I always used to wonder what it meant when the teacher said “your piece needs to be pulled together more” – I had images of running a thread around the outside edge and gathering it up!! So (wanting to be a pulled together person! I think….), I read a lot and looked a lot and I’ve come up with a list of things that help to pull the different elements (shape, line, valued color, texture, direction) into harmony with each other.
1. Interlocking: the different elements can be interwoven like jigsaw puzzles pieces. Don’t forget negative spaces when doing this! They are shapes too and also should be interesting and interlocked with the positive shapes. In Flora and Ferra (which is now, I’m happy to say, comfortably residing in a collection on the West Coast!), I interwove positive and negative shapes shifting constantly from one to the other:
In Midwinter, I interwove the lines of the land with the lines of the tree branches…
In Nantahala, I interwove the colours, as well as those complex arashi shibori shapes, across the piece:
2. Repetition of elements. If you look at Steelyard Frieze, you’ll see the same elements occur throughout the piece: especially the short verticals.
In What Pretty Smoke! I repeated the same colours (warm yellow, rust and purple) throughout the piece – nearly every shape has a little of at least 2 of the colours. And the smoke shape is echoed by the texture in the purple fabric and the distant chimney.
In Sliding Edge I tried to set up a rhythm in the black and white lines that also occurs in the coloured lines in a different “key”. the rhythms are fairly regular, but with a little syncopation! You can see this again in the detail from Remembered Lines , (as yet to be revealed according to quilt National rules!).
4. Omission - leave out the elements that don’t go with the others – remember those old intelligence questions? which of the following does not go with the others? Well leave it out, that will help the other shapes, colours etc to be more of a piece. I think this is especially true of colours.
5. The whole thing. Stand back from the design wall and try to consider the “thing” you are picturing as a whole? Is it all one thing? or are other “things” or bits of other things intruding? Is everything there? Everything you want to convey? Is it a whole piece? Like a piece of music – you need to have all the parts!
6. Connections. This is an interesting one – look for lines that you can carry through the piece..
In A New Day, I tried to get lines to connect to other lines so that your eye can flow through the piece. See if you can find them! In Back Street, I did the same thing – wherever I could, without being obsessive or boring about it (at least I hope not!) I lined elements up so there was some continuity across the piece.
7. Limit the number of main masses Don’t have too many warring shapes! I must admit I’m often guilty of this, but if you can clump some elements together than will help, separating out your shapes will lead to a loss of harmony.
In the piece above, a Very Early Piece – probably around 1970 – you can see I’ve got scattered elements, if I’d clumped these together it would have been a much stronger piece.
I’m sure there are many other ways to “pull it together”, I’d be happy to hear from you! Bigger pictures and more quilts can be found on my web page….and, if you have been, thanks for reading!! Elizabeth
Thanks Elizabeth for the tip about not forgetting the negative spaces. It was years before I even understood why people bothered talking about negative space; I didn't think it counted for anything. I really love your Flora and Ferra quilt. Again, your examples really demonstrate the message in your blog so well. Best wishes for a happy Easter,
Thanks you so much sharing some of your earliest work. It a comfort to know that you didn't just wake up one day to make amazing art quilts - that its taken years of practice. Its an inspiration and a reminder that nothing worth having comes easy!
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