Monday, January 30, 2012

Is simple as easy as it looks?

I am not sure why but recently I have become interested in creating "simple" blocks of color that I can arrange to look like they just happened. I bet you think this is easy. One of those quilts that just happen. You know--the quilt that anyone can do. And maybe everyone else can do it--maybe it is just me that has problems with this--I don't know.

The last time I tried--years and years ago--before I had darling 2 Conway Street--and I was working in the basement of our house--my two kittens snuck into the studio and decided to "help" me by removing all the blocks of that quilt from the design board. Oh I was not happy. It took forever to re-arrange the work to get it right again.

Anyhow I decided to make a quilt that reflected the colors of the dawn through the mist. After all--these colors are soft and beautiful. How controlled could I be in adding different colors but still keeping the quilt cohesive? Could I get the quilt to look like it "just happened" but also work as art? I am doing the Baltimore Craft Show next month and I do need more quilts in my booth.

Sometimes you don't know unless you try. So I started sewing. Pinned up a few blocks. Amazing how a block can look out of place until it is surrounded by more blocks. What do I think of the dark block--will it give a feeling of depth to the quilt?

 Is that orange block too intense? Out of place? What can I do?

Yes, moving it does help. I like how the greys in the upper corner anchor the space. What about the white as a counterpoint to the black? I will have to see.

Filling it in does answer some questions. Make what I know. I love how some of the prints are adding that bit of sparkle to the blocks--don't you? Still not sure about that orange though. Maybe it needs to be moved again.  I keep piecing. One block at a time. Look. Squint. Sleep on the ideas. Make some placemats. This quilt takes forever.

 Not bad. The orange now seems to be OK. But is the white too stark? Almost jarring? What if I redo it? Do I want to--no. I want it done but.... Let's see.

Yes, just that simple change makes the quilt more cohesive, doesn't it? What do you think? Does the quilt look planned but also spontaneous? Does it hold together but also interest the viewer? Have you ever tried to make a quilt that is just blocks of color? How do you maintain the integrity of the piece over time and still have surprises in it? The joy of the unexpected?

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.

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?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

the color of sand

Recently I read that scientists have figured out the precise color of the Milky Way and the color is--and let me quote:

"fine-grained new spring snow seen in the early morning light, about an hour after dawn"

You can read more about it on  Isn't that wonderful? So precise. Such a specific--well defined moment in time. Can't you just picture it in your mind's eye? Even add the freshness of the snow. The sparkle in the sunlight. The shimmer on the trees. Even the warmth of the sun. Amazing isn't it--how one statement--one color can evoke so much. But isn't that just what color does. Of course, as scientists are wont to do--they also come up with a more precise definition of the color--but I digress.

Instead I was thinking of color when I started my latest quilt. I knew I wanted a dreamy quilt--the ocean in the fog--when the possibilities are endless and undefined. One of those quilts I can picture in my mind's eye and so I begin. First I pin up the colors that I want--just a few fabrics. Then I start to sew. As always I tell myself to make what I know.

And that is where the questions begin. I try the first block of sand. Now I know that sand actually comes in absolutely gorgeous colors. Indeed I had just seen a magnified image of sand--so jewel like. But that wasn't what I wanted this time. Now I just wanted the sand to exist in the same dreaminess as the fog and the sky. So I got out lots of tan fabrics and made a block.

Stood back and looked. Squinted and thought. Close I thought--but not quite what I wanted. Too intense. Too yellow. This sand would dominate the quilt. Make the sky be brighter than I wanted to balance the sand.

I pulled out more fabrics. Looked in my drawers of greys and taupe. Resorted the browns and tried again. Can you see the difference?

Just a hint of the grey. Toning it down. Yes. This is more what I want.

I play with breaking it up. Still not sure if I like that. May need a few more tweaks. The teal on the right may be too bright. Not sure of that yet either. But I don't have to decide just yet. I know what I want the next row to look like.

Isn't there a wistfulness--a longing in this piece? Not sure of the colors for the next row--but I will see if I can do that today. What do you think? How do you use color? Do you ever use it to convey a feeling? What colors do you think of when you think of sand?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

having fun with color

I love this time of year--I always feel like there is just that bit of a new start.  New colors are forecast for the year.  Do I want to use it? I check out the Pantone projections of colors--always fun isn't it? You can see them Pantone Fashion Color Report here. Love Solar Power and Margarita. Not sure about the Tangerine? What do you think?

I must replenish my stock. After all, the Baltimore Craft Show is just around the corner. Yikes. So much to do. I know that I need more smaller items.  I just read this great article by Bruce Baker in Craft Reports : 6 Simple Tricks to Make Money and Beat the Economy . Yes, I must make more work that people want to purchase--like duh!!

Well actually there is more to it than that. I must have enough work that people can find a place for. Get them shopping in my booth--thinking about my work in their home. Baltimore is HUGE for those who don't know the show. Hundreds and hundreds of exhibitors.  Thousands of visitors. It is competitive.

Now I know I won't get a chance to make all the quilts I want. Stock is still pretty slim since Irene--UGH!! So much floated away. I still feel like I am running around just trying to keep my head above water. (Maybe not the best image to use?)
Anyhow, I decide to make a selection of my skyscrapers. Long thin pieces--great for those narrow spaces that everyone has. Also good table runners. Don't you just love this one in bright blues and greens? So happy and interesting.

What about this burgundy and soft tan? Lush and happy.

And the teal with the yellow green? Wouldn't that look great hung near the blue one?

 Oh so many more colors I want to make. Maybe even have them hanging as a group in my booth. What should I do next? A purple and rust? A blue with sea foam green maybe? Blue and lavender might be lush? What about tangerine and margarita--is that too much? What do you think? How do you decide what colors to use next?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

why quilts take so long

Now, in my opinion good art is supposed to look inevitable. Like this was the only way this idea could be conceived and executed. Sure, the process of making it may take some time but isn't there just one resolution for any given statement. By this I don't mean that Josef Albers can't take the same concept and create many different color statements from this concept. But if he had started with one or two specific colors and wanted a specific effect, isn't there just one way of doing it?

At least that is my theory this morning. You see yesterday I spent a lot of time working on the green center for the quilt I have been working on--remember I blogged about it  here:
How to do you make a quilt sing. The green in the center I felt was wrong--too yellow, clunky. Not enough of the dark green. So I got out my green fabrics again. Spent time arranging them in order.
Then stepped back and squinted. What do you think?

Lovely colors. But isn't one of the jumps too strong? Is it too brown? What if I change it like this?

 Amazing isn't it, how one fabric can make such a difference. I looked at it some more. What about this area?

Again it is lovely. But I am not sure how yellow I want the piece. I switch it out.

One change. Such a different look. I fret. I pace. I do other things. Drink some coffee and even clean the studio a bit. Amazing the things I can do as I ponder. I wonder what the people on the street in Shelburne Falls think as they peer into the studio. Mad artist at work probably.

Finally I take the plunge and sew. Pin it up. Pace some more. Luckily I have my sewing machine placed so I can look at my design board as I work.

I like the feeling of going into the sky. A window. But that is this the right location? Not sure. I bring it down and look.

Somehow that seems better. Not sure yet. Maybe it is a bit too white at the bottom. How will the quilt change as I sew it together? I think I will let it sit there for a while.  Make more items for the Baltimore Craft Show. See what I think about it today--maybe even tomorrow.

And you--do you believe that good art has to look inevitable? Do you wake up at 5 in the morning with "the answer". What do you think about the green?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

how do you make a quilt sing?

Now sometimes I know how I want the quilt to look before I start. Maybe I have sketched it out. Maybe it is a custom order. Maybe I have made a similar quilt and I just want to change the colors or the size. Now that doesn't make the quilt any easier to make--now changing one fabric changes everything. You can't swim in the same river twice, can you?

Other times though I like to just play. Start and see where it goes. Of course I do have an idea in my mind. Maybe I know the colors and the sizes. I can almost visualize the quilt. It is there--I just have to discover it. Figure out the solutions. Make it sing.

That was the case with the quilt I started a couple of weeks ago--blogged about making it--one block at a time.  I do want this quilt for the Baltimore Craft Show. So I started making what I know. That is the way I have found to keep moving forward. So I made the blue blocks. A deep rich blue. Not too busy. Gradually changing color. Isn't it wonderful? And I realized I wanted an intense green yellow window. Great color, isn't it?

So I pieced a rectangle using those thin tiny strips. I can remake this piece later. I just want a guide to see what it will look like.

Not bad is it? But is this where it should be? Down at the bottom of the quilt? This time I don't even know if this is the bottom? Hmmm. Squares of green against squares of black? Is this too simple?

What if I move it up? Test out a couple of colors for the bottom. Time to make what I know--the next two rows of the top.

OK--this is coming together. What do you think?

The black seems too dark. Let's see about the teal. Should I include yellow with the teal? Or is that too much?

 Yeap--too busy for this quilt. Let me try a block of teal. Interesting.

Too light--that won't hold the bottom enough. Let me try again.

Much better. Finish piecing it. Aren't the colors great?

Now to work on the green--that looks a bit clunky. A bit expected. I think I have an idea. But that is for today. We'll see. And as for the next quilts in this series--don't I have lots of other possibilities? What will I make next? And you,  what do you think?  Is the quilt starting to sing? Do you ever work like this or do you know what it will look like when you start?

Monday, January 9, 2012

moving forward--one block at a time

Now it is not that I have been lazy during the first week of the New Year. No, I have been going into the studio every day working on orders, making potholders and placemats, pillows and purses. Work that I know will sell. Help pay for the rent of my new studio space. Keep me in my booth at the Baltimore Craft Show--yikes, that is less than two months away. February 24-26.

No, I have been working hard. Though I feel like I am standing in place. Swimming against the current.

Each morning as I wake up I think of the new quilts that I want to make. The ones that I am curious about. How will they work? How can I push my art to show something new and unknown. Work that I want to study in my studio after it is done. I know I need it. After all, I did sell  capturing the sky and need a similar piece.

Something has been holding me back. It is so much easier to make a collection of potholders. I know they will work. Short, sweet and simple. A success. Am I afraid that the new quilt will not work? Am I just tired? How understandable. I have been going non-stop for the last five months after all. I did need a break--if only to make potholders.

Still I must do more.  After all, I did not spend all this time and energy re-establishing my studio just to make potholders, did I? Somewhere I must find the energy to start a new quilt.

I must stop procrastinating. Regain my focus. I read on the internet a blog post on Seven Ways to Quit Procrastinating. Check it out HERE.   I decide I must just take the plunge. I can see the quilt in my mind. The colors--such a solid strong blue that radiates sky and promise. Different from capturing the sky--but the next in a series. I must just start. Here goes. Make that first block--that is easy.

So lonely it looks up there, doesn't it? Just a small little statement of hope. OK--I can do it. Make  a row. See what happens. Now I can make more potholders.
Nice color. Not as strong as I might want. But I must keep going. Will more blocks--another row--add to the color I want. I keep focusing on the idea. The concept of a dark sky with a few trees lit in the setting sun. I want to capture that light.

Yes, this is getting better? Feel good to just start doesn't it? Now to make another row--and another. Make what I know.  Today at least one more row--maybe two more. Then add the zing. That part that I can see in my mind but I am not sure how it will work.  I will have to experiment and try. Will it work? I see the next quilt already in my mind's eye. But I must finish this one first. Get this quilt to the point where it has its own momentum. Pulls me forward.  Becomes the focus of my days in the studio. Where the potholders and placemats become the things I make when I need to study the quilt.  Isn't that their rightful place? Then I can start the next one? Isn't that the trick to getting the energy to move forward?

What do you think? How do you get started? Where does your momentum come from? Any hints?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Should we better promote quilts as art?

Let's face it--I love to browse through these glossy magazines--the ones advertising lovely decorator homes. What is the latest style and trends? Cutting edge bathroom systems. Sleek furniture. Kitchen with all the latest ovens and refrigerators. The wine coolers. The decorators who bring this all together. The builders of these homes. Don't we all love to imagine we live in them?

But then I noticed. In the bedrooms with the rich well polished furniture--the beds had comforters with simple covers on them. White down comforters. Or generic prints in bright--but not too bright--colors. With geometric flowers.The walls had paintings--simple, generic landscapes. Again you know the look.

Now--let's face it. Staging is important. There is a home about to be put on the market in my family. An architect designed home in a stunning location. The agent wants the home cleared of all the furniture and possessions. She will rent items to create just the look that potential purchasers might like. Create an atmosphere where the browsers can see themselves living there.

I'm sure that must be the same for these magazines. But certainly there must be a lot of images of fiber art on the internet--right? I go to pinterest. Now I have been on pinterest for a few months--I love it. You have to sign up for it. They approve your application. Then you create boards of lovely images that you like--gardens, the color blue, bedrooms, favorite places. Designs that inspire you. An interesting way to share and refine your style, your colors.

Yes, I found a few. But not enough. Shouldn't we as fiber artists post more images of our work in homes and offices? Isn't it important that others realize how autumn afternoon can draw you down that modern--almost sterile hallway? Add warmth to an environment seemingly lacking it?

Or what about showing that quilts are art? That prairie dawn can hold its own with any painting? Doesn't it look fabulous?

Don't these images show that fiber is not just for country homes any more? What do you think? Are you on pinterest? Do you know of any great installation images that use fiber? How do you promote fiber art?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

the quilts of Ann Brauer--Happy New Year

Well--we made it to 2012. How quickly time passes, doesn't it? New England weather here--my DH and I went for a lovely long walk New Year's Day--even saw forsythia blooming. But now there is a dusting of snow and dropping temperatures. As they say, if you don't like the weather--wait a minute.

As for me--I am busy trying to finish orders and get ready for the Baltimore Craft Show in February--can you believe it is less than two months away!! Yikes. I am working on some new pieces that I am very excited about--can't wait to show them to you.  I'll write more about the Craft Show next month but if you are in the Baltimore area do mark February 24-26 on your calendars. I hope to see many of you there. In March I will be doing the Paradise Marlboro Craft Show for those in the Boston area.  Meanwhile, I will be in the studio most days--drop by if you are in western Massachusetts although as always I suggest calling first if you are coming from a distance.

And now for the Quilt of the Month. This is a quilt that I am surprised that I still have. Maybe it is because it is slightly smaller than some of my quilts--it is only 40 x 40 inches. Maybe it is because I enjoyed looking at it so much at the late great pink building that I did not always take it with me when I did a craft show. Maybe it is because the colors are of the more interesting, haunting nature--teals and rasberry. Soft yellows.  Anyhow I still own it and for the next 10 days or until sold my quilt "out of the mist" will be the Quilt of the Month. This quilt was $800--as I said, I have had it for a while--but as Quilt of the Month it will be $600 plus shipping and applicable taxes. Here is its snapshot--it is just a bit less green than this image suggests. More of a teal, turquoise. But there is a softness to the colors.

It is SOLD already.

Have a great January.