloth and cut it out. if it's a rectangle or square, I add a seam allowance and press it under. If not I do a narrow satin stitch around the edge. I think you should use whatever techniques you're most comfortable with! I don't like glue so I don't!! (glue!)

Katherine in Australia said...

I'm really enjoying your blog, and learning so much about what we can glean from the art world and how to actually incorporate that into quilts. It is interesting to watch as you interpret things like cement works and the steps you took to get the right shades of blue. I enjoyed the link you had to Morgan Craig's paintings (I think it was 23 March) - the light in his works was so realistic. I look forward to watching this work grow. Is this one going to be "Plant Life"? Thought that was such a great name!

Nina Marie said...

My gosh! I thought I was doing good doing 3-5 different sketches for a new piece. Guess I can take more time in the design process. I also want to say that my background is really important to me too. If the background is right, the whole piece flows better.