Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Translation across the senses.....

Boring!  Don't worry I gave it to Goodwill for somebody's cat!

I'm sure you've all heard about synaesthesia - those people who feel/taste or hear in color...
apparently this phenomenon is probably the result of a little wiring glitch so that there is spillover from one sense to another.
But cogitating upon synaesthesia set me thinking that cross over from one medium or sense to another is very helpful in design and especially helpful in solving design problems.

One of the biggest problems with many quilts (and paintings too for that matter) is that they are just plain boring - maybe I'm jaded of course having seen mediocre work! Something not being interesting enough is quite an issue.  The remark: "Okay, but doesn't grab me" made by the viewer.

  The Big Name was always talking about wanting to have her socks knocked off...don't know why it was socks in particular, don't recall that I ever even saw her in socks (maybe they had been knocked off!)...but clearly what she sought and valued was a quilt that was exciting, fascinating, compelling.
Compare this to a piece of music, that just drones on and on, never really seems to get anywhere, no high points no low points, no changes in volume, rhythm or speed.   Or think about a meal that is mashed potato (without stuff added!), boiled cod and overcooked may laugh but I'm sure we had this at least once a week when I was at school.      Or, what about that stuffy stale air  cleaner (so-called) smell you get in motel rooms?  It suffuses everywhere, it's bland and choking.
Or the living room all in beige.....or the overly matched outfit?  It surprises me how many people I see dressed in dreary droopy greyed clothing.....even in the mirror some days!!!

So we have an idea how we could fix the music, the meal, the smell and the outfit, right?   So, if you feel the same way about the piece you're working on pinned onto the design wall....then consider a similar solution?  Add some changes to the rhythms, throw in some spice, throw open the windows and peel and orange, take a bright scarf and a pot of rouge!

Color, variety in value, different shapes, movement and rhythm!
Do your quilts need a little spice?  A little syncopation?  A dab of rouge here and there?
Take a look......tell me some stories......!  the Comments box is open........

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Memoirs of a Serial Quilter

Somebody told me that there was a discussion somewhere about working in series and about how some people were doubting that it was possible to make a  series of representational quilts.

 Since I have always been a serial quilter,  (and have actually written a book about all the series I've work in) (and put together an interminable Power Point lecture which I would happily show you for a generous donation!)..I would certainly feel that it was entirely possible to make a series of quilts about anything at all, in any style, whatsover.    The most determining thing about doing so is that you are sufficiently interested in the topic to WANT to do it...something that drives you forward to explore the idea, and make another, and another and another!!

My very first series was all about Windows...I come from's often grey, the winters are long and the days are short, and we needed all the light we could were really important.  My current house now has twice as many windows as it did when I moved in!  74 to be exact - I'm not kidding!  so you can tell I'm a little nutty about windows.

Here are some of those first quilts:

I also did a series I called Idea of a City...there were about ten pieces, each 60" x 60", here are a couple to give you an idea:

And then there was my industrial series: I  must have made 8 or 9 about this steel mill in Hamilton, Ontario....

I also did a series about the old streets of York, and a more abstract one about memory called Red Shift,  and one about rooftops and chimneys, and one about landscapes I love, and one about my current town...and...and...and....
It's really great to work in a series, there are so many each one moves you forward to the next...
And, of course, it just so happens that I have a new class starting with
next week entitled Working In Series!!  The series can be abstract, or representational, or somewhere halfway in between....serial work is NOT limited by the type or content of the work. And, it's a really deeply satisfying way to work.
If you have been, thanks for reading!  And do write and comment about your own experiences as a serial quilter.....                    Elizabeth

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A teacher in the closet....

Emerald City

For the first time in my life I'm having lessons  in a one on one situation. While they're not art lessons, I think the experience of learning in a situation like this definitely translates to other activities.

 I'm the only student..and after about a dozen lessons,  I have realised just how wonderful it is to be the only student.  Would that I had had a personal tutor all along!  It's just amazing the progress you can make when the teacher is totally focused on your performance and no one else's.  Although, of course, a little intimidating at first being the sole focus of another's attention - or at least it looks like that!  The teacher could be mentally compiling a grocery list!

All At Sea

It's very hard and very slow,  learning in many group situations - I remember being largely bored in school as a child, reading a book hidden on my lap under the desk!  I did get very good at hiding books and reading!!  Even got away with it later on when, as a potential juror in a large court room, we were absolutely forbidden to read anything - as they interminably asked 100 people the same four boring questions!! it was a choice between going bonkers and reading illicitly!

Pond in Winter, looking East

I've often thought that I could make art so much better if I had a really great teacher constantly available...Nancy Crow in the closet, or Emily Richardson at the next table...maybe Cezanne offering suggestions from an armchair, or Hans Hoffman coming by every few minutes.  Do we learn from making mistakes? yes definitely...but not if we keep making the same mistakes over and over - then all we're learning is how to make mistakes.   And I have learned a LOT of them.

On the Latch

I don't know how one could get the same effect as that "teacher in the closet" if you were totally on your own...perhaps having frequent review sessions with oneself?  I know it's hard to stop and really look at what you're doing when you're in  a sewing frenzy and hoping to get the piece done by some deadline...but we  probably need to stop and look - and change horses in midstream (love mixed metaphors) more often? 

Anybody got any other ideas?  anybody willing to come and reside in the alcove of my sewing room?
I could make it quite cozy AND bring you nice cups of tea.....

If you have been, thanks for reading!  and do write and comment...I love hearing from you....

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It's a matter of size....

Does size matter when it comes to quilts?

Generally speaking large has a lot more impact than small.  There's something so monumental about a simple design write large - look at Motherwell's paintings or Frank Stella:

As an aside, I so wish we could use actual images from the 'net of other people's art work in a blog without Getty or someone descending on us like a ton of bricks!  And, yes, one could write for permission, which may or not be granted, which may or may not take several days, and the muse has long gone! Fortunately, I took the above photo myself!

Look at the scale of it....if that were a little quilted piece about 18" wide and 5" high, would anyone look at it twice?

Many of our most well known art quilters have focused on large work made from  large shapes and lines very often in high contrast colors (as in the Stella above) and they do look good in a gallery.  The quilts, that is, not the quilters!!!  Though I'm sure they don't look bad!!

 Once I offered to help to hang an art show - all media - it had been judged by a professional from out of state who hadn't the time to say where the work should go.  At the last minute, the expert I was supposed to be helping also disappeared!  I was left with all these packages and crates and a couple of guys with ladders, hammer and nails!!  I had no idea where to begin, hadn't even seen most of the work.  A pro came by and I grabbed him "what do I do???" - he said "find one big piece to be the important piece, the focal point of each long the others in around it."
I did that...and it worked...but those Big Pieces literally did become the focal points, the meaning of that particular wall, the lead singer, everything else subservient.

And of course in our cities, we look upto the biggest building, or, at least, the there's a lot to be said for Going Large......

So, should  art quilts be large?  Should we all be Thinking Big?   When I suggested that this was "almost always" the case in one of my online classes, I immediately got several folk weighing in with Big support for Little quilts - quilts less than 12" on any dimension....apparently in both Europe and North America these miniatures are a real hit, often getting Big Prizes...but, I wonder, is this just because of the sheer incredible difficulty of making very complex designs exactly and obsessionally perfectly out of tiny little pieces.  Are these little quilts the bird's nest soup of the quilt world?  Precious because  of the difficulty with which they are created?   Well, what d'you think??   Comments, please!!

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