Sunday, October 7, 2018

the power of making

Outside the October sky hangs glum and grey against the colors just starting to change. Inside the news goes on endlessly as those in suits and ties talk "sincerely" of pain and then use disinformation in their quest for power.  Tempers mount. A friend is almost in tears. We all know the feeling of resignation that the want us to have.

Shelburne Falls--October 2018--Ann Brauer

Of course I turn to my beloved fabrics and sewing machine in my search for solace and purpose. After the last show there is so much I need to do. Orders to fill. I am sold out of phone cases. Yikes. I know I need more eye glass cases and place mats. A few table runners in popular colors. Of course more potholders. Time to get busy. High class worries. I have three more craft shows and one sale ahead of me, after all. So much to do. So little time.

But though I turn to classical music or silence, the clouds still hang. I like working with colors and fabrics and feel so fortunate that I can do so, but I know I need more. Then I remember--did I ever forget--that in making wall art--getting lost in that world--I can regain my sense of purpose and energy. Don't we all need art now more than ever? Maybe I can capture the colors of the trees in autumn. So I start sewing.

As usual, the questions--what comes next? Shall I take the obvious way? What about the bottom? Will green tie it together? Such questions. And yet, there is an answer and the drive to add the fabric, one piece at a time. This is why I make quilts. And why I must make another and another.

color of autumn--quilt--Ann Brauer 2018

And you--what is the power of art in your life? How do you cope with the external world and maintain your own sense of self?  Do your quilts ever just fall into place?  

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

sometimes it is the small decisions

Finally the quilt is pieced. Whew!!!  But still I must quilt it. Which means I must choose which color thread to use. It should be easy, right? Well, not always. Now I like to use the same color throughout. I find that this gives a cohesion to the piece that I want. But this is where the issues begin. Sometimes I like adding just the bit of yellow or gold to brighten the piece but I am not sure it is the right decision for this quilt which has so much dark in it.

process--quilt--ann brauer--2018

Instead I test colors. For me the easiest way is to hold up the spools of thread and imagine what the color will look like against the quilt. I love the thought of this magenta. After all the quilt is shades of plum and purple. Lavender and mauve. And this would accentuate all those wonderful rich hues.

process--ann brauer--quilt 2018

Then I realize that the bottom of the quilt is teal. The magenta will stand out significantly against the teal. Mmmm. Maybe this is not the right color after all.

process--ann brauer--quilt--2018

I try again with this bright rose. Again it has the warmth I am seeking but still it may be too bright for the mystery of this quilt.

process--quilt--ann brauer 2018

As they say. Third time is the charm. What about the brick red. Not the color I had been initially imagining but it does add just a bit of the warmth and it won't stand out quite as strongly with the teal.
process--quilt--ann brauer 2018
Not too bright against the teal either is it?

process--quilt--ann brauer 2018

Yes, this will work. And so I begin. Simple rows of stitches done free hand using my 1965 Singer 281-3. A machine I love so much I design my quilts around it.

process--quilt--ann brauer 2018
But a seemingly endless process. I just sit there and sew and sew and sew.  When will I finish? I can get a bit of coffee or maybe some water when I reach a set goal. When I need to change bobbins I can check my e-mail. Oh the games I play to get it done. It goes on and one and on. Like my father, the farmer, when he plowed fields. Up one side and down the next yet gradually there is progress and this is after all part of the process.

How do you do it? What keeps you going during those endless rows? And how do you choose the color of thread to use?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

seam by seam

I must admit there are times when making a quilt seems endless--and more than a bit scary. After all, I have spent so many days with it and while I may have a vision of the look I want in the end, I can never be sure it is going to work the way I want it to. Instead all I can do is keep sewing. Keep hoping. Look at my design board frequently. And test different fabric colors until it seems right.

It seems so simple at first. The little pieces fall into place. Of course there is the question as to how quickly I want the color transition to go. Was I a bit impatient?

process--ann brauer 2018

But I know I need to anchor the bottom of this quilt with a ridge line. Maybe it is the soil. Maybe the deep dark mountains. You decide. But doesn't it look different with the colors there.

process--ann brauer 2018
And now I can echo the dark of the mountains with the dark in the sky. Again I test colors.

process--ann brauer 2018
And start to add even more fabrics. I love the hint of rose. The warmth of the rusts. Gradually it is taking shape.
process--ann brauer 2018
Still there is a long way to go. I have the wonderful light on the top. The feeling of the endless sky looking up. Now to work on the bottom. More piecing and fretting. Is a quilter ever done?

process--ann brauer 2018

How do you work? How much to you start with a vision? Do you ever feel that the quilt will not get done?

Saturday, June 9, 2018

explorations--do I have enough fabric?

Some of us are very lucky. My favorite fabric store--The Textile Company in Greenfield, Massachusetts--is still in business. Indeed it has been selling fabric for three generations in an old baby carriage factory. (The wooden floors are themselves worth the trip.) Of course I have a secret fantasy--what if I could just set up my sewing machine and cut bits of fabric as I need it to get just the right color combinations.

Of course I know that is totally impractical. Can you imagine running up and down the aisles comparing fabrics just to get that one snippet? There actually is a phenomena of too much fabric. Seriously. Even for me. It can take too long to sort and compare. Sure I could purchase lots of fat quarters but my theory is that if I like the fabric enough to use it I want to learn to know it. What are its interesting undertones and stories? How does it work when cut into strips? What are the hints of stories within it? How can I combine the different fabrics to make a quilt that represents my artistic vision.

So I purchase my fabric a yard at a time. Then when I am working on a new quilt I often sketch out the colors by sorting through and creating the sweep of color that I think might work.

explorations--quilt--ann brauer 2018
Plum is such a complex color. Red and blue, purple with a touch of grey and brown. The manufacturers never make a lot of it in any given year. Instead I know I will be searching for snippets of fabric. Plunging deep into my fabric drawers for just the right color. Still this arrangement gives me a start. A reference point.

I begin cutting. I always tell myself to start with what I know. Just like with the fabric selection, I could cut too much fabric and spend too much time searching through the pile to find what I want and test it as I sew. So I make a small pile of wedges.

explorations--quilt--ann brauer 2018

And start to stitch each to the quilt. One strip at a time. Stopping frequently to ponder what comes next.
explorations--quilt--ann brauer--2018
How do you start a quilt? Do you ever have too much fabric? Have you ever worked with the color plum? And do you know any great fabric stores?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

explorations--I begin

It did sound like an interesting show to enter. About twenty quilt makers were selected to each create a quilt that was 30 x 50 inches and highlight a particular process. So I entered and was among the chosen.  Of course my technique is quilt as you go--can you imagine my being selected for any other method? That was the easy part.

Unfortunately though I had to make the quilt. The first step of deciding what to make is often the hardest. What would illustrate the method, look artistic and fit the size requirements? My mind was alive with ideas. But....

I kept sketching. Would it look good at 30x50 inches? Oh why had they not chosen 32x48 inches which I find a much more satisfying size?  Or given us the option of making a horizontal quilt--again a size that can look great over the sofa or bed?  But this was taking up valuable mental energy.

I had to start. Many were already finished with their quilts. I couldn't let them down. I got gentle reminders. from the volunteer working on the project. She was so kind and patient.  Still I fretted.  Why did I agree to do this? I don't even like the focus on process?  Shouldn't it be on the artistic expression instead? Isn't process just the tool to say what you want to say? I could delay forever but I had promised. I was just procrastinating. I needed to make a quilt I could be proud of. Then it dawned on me.  My quilt "mountain sun" was 30 x 70 inches and I liked it. If it could work at that size, then surely it could work at 30 x 50 inches.

mountain sun--30x70 inches--ann brauer--2018--image by John Polak

Now of course I didn't want to make a quilt just like this. That would be no fun. But I had customers through who had wondered about the quilt in plum--or maybe burgundy. That would be a fun challenge. I was curious to see what would happen.  Wouldn't I love to develop that colorway and then maybe make a couple of longer quilts for my booth. I feel such a need to go large these days. But more on that later.

Time to start. I press the back fabric. Amazing how wrinkled it gets on the bolt.

explorations--pressing the fabric--ann brauer 2018
Then I baste the batting onto the back. After all this is quilt as you go so the batting is included in the sandwich.

explorations--basting the batting to the fabric--ann brauer 2018
That always feel like a major step. I am committed. How do you decide what quilt to make? How do you begin? How do you show process? How much do you think process is relevant?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

mountain sun

Ta da. The quilt is done and sold. It was one of those orders I had been fretting about over the winter. At 30 inches wide by 70 inches long it was a strange shape meant to go in the staircase. You know that long blank wall that you see as you walk down the stairs.

I wanted it to tell a simple story with the sun rising at the bottom. A color study that was also of a time and place. One of the challenges was to use the measurements to add to the story. Shouldn't the sky be dominant? Rising far above the mountains. And yet it shouldn't be just a color--with that size I wanted there to be a continuing interest and development. Again there needed to be a complexity to the colors.

Of course the only way to get the quilt done was to begin. I always tell myself to start with what I know and trust that the quilt will develop as I grow into it. But what a bulk of fabric this was to work with. Still I knew the sun and started.

mountain sun--detail--2018
What colors should I put in. After all, these would determine the colors throughout the quilt. How quickly should I have the colors progress through the palest tans and greys into colors with more substance and texture. How hard it was to be patient.

Still I kept sewing. The only way to get the quilt done was to move forward and trust that it would come together.

mountain sun--detail--ann brauer

Was the quilt getting too busy? As I worked I knew I wanted it to have those splashes of color and light. But still it was important to maintain the calming feeling that I knew the customer wanted. Still all I could do is keep moving forward. Notice how I added a bit of the horizon to give me some guidance as I kept piecing.

Finally though it was done. Don't you love the complexities of the colors?

mountain sun--30x70"--quilt--ann brauer 2018--image by John Polak
Don't the hints of blue sparkle against the tan while the colors move from light to dark and then back to light again seeming to echo the horizon and meadow. At least that is my thought.

And here is a detail. I love how the gently radiates its light against the grey of the mountains.

detail--Mountain Sun--quilt--Ann Brauer--photo by John Polak

I hung it in the studio so I could study it a bit.

mountain sun in studio--quilts--ann brauer 2018
And sure enough a couple dropped by to consider fiber art for their home. Maybe if I made another one in plum to coordinate....  Wouldn't that be lovely. Now that order has not come through yet but it does lead me to think. First though I do have a few other quilts I must complete. Isn't that how it works. One quilt inspires so many more. The only question is what to make next. I guess that's high class worries.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

tales of sunrise--the courage of designing

Have you noticed that sometimes quilts just have a mind of their own? This time it was a quilt I was making to test colors for a custom order. I knew what the customer wanted. I knew where it was going to hang but I wasn't sure about how could I get them to work just right. After all, these customers seem like really special people and I wanted to do my best.

The quilt was to be based loosely on "gentle morning" but with a golden sun and slightly warmer colors that are more alive. The bottom perhaps a glowing tan to echo the sky.

gentle morning--40x40 inches--quilt--Ann Brauer 2017--image by John Polak
Sometimes the best thing to do is just start. I knew I could make a wonderful happy quilt for them but I wanted to learn about the colors and the design.

tales of sunrise--work in progress--ann brauer 2018

tales of sunrise--work in progress--ann brauer 201

tales of sunrise--work in progress--ann brauer 2018
Yes, I am loving this quilt. I have learned so much. Which colors work. How to get a wonderful progression. I can't wait to start on the next one with a slightly larger sun. This quilt though deserves to be finished.

I keep coming back to my recent quilt "view from my window."

view from my window--99x99 inches--ann brauer 2018

This requires so much nerve and steadiness. I don't think about it but just cut slowly and steadily. Courage yes. But design takes courage, doesn't it? Then I sewed it back together. I still have to add the bindings which will finish it off and give the quilt a nice polished look. Don't you love how it tells a story. Don't you love the dreaminess of the golden tans at the bottom. Then I get to start on the next one with the larger sun and slower progression of the colors.

view of sunrise--30x55 inches--work in progress--ann brauer 2018
What do you think? Do you ever have to cut apart a quilt to get the right detail?