Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Getting into the zone--being creative

How does one design new quilts? What is the inspiration? I think of the theories of evolution--Stephen Jay Gould claimed that life evolves in small steps and large leaps. Is it the same for art? Certainly one of the secrets is to work at your art regularly--you know that old saying--how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Certainly I know that works for me.

Beyond that--it is a bit of a mystery to--and I think I like it that way. Such a fragile time when one is inspired. I don't want to over-analyze. Jinx it. Anyhow--yesterday I had the new quilt--cold ocean --pinned up on the design board. Looks good doesn't it?

Sure I need to change the red. A bit more orange if you know what I mean. I think that will make it pop. Tomorrow I will play with it--see what happens.

Meanwhile I have a potential order for a large quilt for a Miami home. A great customer. Only she wants the quilt to be lighter in weight than I normally make. OK--I have an idea. Not sure if I can piece without doing the quilt as you go. After all, the customer likes my work--so I want the quilt to look like I made it.

Now yesterday was a grey day. Cold. Rain. Freezing rain. Even frizzle--yes, there is such a word. I had a couple more hours left in the studio. My pile of pieces that I had cut for other projects and not used was getting out of hand. The new studio is much smaller than Conway Street and I am trying to be neater--can an artist really be neat?

And in the back of my mind was a great web site that my friend Kari Lonning had just sent me--the textiles of Gunta Stolzl--have you seen it? So many designs condensed into a few images. Worth studying if you haven't seen it. http://design-milk.com/fabric-designs-by-gunta-stolzl/.

In any case I had an idea. A question. I needed to see if I could really piece blocks without doing the quilt as you go that I am known for. Worth a shot. I wasn't sure it was possible but at least I would be cleaning the studio a bit in the process.

Hmm--not bad. Not sure about the colors but what happens if I continue.

Okay--I play with the ideas. Get into the colors. Add some life and something unexpected to the quilt. Not bad is it? Enough for now.

There is a there there--isn't there--to paraphrase Gertrude Stein.  Of course now I have to figure out how to finish this quilt. After all I am not known for my quilting. Indeed one of the reasons I love the quilt as you go is that I like keeping the designs of the fabric open--if you know what I mean.

Hmm--I will have to experiment. I have a couple of ideas--but there will be so many questions. So many little details. What design to use for the quilting? What color thread? Can I even do it? And how many other quilts can I make using this concept?

What do you think? Do you get into the zone? What do you think of machine quilting? Any great resources to share?


  1. Interesting questions and issues to ponder.

    I haven't done the kind of large scale quilts you do, so the process for me is different; however, as a longtime painter, yes, going into the zone and just trusting the process was always part of a session in the studio. What a wonderful feeling!

    After a few years of playing with doing small and untraditional landscape quilts (more like fabric collage versions of my paintings) I'm finally going to start a bed-sized pieced quilt, most of which will be a large color field of many small pieces - I am heartened to read that you quilt as you go, because that's what I am planning to do (essentially 9" squares). Coming to this late in life as an intersection of painting and seamstress (clothing, corsets, martial arts gear, while I love looking at beautifully designed and executed quilting, I plan to do very simple machine quilting as the quilting process per se is of less interest to me than the fabric itself.

    I thank you for sharing your process, works in process, and thoughts on this blog and for inviting others to participate.

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    2. Thanks so much Janet for your kind words. Have fun making the quilt. I hope you will post pictures when you get it finished.

  2. I love your quilts, the colors and combinations. Your quilt as you go idea works so well for the quilts you create. The question you raise pertaining to the customer who wishes a lighter weight quilt...could you use a lighter substitute for batting,a flannel or perhaps even an interfacing?
    It seems a shame to tamper with a procedure that is working so we'll.

    1. I may try flannel. I have been experimenting with the Thermore--I am actually worried that the quilt as you go may be making the quilt heavier. I'll post if I come up with a solution. Thanks.

  3. Have you ever used Thermore batting? It is by Hobbs and is polyester, very lightweight but sturdy.

    1. I have actually been doing some experiments with the Thermore--although it seems almost as thick as the cotton batting. Thanks for the suggestion.