29 September 2008

Early Morning Club, Week Eleven

I started the Early Morning Club as a way to create lots of pieces and meet my crap quota. Each morning I get up and spend 30 minutes or less composing a 6" x 9" finished vertical piece. Here are the pieces from the past week.

Monday, September 22nd

Homespuns, plaids, and vintage fabrics. Improvisational piecing in strips and squares. I like the color scheme. Not much more to say than that. It doesn't excite me. But it does feel cozy.

Tuesday, September 23rd
This piece is cozy. I would love to wrap myself up in it. It reminds me of Saturday's piece from last week, which I also thought would make a great bed quilt. So this is a design that I really need to work with on a larger scale.

Wednesday, September 24thFor whatever reason, this piece reminds me of books in a library. I love the colors. They are from a new palette of solids that I selected. Piecing it was fun, but it feels a little spare, like it needs something more. Perhaps additional texture from quilting or embroidery would add interest.

Thursday, September 25th
Eh. This piece doesn't excite me. I love the teal and brown vintage print, but other than that, there just isn't much to say.

Friday, September 26th
I only started to like this piece after I added the embroidery. It took a while to realize that embroidery was what it needed--and I didn't get to it until Sunday morning when I sat on the couch watching football (soccer). Before then, it seemed lifeless. The large, empty patches of color felt devoid of energy and interest. But adding the embroidery gave it personality. It feels like a scrap from an older piece, worn and frayed with time.

Saturday, September 27th
Saturday was a fun (but long) day that capped the end of a fulfilling (but exhausting) week. As I crashed on the couch, watching the replay of Liverpool's victory over local rivals Everton, I debated whether I would actually get a piece done or not. But then I realized that every piece didn't need to be a great attempt at art, but that it only needed to be an attempt. So I hauled myself up off the couch and headed to my studio. There I decided that I would spend no more than 10 minutes designing a piece using only the scraps that littered my workspace.

This is the result. It reminds me of some of the pieces I created back in July and August, but seems more fluid. Each little unit has its own character and personality. They look like little artifacts, which they are, given that they were created from scraps.

Sunday, September 28th
I wanted a very warm and cozy palette of plaids and solids to surround me. I really enjoy making this improvisational pieced quilts because of the challenge of finding balance and helping the eye move around the composition. But this piece appeals to me on a simpler level: I want to wrap myself up in it and take a nap. (Many of the pieces I designed this week had that effect on me. Perhaps I need more sleep.)

General Thoughts

Whew! I thought last week was challenging, but this week proved to be even busier. So, I have to admit my motivation and enthusiasm was low and I relied on will power to get me going. But I created seven pieces and consider that a win.

The theme for this past week was utility. I wanted to explore utilitarian fabrics: humble homespun plaids, vintage fabric, and coordinating solids. It took me a few days to really begin to appreciate the design possibilities available with these humble fabrics. And even now, I think I see them as more suited to utilitarian quilts, rather than art quilts, but perhaps that is just due to my own lack of vision.

What do you think about utilitarian fabrics, such as these? Do you think they lend themselves to art or are better suited for cozy quilts?

(I think part of the reason this week was so challenging--other than being crazy busy--was that my chosen fabrics just didn't inspire me. After last week, I thought that having a theme to each week would provide more coherence, but I am rethinking that. If a theme presents itself and excites me, then I will go with it. But I won't just choose a random theme for the sake of it.)

A couple things I wanted to try this week didn't make it in. I had an idea for a piece using yo-yo's, but didn't have time to make it. I also wanted to use buttons as embellishment on a piece or two, but no piece ended up calling for them.

However, the idea of using homespuns and solids and making a large freeform-pieced quilt seems cozy to me. And as always, I am loving the personal quality that embroidery adds. As I mentioned, Friday's piece did not work for me until I added the embroidery. In fact, I would've like to have added embroidery to Saturday's piece as well, if I had the time.

And time is something I need to consider. I began this project in the lazy summertime, when work requires less and we try to take as much time off as we can. Now that fall has arrived, my schedule will be much busier until the spring. I need to accept that there will be days when I can only commit a few minutes to my piece, as I did Saturday. Every piece doesn't need to be great art; instead, each piece just needs to be.

28 September 2008

Slight Delay

Just wanted to let you know that I'll get my entry for last week's Early Morning Club up sometime tomorrow. The constant drizzle and rain today meant that I couldn't take the photographs outside in natural light. I tried to create a light source inside, but the quality of pictures was poor. With any luck tomorrow will bring sunshine and I will post the pictures then.


21 September 2008

Early Morning Club, Week Ten

I started the Early Morning Club as a way to create lots of pieces and meet my crap quota. Each morning I get up and spend 30 minutes or less composing a 6" x 9" finished vertical piece. Here are the pieces from the past week.

Monday, September 15th
A busy week ahead meant that Monday morning found me lounging in bed for a bit rather than getting up right away as I normally do. As I snuggled deeper under the covers I had a vision of random strips of the solid fabrics. So I got up and that's what I created. Random stripes are easy and fun to sew. I cut without a ruler and sew them together without trying to use an accurate quarter-inch seam. I really enjoy this palette of solid fabrics--they are bright, cheerful, and work together well.

Tuesday, September 16th
I wanted to play with interesting and high-contrast combinations in this piece. I chose yellow/teal and turquoise/red because they are not color combinations that I would normally use. I freehand cut ragged shapes of each and arranged them in an alternating pattern. Ragged running stitches hold the shapes in place. I like this piece a lot. I think it is bold and graphic, but still has a humble simplicity from its frayed, ragged edges and uneven hand stitching.

Wednesday, September 17th
When I was a child, I loved playing with colors and shapes. It was a love I had forgotten about until I discovered quilting in 2000. This piece reminds me of my childhood. I'd draw and color a shape and then draw and color another next to it, creating a mosaic. Here, I've free-cut squares and rectangles, arranged them on the raw muslin, and stitched them in place. I worked on balancing the color and shape distribution so that it looks random, but still helps the eye move around the piece.

Thursday, September 18th
I really love this piece. It's similar to the fragment pieces I've worked on. Unlike the fragments, where I used a restricted color palette, I've used ten different colors in this piece, which is both more enjoyable and more challenging. I work by intuition, trying different color combinations and color placements until something works. Looking at this piece, I can see that I tried to balance the distribution so that the eye moves around the piece and created pathways of color for a cohesive design. But that happened inutitively. As I'm working on a piece, I ask myself general questions like"Does this work?" and "How can I make it better?" rather than consciously asking myself technical questions about balance and composition.

Friday, September 19th
I selected the softer colors from my solid palette--the orange and turqouise, coral and yellow, orange and pink--for this playful piece. I freecut circles and squares of varying sizes and overlapped them. I spent a fair bit of time just playing. My initial designs were more regular--I repeated the same configurations of shapes--but the longer I played the more I broke away from that regular grid. And then I just had to add that large red circle as a zinger. I think this would make a sweet wallhanging for a nursery.

Saturday, September 20th
I really, really like this piece. It was very fun to make and I think that it matches my vision. Again, I worked with very high-contrast color combinations and made random striped columns. I think this would make a fantastic bed quilt.

Sunday, September 21st
Technical difficulties made this piece not match my vision. I had wanted to create a bullseye and embellish it with lots of running stitch embroidery. But the technical choices I made in creating the bullseye made it impossible to do. I cut and glued all the circles together and then went to embroider. Oops! There was no way I could get my needle through nine layers of fabric and glue. So I had to machine quilt. But because I glued, rather than fused, my edges frayed and the layers shifted as I was machine quilting, leading to puckers and more fraying than I envisioned. So I quilted as quickly as I could and called it finished. Regardless of the difficulties, I really like the idea and may play with it some more.

General Thoughts

This past week was the busiest one I have faced since beginning this project. Lots of work and family reponsibilities kept me hopping. I found myself sleeping in later than usual because I needed to rest, but still managed to find time to get all seven pieces done. Whew. But this week has forced me to reevaluate my priorities and decide which ones are truly important. Let's just say I decided that big laundry piles and unswept floors will be more common in the future.

This was also the first week in which I decided to stay with a certain theme--in this case, to use that palette of solid color fabrics--throughout the entire week. I liked that. Usually, I would let each day's whim take me where it would, but this week I decided to keep working in the same series. I found that to be challenging and enjoyable because it forced me to think about the same fabrics in different ways. And looking back over the week's pieces, I find I like seeing the cohesion that working in series offers.

14 September 2008

Early Morning Club, Week Nine

I started the Early Morning Club as a way to create lots of pieces and meet my crap quota. Each morning I get up and spend 30 minutes or less composing a 6" x 9" finished vertical piece. Here are the pieces from the past week.

Monday, September 8th

In this piece, I wanted to play with color fields as part of the background. The teal color reminded me of the ocean or a swimming pool. Those thoughts led to thoughts of lifeguard chairs and poolside ladders. And that led to this visual interpretation.

Tuesday, September 9th
I wanted to play with the idea of subway maps or circuit boards, basically the idea of interconnected nodes and pathways. Here, I have taken an extreme closeup of a map or board. I added the embroidered node at the bottom add visual interest and personal interest. I have come to really appreciate how embroidery enhances the idea of an artist's hand at work on the piece.

Wednesday, September 10th
My maternal family is of Finnish origin. As a symbol of ethnic pride, my family would buy textiles from the Marimekko design house. This piece reminds me of the Marimekko fabrics that covered our beds and hung from our walls. Clean design, reminiscent of woodcut prints. Again, I added embroidery for a personal touch.

Thursday, September 11th
I woke this morning with a keen awareness that it was the seventh anniversary of September 11th. For the first time since that day, I watched footage on television. I became highly emotional, reliving to a certain extent, the intense grief of that day and the following weeks. When I approached my piece, I wanted to work with intense and highly contrasting colors so I selected solid black, red, and yellow. This piece is an attempt to capture my emotional response to remembering that horrible day.

Friday, September 12th
After the intense emotions of Thursday, I wanted to create a piece to represent hope and growth. Forsythia, to me, are one of the most hopeful plants. Early each spring, riotous forsythia blooms promise an end to winter's chill. (I have to admit that Kevin disagrees entirely with this, given the absolute war he's waged on the overgrown forsythia patches in our yard.)

I have an idea for a larger quilt I want to make, using forsythia as a theme, so I'll play with interpretations of forsythia over time. I liked this one at first, but now I think that it is too spiky, smooth, and regular. It doesn't give that sense of riotous growth as we move from lifeless winter into spring.

Saturday, September 13th
Saturday was a rough day for me. I felt ill when I woke so I slept in. I went to work but left early. A late afternoon nap followed by a trip to the grocery store meant that it was 7:30 p.m. before I felt well enough to work on my piece. I headed into my studio with no idea what I wanted to create. I spread out a 6.5" x 9.5" background piece and began cutting and arranging squares and rectangles in greens and yellows and grays. But I felt uninspired--it reminded me of work I had done earlier in the summer.

So I returned to the black, yellow, and red palette from Thursday. I wanted to show myself that those colors can be fun and aren't necessarily linked to intense, negative emotions. Rather than use a rotary cutter to cut shapes with even edges, I used scissors to intentionally cut raw and ragged pieces. I arranged them in a slightly overlapping composition that reminds me of a very abstract bouquet. I glued the pieces down and then embroidered them in place using a very ragged running stitch. I actually really like this piece. The ragged edges and the running stitch make it feel very personal to me.

Sunday, September 14th

I wanted to play some more with forsythia and try to capture that riotous growth. Here, I cut ragged stems from a brown batik (Hoffman's 1895 Havana, which is one of my all-time favorite fabrics to work with) and cut little flower and leaf snips from gold and green batiks. I kept the blooms and growth sparse because I wanted to show the initial hints of spring.

General Thoughts
I am finding my work each day to be more and more fulfilling. When I began, back in July, I would approach the blank space each morning with a blank mind. I had no idea what I was going to make each day, my only intention was to make something. So I would cut pieces and arrange fabrics and wait for inspiration to strike and see where it leads me.

Now, as I begin my piece each morning, I am generally guided by a concept: pools and ladders, interconnected nodes, fabrics from my childhood, an emotion. This is exciting to me to see how I then interpret my idea visually. I feel like I am finding my voice and my personal style. Even though the pieces I created this week use different fabrics and techniques to express a variety of concepts, I still think there are enough similarities that they feel connected, as part of a cohesive body of work.

I don't know if I can express just how important embroidery has become. It's not something I have a lot of experience with. I think I embroidered a pillow in Girl Scouts and once made a redwork poinsettia. But, there is something intensely personal about it that really builds my connection with my work. Not every piece calls for it, but when they do, I intend to make time for it when possible.

07 September 2008

Early Morning Club, Week Eight

I started the Early Morning Club as a way to create lots of pieces and meet my crap quota. Each morning I get up and spend 30 minutes or less composing a 6" x 9" finished vertical piece. Here are the pieces from the past week.

Monday, September 1, 2008
This piece reminds me of ice crystals. I've been attracted to the icy blues, teals, and grays of winter. Strange that I have jumped past fall. I wanted to make fragments that looked like tree branches and utility poles. Each fragment was made separately and then I played with arranging them. I added additional strips and fragments as necessary to fill in the design. I gradated the values from light to dark.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008
The central motif is a discarded fragment that I thought looked like a rune. I decided to see what my rune series would look like if I made one that was pieced, rather than fused. I think I prefer a combination of piecing and fusing: the rune and accent squares fused on a pieced background.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Here, the central motif is a fragment from Monday's piece that got away from me. So I decided to make it even more out there by chopping it up and resewing it together while adding other bits. I really like the randomly pieced borders. For whatever reason, this piece reminds me of bamboo growing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008
Here, I wanted to experiment with randomly cut and sewn curves. I found them to be more difficult than I expected. I had had an image of moonlight filtering through a forest during winter's chill, but my technical challenges made it hard to create my vision. That's alright though. I remember reading a quote from a top quilter in which she said that it took her 10 years to gain the technical skills required to make a quilt she had designed. I'll play some more with these curves in the future.

A side note: After I finished my piece on Thursday, I decided to travel to the quilt show in Harrisburg. It was an absolutely phenomenal show that was inspirational beyond my expectations. Indeed, as you will see in the pieces for the rest of the week, it inspired a reboot of my work and movement in a new direction.

Friday, September 5, 2008
The pieces at Harrisburg that inspired me the most were often the simplest, using fewer colors and fabrics and including open space. Hand stitching and embroidery also spoke to me, allowing me to see the hand of the artist. So when I began working on Friday, I sketched a simple design and allowed that to serve as the basis for the design. I chose humble fabrics: a raw muslin and three solid cottons in teal, cheddar, and sable brown. I love this color scheme and I love the contrast between the solid, processed cottons and the raw, organic muslin.

I call this piece, The Chair You Cannot Sit. I shared the title with my husband who said, "You mean The Chair You Cannot Sit On." Nope. It's The Chair You Cannot Sit. Artist's prerogative.

Saturday, September 6, 2008
Here's another piece inspired by my trip to Harrisburg. Again, I started with a sketch, but I ended up deviating from it quite substantially. My sketch was an abstracted utility pole, but when I started constructing it out of fabric, I thought it looked more like a devil's fork. So my idea shifted. It is untitled, although it does remind me of music.

Sunday, September 7, 2008
This idea and title for this piece came to me Saturday night, as I was falling asleep. I got up and grabbed my journal/sketchbook and recorded it. I imagined birds on utility wire after utility wire disappearing in the distance. I enjoyed adding the hand embroidery to the bird. I want to begin using more embroidery in the future.

I call it Bird Wire. Again, I shared the title with Kevin and he said, "You mean Bird on a Wire." Nope. Bird Wire. He asked if I was creating an On-Less quilt series. He's a cheeky one, my hubby.

General Thoughts
I'm very inspired by the new direction of my work. There is a simplicity to them that requires total honesty. They are humble pieces using humble fabrics: raw muslin and solid cottons. All of the fabrics I am using in these pieces come from other people. Deb gave me the wonderfully raw and organic muslin that is my background. The sable brown is a remnant from a suitcase full of fabrics and quilt blocks given to me by my mother. She bought the suitcase at a yard sale from the family of a deceased quilter. And the teal and cheddar fabrics I bought at my quilt guild's sale in honor of a deceased member.

I use these humble fabrics--raw muslin and faded solid cottons--and can't help but feel a connection to the known and unknown women who have quilted and sewed before me.

On Once a Month
Four weeks ago, I wrote an entry about wanting to create a larger piece each month that was inspired by a piece. I chose a cityscape and wanted to complete it by today, September 7. I started working on my cityscape and my vision kept evolving. I've realized that the piece is very important to me and is one that I want to take my time with. So I've decided not to hold myself to that arbitrary deadline and to instead take the time to create the piece I envision.