Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book Sale, the importance of road signs and 5 reasons for not finishing everything.

If you ever thought of buying either of my books....they are for sale - one day only I'm afraid! - on the C&T website.

If I didn't already have a copy of each one, I'd be buying them - they've got them reduced so much.

update: alas...the sale is over now....but you can always go elsewhere!!  

  Both are distillations (plus lots of pictures) of my real and virtual workshops!

And if you run into me having a nice cup of tea anywhere, I'll be happy to sign them for you!

 So, what have I been up to? 
I went up South Carolina, a very pretty drive from here through early spring countryside...getting lost several times (no GPS and definitely no smart phone - I like being untraceable!) since Georgia prides itself on saving money on road signs: "if we just put one at every other crossroads then we'll save half the cost"!!!  An evening lecture and a short workshop for a very nice quilt guild.

Now, back home,  I'm working on some new abstract pieces.  I think it's important to work in series because, really, that's the only way you get better at something - keep on doing it over and over. Yes it can get tedious at times, but if you keep your first attempts and then compare them to those 20 or 30 or even 50 quilts later, you will see significant improvement.  But if you make 50 different types of quilts, one for each technique you try out, or each possible subject then, while your technical skills are probably better, your ability to be creative in a fresh and inspiring way is not likely to have developed much.  Also your sense of really knowing the subject and being able to communicate something different, as the result of long study, to the viewer won't be any stronger.

You do need to dig in deep!

A practical reason for working in series is that you don't have to keep on reinventing things.  If your series requires you, for example, to make lots of arashi shibori - like Jan Myers-Newbury, then you'll get better and better and eventually amazing (as she is) with it.

I started out making abstract quilts then deviated into the cityscapes - they were so much fun and I had so many images and memories of the "old home town" (2,000 years in my case, so really old).  But now I want to see if I can be fresh and creative (well, creative at least!)  with abstract design.

I've given myself a few parameters within which to work: size, shape, type of image, kinds of fabrics, and I do at least 3 value studies per sketch before I begin.  I like a few road signs to know where I'm going (as mentioned before!).  I plan on making 6 tops and putting them away to "mature" as I go.  Several reasons for this:

1. When I take them out of storage, I will be able to look at them and critique them with "fresh eyes"

2. If I have several I won't feel inclined to have to finish ALL of them

3.  Stopping to baste, quilt and finish does slow down the creativity - the energy of "but what if I try this (or that) variation

4. It actually cuts down on some of the agony over getting it just right, feeling that there is something slightly wrong but you don't know what. And I'm all for cutting down on agony!

5.  There's a great satisfaction in seeing the treasures pile up in the closet!!

6.  When I have 6 to choose from - which to finish? - it's easier to discard the one, two or even three that simply are very humdrum.

How about you?  Anyone else work like this??

And now, time for that cuppa...if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Melanie McNeil said...

Great books -- I hope lots of people take advantage of the sale!

Yes, I work in series. I've been making primarily medallion quilts for about 3 years. Dozens of medallion quilts, in styles and colors ranging from fussy-old-aunt to ethnic improv. I keep making them because I keep learning new things and being delighted by how changing various aspects makes a whole new quilt, not like I've made before. I try new things like varying proportion of the center block -- how large can I make the center and not mess up proportions of the borders, for example. I try varying value placement, shapes, color combinations, symmetry. I try new techniques to me for both center blocks and borders. I make heavily pieced and barely pieced quilts. As far as I can tell, I'm the leading expert on medallions. No one else seems to specialize in them or understand them as I do. (Does not sound humble but it appears to be the truth.)

And yes, there is value in starting multiples at a time. In particular it is fun to constrain my sizes, making multiple quilts with the same sizes of center and borders. Within that, then I can vary EVERYTHING else, so no two quilts look at all alike.

Right now I'm working on one centered by a beautiful piece of African fabric. Unlike for most of my quilts, I'm not measuring a thing here, just making stuff fit. I don't know how big it will be when I'm done. So far, so good...

Sew Jacky O said...

I have both your books and found them so helpful in my quilting journey. After 3 years of making traditional blocks and quilts I am now exploring my creative side and have started making art quilts. That's a slight stretch of the truth, but I have dispatched using patterns and I am exploring themes and techniques that inspire me. I have found in my limited experience, that sticking to a theme has certainly helped me develop my ideas and recognise what seems to work or not as the case may be!! Despite the frustrations it's great when I "get there" with some pieces, and for the moment I'm simply loving moving forward with the learning process. Love reading your blog Elizabeth .

Margaret said...

Thought I might get your book on working in a series -- and the price was right, even in CAD...but the postage was over $18 USD, or about $24 CAD (and that was 'regular' mail, not express) don't think so!

KrisR said...

I have both your books also - perhaps it's time to pull them off the shelf and re-read them. I also was a failed student of your online class. :)

I struggle to work in a series. I like the concept of a series - but I have yet to find a style/technique that holds my interest long term. I tend to jump around - between traditional and non-traditional. Simple nine-patches and wild-ass Improv. Right now I'm working my way through Sherri Lynn Wood's book of scores.

I also get weighed down by things that aren't finished so I'm on a kick to finish my WIPs and THEN start new things. This doesn't work with my need to be creative though as some of my WIP are long term hand projects.

I might take a page from your book....set some parameters (I like the idea of 6 quilts of smaller sizes), select a technique/stye, and see where it takes me. It's only 6 quilts after all (at least to start!).

And note to Melanie....'humble' is over-rated. Sing your own praises - there is no shame in that!

Priscilla said...

I love both your books and at those prices was going to buy them for a friend - but $31.99 shipping to Australia (even for just one book) makes it prohibitive... guess I will just lend her mine :-)
Regarding the online Inspired to Design Course, I would in hindsight have just got the book as all the material is in it, in a more convenient format. I have struggled with the class interface and there hasn't been as much student interaction as I hoped. I guess I had better get my butt back into gear and post some designs myself before the class closes in 2 weeks

Jo Vandermey said...

I am so glad to have both your books. Our small group the Fabrigos constantly talk about your blog and or books when we meet. We find the critique questions especially helpful. Often asking the questions help clarify what we are intuitively feeling is just not right about the piece.
If I am to dig a book out yours are often my go to re read. I hope to take a class from you soon. I feel I need time to truly commit to it to get the benefit. So I keep looking to see what dates come up so I can do so.


Elizabeth Barton said...

Ye gods - those postage prices are unbelievable - enormous! except that I did have some requests overseas when I wrote the books and discovered that even to Canada the postage was prohibitive - I did send one up there when I friend was going!
Thank you all who have been able to buy them for a reasonable price - and enjoyed them. And i'm so sorry that the online course Inspired to DEsign this time around wasn't more active - they do vary quite a bit...the more that sign up, the more active it is, and if just a couple of people post work and start conversations and comment on each other's work it will set everyone going..I tried to ask what people were doing...but didn't get much response. The big thing that the class has is that I can critique your designs, or help you specifically with them - so if you have a chance do post them Priscilla.
and yes! those medallions are amazing!! There are real benefits to working in a series - or even two series. You could have a series for the winter and one for the summer - it would be fun to switch as the seasons change!
But don't let unfinished pieces drag you down, maybe they're unfinished for a very good reason - they shouldn't be finished!! or at least not by you!
If they've remained unfinished for a year then let them go - it's like clothes, if you're not worn them for a year, you're probably not going to!

Kathleen said...

A surprise overtook me as I prepared to work in my first series. I loved following all the steps in your book. I am your fan! But as I developed my ideas I was shocked to realize I love paintings better than almost any quilt. And I love to paint -- with my fingers mostly! better than I like to quilt. It was like falling in love the second time around, unexpectedly. For awhile I just let myself indulge in painting (and did I mention drawing?) Now I'm trying to make it work with both my loves. My series parameters have changed drastically and so have my expectations. I'm not such a good painter; I'm a beginner, after all. But it draws me in. So I'm beginning again on a series: paint, then "copy" the painting by drawing with stitch and then I'll paint that. Call it a quilt. My theme is Florida nature, South Florida mostly because of its ferocity and bright palette. My model is the Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes.
You are inspiring!

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Kathleen, and yes Milhazes' work is amazing and it's all variations on a fete theme - with bright colors and whirling circles...I'm surprised they've not brought out one of those coloring books so popular now amongst grown ups (strange!!) of her work.
And yes I love painting too...just watching the colors flow across the page is magic!
But the knowledge gained from one medium does transfer to the all is good..enjoy whatever you do.

Kathleen said...

Yes, it's all an adventure. Thank you for the comment. Looking forward to your workshop at New Smyrna Beach!

SCR said...

I also have many tops put away to quilt "later." My problem seems to come in not being satisfied with my quilting skills. This causes me to quilt the oldest or least favorite pieces instead because I don't want to "mess up" the good ones!