Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Quilts from the QBL workshop: working in a series

I just got back from teaching at Quilting by the Lake in Syracuse, NY.   QBL has moved its annual seminar to a really great new facility – a college on a hill overlooking Syracuse and a lake! (Onandonga).   The college has excellent audio visual capabilities, nice new dorms, beautiful auditorium, library, perimeter walking trail – and oh yes! good choices of food! Loads of parking and just a short ride from the airport if you fly. So I’d definitely recommend it if you’re thinking of going to next year’s QBL.  

My workshop was on working in a series , so often recommended because it can lead to a significant improvement in your work:

by getting better at an idea or technique through practice
by being more focused, thinking things through
by exploring an idea in depth
by not putting too many ideas into one piece
by making starting a piece easier by setting a few parameters
by developing a consistent body of work
by trying new things – but with a constant theme – making changes and improvements gradually
    (this is a great way to learn – practice + critique: in the next piece deliberately trying to improve the areas you consider weak in the current work.  This works for everything of course from art quilts, to golf to gardening even cleaning toilets!).

The ladies in my QBL class all developed a theme that they wished to explore in depth, then they drew a number of possible sketches for the first few pieces. The themes were not just general vague ideas e.g.  “landscapes” but – a particular area or place with specific feelings, thoughts, ideas related to that: a full paragraph of information!  A little preparatory work like this can help set parameters and makes decisions so much clearer.    The students also made a commitment to continue with several quilts within their chosen theme.  Everyone began one quilt, several were close to completion by the end of the class, and some people began a second.  A great variety of wonderful unique individual and expressive work was developed – here are some pictures:

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Nina-Marie’s theme was arches – she had collected many images in her Inspiration Notebook (so useful to keep notebooks like this)…from which to sketch and manipulate idea possibilities.  She has captured a wonderful  airiness and sense of space in her first piece.


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                                                                                                                                                                                 Terry’s theme was not just wild flowers but the elegance and grace of woodland flowers…it really helps to focus in on what it is about your theme that just fascinates you.  Her composition has great movement which shows of the ballerina elegance of the flower.

jul aug 09 qbl canada 023 jul aug 09 qbl canada 024Stephanie was excellent at seeing the abstract possibilities in her first sketches of Venice, from which she developed a super little block .  She made about 40 of them… enough to play with.  Her signature block!  Every orientation had a different quality of meaning about it…but she finally settled for the one  jul aug 09 qbl canada 026 that looked like gondolas on the water.  However many of the other possibilities were so strong that I think the series is well on its way!

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Laura wanted to remember a visit to Viscaya, a mansion in Florida full of fascinating little architectural details…as well as urns of flowers and palm trees and colonnades – this could be a long series!

She brings to our attention with great  sensitivity the little things that might otherwise be missed…also a beautiful sense of the edges of things…look at the  contrast between the shadowed edges of the stone work, and the soft edges of the feathers!

Mary wanted to express the connection between trees and people in a number of different ways…thinking about the spirit of trees, people who might live or appear in trees, and the ways that trees sometimes take on anthropomorphological shapes….In her first piece she has used an interesting device: the whole tree is within a circle superimposed upon a larger detail…..the paper drawn tree people will be finely machine stitch drawn in the finished piece…Mary started her second quilt by making small adjustments to colour, value, shape and line…..    it’s exciting to see the second piece begin to evolve and Mary’s lines are quite beautiful.

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Jeanne planned a series of nine quilts called the Nine Blocks of Lancaster…a great play on the old (but good!) Nine Patch.  she made several sketches, determined values and light sources etc.  She conceived of several ways of making a window but wasn’t sure which would work the best. Following the rule of Make Visual Decisions Visually she made several little windows using different construction methods so she could choose the right one.  Not only is this the best way to decide, but also her little windows will be a great piece by themselves!  Jeanne’s balance of bold shapes will make for a great series!

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Mary S loves leaves!  She made several beautiful leaf drawings and then decided to superimpose them upon pieced backgrounds to reference traditional quilts…this is the beginning of the willow leaf piece….Mary also was experimenting with value studies….having the values run one way in the background, and the opposite way in the foreground – a great reference to the way that trees look as we explore their shape with the ground behind the lower trunk, and the sky behind the branches.

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Priscilla is a garment maker and a mola lover….she took some of the design elements out of the mola and scattered these perky seeds across the background in a joyful dance.   While it was by chance that she placed them on two separate pieces  we all liked the effect so much and the movement it created that we could see this as a garment back with the right sleeve…

Creating movement in a piece is vital to getting and sustaining the viewer’s interest, and Priscilla has achieved this with style!

This was such a fun class to teach – and I had great students!  I look forward to seeing photos of  all the quilts in their series!

I had such an amazing response to my last blog  (August 10th) that I’m definitely going to write a follow up !  Thank you all for writing in, it’s great to stimulate a discussion and I’m energetically cogitating away on the points you all made!

so, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Anonymous said...

Elizabeth.. WOW.... Great little right up.. would love to hear more about the topic.... I'm following your blog from now on :)


Unknown said...

I have long been convinced of working in a series for all the reasons you list but I remain unable to pick and stick to one theme! Any tips how to choose?

Vivian Helena said...

love looking at your work, thank you for sharing. vivianhelena