Monday, March 8, 2010

prairie sky--the story of a custom quilt

OK--this is the quilt--"prairie sky" and yes, it was a custom order. Now I know "artists" these days aren't supposed to like doing custom work. Think of that Woody Allen movie--was it Manhattan?--and the artist who got outraged that the buyer wanted to match the yellow sofa. Imagine that!!!

Not me--I actually like custom orders. Sure I feel a huge responsibility since not only am I working for myself but I'm also trying to fulfill the dreams of a particular customer.  But I learn so much by adding their ideas and meeting their needs. Whether it is just changing the size--which of course can change the entire design--or maybe the color needs to be tweaked--how does a particular piece look in that shade of red?  Even if I am just making the same piece again, to paraphrase  Garrison Keillor  "A quilt never bounces the same way twice." (He was talking about jokes not quilts--but still it's true--if I change one fabric and of course I do--then all my other fabric selections also have to be rethought.)

Enough about theory though. This is about one particular quilt designed for one lovely couple. They loved "prairie dawn"--but weren't sure about the red center. They also thought the sky was too light near the horizon for them.  But they wanted to keep the stars in the night sky.

They also liked "first light"--you can see the colors they had in mind--but not the yellow line of the sun.

In addition they wanted the quilt large enough that it would fill a particular place in their home. But if they moved, they wanted the option of using it as a cover for their king size bed. (As I told you, this was a great couple who thinks far ahead.)

So after some thought and playing around we came up with the idea that the quilt should be slightly darker at the horizon and the sky should have the glow of just before dawn.

Piecing was a challenge because the quilt was so big I had to remember what I had previously done and use my experience to make sure it worked. And of course I had to use different fabrics. It wasn't until I took it to my wonderful photographer John Polak that I got to finally see the quilt as it was meant to be seen. I was so thrilled that I just kept staring at it. It really did glow and the images of Saturn and Jupiter provided just the right sparkle to the night sky.

But would it work for both a bed and the wall?  What do you think?



  1. Great story, Ann. I don't like it on the bed, though! When it is draped it seems to have less weight, and really needs to be seen as a whole to appreciate the artistry and workmanship. That is sometimes the problem with "quilts" and the dual purpose that "art quilts" can have - both functional as coverlets yet meant to function as art. Your work is almost too beautiful for a bed covering, and should be appreciated as a piece of art. Beautiful design- looks wonderful in the final form.

  2. It's awesome. Yes, it works although it would be a shame to see it on a bed.

  3. Hi Ann,

    I found you on Linkedin and thought I would come here to see what you are about. I am a painter and I sew (I sew well as in my own wedding gown), but I DO NOT quilt. I have the greatest respect for this art, but I don't have the linear brain it requires. :-) At any rate, this piece is truly stunning. I admire you for taking on commissions (I fall into the snippy artist category - again, the lack of that linear quality).

    It seems to me if you take on a commission, at the point of sale, you don't get to say where this piece is shown. As with all art, any time you change the position it takes on another quality which may not be present when it is shown in a different way. The same is true for painting. When I paint, I sign my work on the edge of the canvas so the work then becomes interactive. The person who purchases it may very well enjoy it hanging another way from the way I painted it...that is their right and I think it is another level for pulling people into the enjoyment of art. When they can participate on any or many levels they have a greater respect for the work overall.

    In my mind, staying open to the presentation is very positive. I have heard artists say work should only be presented against a white wall to get the greatest effect, however I have seen stunning results when art is presented against deeply hued walls or even the lovely texture of brick or stone walls. The other thing to consider is in the photographs, the quilt may appear different on the bed than it really is when you see it in person.

    These are just my opinions, however I think you have a good discussion going on here. How is the best way to present art work and should you guide your clients in one direction or another?

  4. Beautiful quilts, certainly stunning works of art.

  5. Good post about commission work, staying true to your own vision, and working to understand the vision of your client. I think the quilt looks stunning on the wall. Love the way the sun is reflecting off the clouds in "First Light".
    Your booth looks terrific. You must get lots of positive feedback, and I hope, sales.

  6. I hope you all get the opportunity to come to Shelburne Falls and see Ann's gorgeous work in person.

  7. OK--lots of great comments. I do have mixed feelings about whether or not a quilt can be used as a bed quilt. On the one hand, I slept under a quilt that my grandmother made for me for years--she put a lot of care and thought into it and I always found something new in the piece. I am trying to do the same in my work.
    On the other hand, of course I want the piece to be observed as a wall hanging. I sometimes feel as protective of my work as a mother hen.

    I think I will do another post about this in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile--comment away. I am listening.

  8. You don't have to come to Shelburne Falls to see my work--although if you do, there is the Bridge of Flowers, the Glacial Potholes and right next to my studio Martin Yaffee has a very nice Little Cooking School. Yummy!!!

    I will also be showing at the Smithsonian Craft Show at the end of April and having a two woman show at the Blue Stone Gallery in Milford, PA in May. Sign up to follow this blog to get notification--or check out my website

  9. gorgeous. Lucky lucky wise customers who ordered.

    I love your work. Thank you for sharing the evolution of this piece.

  10. Thanks Linda--these customers were the best!!!