Monday, May 10, 2010

desert hills--the story of a custom quilt

For me, there is nothing harder than making a custom order. After all if you think about it, a customer has actually trusted me to make a piece that not only fits into a specific site but also meets their vision.  Personally I think it is one of the most difficult things that I do. This is especially true when I am working on a custom order.

Let me explain by using a particular quilt "desert hills" as an example.

The original piece was part of a series of color studies I made where there was a wonderful sweep of color that convey different feelings of the landscape. In "desert hills" I was trying to capture the subtly of color and shape on the desert. 

As you can tell from this snapshot the colors here are dusty--similar to the colors of the desert. Golds and grays. Subdued shades. Just the hint of dusty green. Dry but not dead. The contradiction of the desert.

This piece however was too large-- 40x56 inches. The client needed a quilt 32x48 inches-- significantly smaller. There are two major challenges for this work. First, I need to figure out the fabrics that will work. Second I'll need to condense the quilt to fit the space. This means that I must use fewer fabrics and color ranges to convey the essence of the piece. Each fabric in fact will have to work harder at doing its job.

This was a quilt I had made a couple of years ago. Shortly after I took the order, the quilt got its own "happy home." I'm left to examine the snapshots I've of the piece and my memories of the feelings that this quilt evokes for me.

Obviously I no longer have many of the fabrics used in this quilt. Even if I did have them all, the quilt would still take on its own life. Each sliver of fabric predestines the next fabric. So my next step is to begin to assemble lots of the fabrics that could be used to create this piece.

I begin by playing with the fabrics that I have. 

Even the simple light colors have to be looked at carefully. Some have too much pink in them. Others have brilliant white. This one for instance is far too yellow.

Other fabrics are too bright or too intense. I need colors that are muted. Fabrics printed with lots of white in the design. Lots of calming influence in the color. Nothing pure here.  For instance consider these darker colors. They all look like there is almost a fog calming them down. Pure colors will not work for this quilt. For now I'll work on something easier as I wait for the colors to digest.

And you, how do you begin a piece? What process do you use to create the right colors?  Will this quilt end up working when I get it pieced together?

Luckily for me, there are some wonderful new muted fabrics out there. Complex colors in greys and browns with just a hint of pattern. I grab them all and gaze at them.

This process can actually take me a long time to get the colors right. When I think I have the color palette, then I cut small wedges in all the fabrics that I think I'll use. These I assemble on my sewing machine table. Ready to begin the process of sewing them. But that'll be for tomorrow.

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