Monday, September 20, 2010

inspiration--the history of a quilt

What fun I had giving a presentation to the Mohawk Trail Quilt Guild at A Notion to Quilt in Shelburne the other night. What a great group of ladies--chatty as any quilt guild I have come across. There was Liz and Liz--but who is Liz 1 and who is Liz 2. Beyond me. I promised to keep them "under control". And the Sue's- how many were there really. I lost count. Becki had just won Homemaker of the Year at the County Fair--although she said it was only because Kathy had not entered. Congratulations all around.  There was news of the Shop Hop, blankets for Linus, pillowcase covers in many sizes and the heavy canvas--how could they use it?

Then time for my presentation. I always get a bit nervous doing these talks--no matter how friendly the group and how well I know my material. Probably it comes with the territory. This time I had decided to add a new section to my talk. As you may know, my method is as simple as can be--quilt-as-you-go--that should take me a few minutes to explain how to do it.  Being a local group, I assumed that some had heard me talk before. So I decided to add a new section on the inspiration and development of my design from quilt to quilt to quilt. I wanted to show them that one quilt can be inspiration for the next quilt. But where to start?

Of course I couldn't show all my quilts. That was what I was trying to get beyond. So I eliminated all the early log cabin quilts, the silk pieces that won all sorts of awards.  I had to start somewhere.  I had the quilt I was going to make in mind. It is an order for a wonderful, sophisticated couple. I figured that way the thought process would be fresh in my head.  So I decided to start with rivers of autumn--a quilt that will be in a show at the National Museum of Quilts in Paducah, KY--(just a bit of bragging there I confess).

Clearly a quilt based on the log cabin pattern straight furrows.  I do love the straight furrows setting from the log cabin quilt--so simple with so much possibility. This piece was a simple color statement--I told myself to start with what I know and work from there.  The trick was creating the color palette for the row that came next. Some warm and some cool but all with a certain zing to them. Some of the hardest color ways to determine were in the corners. Just that little bit of color to tie it all together. I like how the black defines the colors with the white sparkles providing life for the piece.

Then the quilt--hills and shadows. Yes, I have blogged about the process of making this quilt back in March and April. Oh I had many doubts about this piece. After spending all this time on it--would the colors hold together. Would there be the wonderful rolling look that I wanted? (If you want to read about my struggles start with this post and then move forward.)

I love this piece--though unfortunately the rolling effect is not as obvious as I would like unless you can see it from a distance. And of course the ladies of the quilt guild wanted to know what inspired my desire for the rolling effect. Actually this was a concept I had been thinking about for years. I love those landscape scenes that artists can paint. I have been sketching it roughly until I figured out how to do it.

 This is similar to ocean waves. Another favorite subject matter. I tried the quilt in blues and greens. Called it blue shadows. Sometimes my work progresses by making small changes. Sometimes I take large leaps at once. Stephen Gould claimed the same process happens with evolution. Sometimes it is the little adaptive changes and sometimes there is something totally new that works. I don't know if it's true--but I love the concept.

Not bad--but a bit choppy looking and maybe too quilt-y--if that is a word. By now I was in discussion with this wonderful couple. I knew they had very sophisticated tastes and this was also inspiring me.

What about a simple color progression without the crutch of the blacks and the sparkle of the white splashes. A much harder quilt to make since every piece is important to the whole. There is the light-dark progression as well as the yellow to purple-blue progression. Oh it takes forever.

But what a wonderful result. But for the couple I needed to simplify it further. Oh this is getting difficult--but I do love a challenge. This piece is called blue rainbow.

I explain the thought process and the struggles to the quilt guild. They follow along and seem to enjoy the process. How long the process seems to go--I much care is needed for every strip of fabric. But that is a discussion for another day.

Right now I am hoping that I could convey to my audience just a bit about how one quilt really does inspire the next one. I wanted them to see that colors and ideas can be shown in quilts. Maybe extend just a bit their perception of design as something they can do.

Will I do the presentation a bit differently the next time--of course. One good question they asked me was other quilt makers who inspire me. Now truth be told, while I do spend a lot of time looking at the quilts of others--and I do love lots of them--I also like to look at other art--painting, photography, ceramics. They can all give me ideas and design solutions. I need to show them a bit more how I sketch out work and then how the quilt takes hold. I can also show how I choose colors a bit more.

I know I get inspired by giving these presentations. I do hope the guild members got something from it also. And you--do you give talks about your work? How do you explain what inspires you? What do you want to hear when you attend a presentation?


  1. Thanks for the delightful presentation, Ann! It was a real treat to see the the progression of work. I look forward to stopping by and seeing you again!