Friday, December 27, 2019

What can we learn from the Gees Bend quilts?

Our local art museum (GMOA) recently had a great quilt show...the quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph (1935-)
Mary Bendolph is one of the original Gee's Bend quilters, an example of the African American movement in quilting that began in isolated small communities where there was a supply of fabric (usually offcuts from a factory) and not much other industry.  (Oakland in CA was another area where this kind of quilting spontaneously appeared).
The ladies of Gee's Bend - a small town in a bend of the Alabama river between Alabama and Georgia - began a Freedom Quilting Bee, a craft co-operative,  during the 1960s.

Quilt making took place between planting and harvesting periods during the year when there was not so much field work and the ladies got together to sew and chat and sing and support one another.

Mary Bendolph learned more traditional patterns the Log Cabin variation above (usually known as Courthouse Steps)...but gradually began to develop her own style.  This was much more dynamic and experimental.  Experimentation was the key - don't just copy a traditional pattern, play with it!

Cut it up and rearrange it, try a different orientation, add on another strip!
don't be afraid to be bold and strong.  sometimes that is just what is necessary to make a statement.
And the pieces became more and more individual:

How inviting and encouraging this looks - commanding a whole wall of the gallery! Obviously nothing else could hold up next to its vigor.  So don't be afraid...don't be timid...let the colors and the shapes sing.
Work large and confidently.

Begin with one idea, then enlarge it as you go around...and around...note how the sky and the sunshine blazed their way into this quilt!

More sky...but overall a cooler palette and a more controlled outcome...d'you prefer that? or not?

well actually it was a rather cool rainy day outside, but very pleasant...I love the winter colors here in the south-east:  here are a few more picture of the area around the museum - VERy different from these vibrant quilts:

so - tell me - what do you learn from the Gees Bend quilts?  There are many many more examples on line of course...and a beautiful giant catalogue from the first show that travelled around the country - I saw it in New York several years ago...great to have this one right on my doorstep!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!!
Love to have your comments.....

Monday, December 16, 2019

from Photo to artwork

so Ellen asked me if I copied the photo literally when making a quilt or a painting....

I never did copy anything literally.

With a quilt I would take the photo, and make a sketch of it..a simple sketch, no fancy drawing!
the sketch I always found was sufficient for me to follow in cutting out the shapes and sewing them together.

This quilt is actually black and white!  it's about 16 x 24...I monoprinted the fabric with leaves from the's appliqued.

For painting - here's a recent example:

Here's the photo....
what attracted me is that beautiful limning with light.......

I did 4 little value studies...
to determine the placement of the biggest shapes...

and then painted the back ground

Next some of the big shapes.....

I actually rather liked it at this stage....very simple very loose!!!  but felt compelled to "finish":

In my online class Inspired to Design with
and in my book of the same name...I go through the steps of sketching and making a quilt based on a photo.  The class is available "on demand" i.e. whenever you want it!  and the book is available as an "e-version"   - does sound a bit medically unhealthy!!! - but the publisher sent me a copy and actually it's not bad at all!!

so now you know!!!
Do let me know if you have any questions, or comments...always happy to answer them...
and, if you have been, thanks for reading!!


PS don't forget to celebrate the Winter Solstice by buying yourself something nice!!! I'm kinda hankering after a red cashmere sweater!!!!