Monday, August 9, 2010


I’m  “resting” between quilt series and reflecting on what I’ve been doing.   Like many folk I’m sure, I’ve been working hard to make something worthy of being entered into the major quilt shows.  Well, the pieces are done, the photographs taken – the sleeves need doing of course but who feels like doing sleeves after months of solid work??  I know I don’t!  I hope in the excitement of acceptance, making sleeves will suddenly seem entrancing! And, if not accepted, well…tant pis!


Discussing the “state of the art” yesterday with a good friend, we commented on the importance of intention in one’s work.
In “resting” mode, it’s good to reflect on the last few pieces and think about whether one achieved one’s basic intention.   I always want to have some meaning in my work (even though it might be rather obscure to others).  My Red Shift series about memory was very abstract but I knew what the colour RED meant to me – light travelling over time shifts toward the red end of the spectrum.  Memories travel over time and often get redder!

So, I’ve just made a short series of diptychs – I really love the format and of course making art in sections has a very long history.   My intention with these pieces was to show contrasts – particularly the contrast between a hard edged crisp business like approach to an industrial building and a softer, more “green” way of doing things.  While I’m not a rabid environmentalist, liking my air conditioning like anyone else -(though I do have it at 81 fahrenheit during the day, and 83 at night), I’m very concerned about the climate and the loss of trees and other natural environmental cleansing.  And, particularly, the short term thinking that puts short term personal profit above long term care of the environment and society. I think we could derive all the energy needed in ways that are less harmful to the environment and the folk living in it. (wheeze…).  We need to look at the contrast between the two approaches, and see what we really prefer.

I felt the diptych format was one where contrast could be shown.   I decided to make as many differences as I could between the two sides while keeping both form and content constant.   I used different cotton fabric in each side of the diptych.  A soft cotton sateen on the “natural” side, a hard high thread count mercerized cotton on the other.  Heavy machine stitching on the industry side, softer hand stitching on the contrast side.  I’ve kept the colour palette the same and the underlying structure.  But one  side is pieced, where the industrial side is machine appliqued – bolted down tightly and efficiently.  I did not, however, use glue!!  Even though that would have been very appropriate!

I also want the pieces to be beautiful – there really is enough ugliness out there!  And I think it is possible to convey a difficult, challenging content and still make the overall piece something one would like to look at and hang in one’s home.

I don’t have full pictures yet but here are a couple of details from the first pair of quilts which are about chimneys!  (well yes I’ve always loved chimneys and grew up surrounded by them: on the old Victorian houses, in the hospital grounds, and in the factories.  Strangely, my hometown had a lot of chocolate factories and psychiatric hospitals!  Don’t think there’s any connection though…hope not!

act react chimneys

act react chimneys2








Some of the pairs are stitched together, others hang side by side – I don’t know which is best, so I just wanted to play with that.

My intention was contrast..I hope I achieved it!  Let me know….and if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

These pieces work beautifully and are a nice surprise. I often think the idea of Intention scares people because it adds an additional element of responsibility. If you know where you want to go and don't get there.....but if you never make a decision then it might be easier to slid on down the road. Intention can be a driving force in one's work and a great way to measure for yourself how you're doing.

Ellen Lindner said...

Gee, Elizabeth, are you HAND stitching these?

Clare Wassermann said...

What an interesting post - I particularly enjoyed your Cornwall post. We go there every year and one day I shall live there I know it. I love the rainy St. Ives piece.

Nienke said...

It is much appreciated that you share your thoughts and progress with us. I really find it very special that you can make such beautifull impressions of industrial buildings. Through your eyes we learn to see, really see. Thank you, and again, very nice work.

Nina Marie said...

When I'm in resting or reflection mode, my traditional handwork comes out. I find it soothes my soul to feel fabric in a relaxed atmosphere and I love the rhythm of the needle going in and out.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thanks for posting everyone!
Terry's suggestion that people might deliberately not hold a specific intention for a piece - in case you didn't achieve it relates to the tendency of some folk to really undermine their own ideas and choices. You don't have to be a narcissistic bully to allow yourself to know your own mind! Instead of saying "I suck at colour" which leads you nowhere....instead say I don't achieve with colour what I would like..which leads you to the question of "well then what would you like?" "Well I don't know..." at that point looking toward your intention for the piece will help:
"what mood do you intend this piece to convey"....."Cheerfulness!" "which colour(s)best express cheerfulness for you?"...and so on - in this way you can find the answers to choosing the best colours (and everything else!) for your quilt. I hope!

Re Ellen's question: I'm hand stitching the Soft ones, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how the mood takes me!
yes, Nina-Marie, I so agree handstitching on a soft fabric is very soothing!

Re Clare:
Oh Clare I so wish I had visited Cornwall 40 years ago, I definitely would have found a way to end up there!

Heather Lair said...

If you love the Cornwall area, you should read the series of books by Winston Graham. The Poldark Series is about a family that lives in that area from 1783 to 1820. There are 12 books in the series, and they are riveting! I think I will read them again...

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Heather - the books were lovely and the tv series even better! We just rewatched it after - what - 30 years!!! it's out on dvd now.