Saturday, April 16, 2011

a butterfly flapping its wings

There is a scientific theory out there--almost a mathematical principle about complex systems. How do we analyze things that are so complex that we can't use a formula--or even a series of formulas. Things like the weather or the Internet. Air traffic control. And maybe quilts. In its essence the theory is that a butterfly flapping its wings in California can cause a hurricane in Florida--or is it a dust storm in the Sahara. I've heard it many different ways--indeed as I was writing this post NPR had another article on about it. Coincidence or meant to be. I don't know but I love thinking that somehow the butterfly disturbs just the right amount of air to create that disturbance that causes a larger disturbance that causes..... Well, you get the idea.

Isn't the same true for quilts?  Now I know that artists are supposed to be able to manipulate the fabric to create just what the envision. But what happens if you have different fabrics or different sizes. Don't you then get a different quilt. Is this the difference between artist and craftsperson?

Anyhow as you may know from my recent blog post, I have been making a quilt autumn dawn for a great customer. This is the quilt. Nice--huh!

When last I wrote about it, the quilt was just started--a couple of rows of fabric just sitting there so alone and uncertain--you can read about it here.  Now certainly quilts are a primary example of that proverb that the whole is more than the sum of its pieces. Over the last week I have let the quilt grow--slowly--one row at a time.

What color comes next? Is the yellow strong enough?

Amazing how the color seems to pop as I add more rows.

Yes, the lighting in the studio changes as the weather changes and the light changes. Perhaps a little less red or rust than the first quilt. Can I add more? I was worried that the yellow would not even show in the quilt when I started. It's there--is it strong enough.

And the final row. A little darker--is this because the size is larger. More room to have the colors progress? Or was it the yellow in the first row--that inevitable butterfly flapping? This quilt did not want to be warmer.

And how different will it look when it is sewn together.

What a slow process it is. How much faith is involved that the colors and fabrics will in the end work. And you--do you think of quilts as complex systems? Do you ever think of the butterfly flapping its wings? How do you make your decisions?


  1. I love this blog post Ann!
    Let's me right into your process.

    And yes, I do think about the complexities of a butterfly flapping its wings, the complexities of a quilt and the complex and amazing trust we need to have in the process of art making - in order to complete a quilt.

    Thank you,

  2. Thanks so much Cheryl for you kind words. I feel honored that you read it and liked it.

  3. I am so sorry your post disappeared. I would have loved to have read it.

  4. Isn't it true that some of the best things just can't be planned. And, those kind of surprises are what make art/quilting [and life] more enjoyable!

    Ann, I love the color blending in your quilts...
    joni beach

  5. Thanks so much Joni. Isn't color so wonderful!!