Tuesday, May 28, 2013

concentrating the quilt

Now many of you know that I make custom quilts. Indeed I welcome the challenge of making just the right quilt for the space. The right colors. The right size. The right effect. Often the customer sees a quilt and falls in love with it. But it is too big--or sometimes too small. And the challenge is to retain what the customer loves about the quilt but for their space.

This is the case with the quilt--endless fields--I am currently working on. You may remember this piece--it is BIG.  99x99" BIG to be precise. The fields stretch on forever. And that is the story. What is beyond the horizon? What is the promise of this quilt?

endless fields--99x99"--quilt--Ann Brauer
But the customer needs a quilt that is 60x60". Not that much smaller you may say--but in actuality if you multiply it out it is a major difference. Now you may think I can just make a section of this quilt and create the right feel. Maybe just take the bottom left. But of course that would lose the motion of the quilt and indeed its very soul if you know what I mean. And no I can't just make the individual pieces smaller. I don't want to make a replica after all but a quilt that is right in its own self.

So instead I spend time sketching out the quilt. How can I get the complexity of the larger piece without  sacrificing the overall effect? I decide that I should use slightly smaller pieces. When my choice is either 8 blocks that are 7 1/2" across or 7 blocks that are 8 1/2" across I choose the 8 blocks--even though it is more work. After all, that will let me use more fabrics which means the colors will be more intense and complex.

I also try to add as many rows going up as I reasonably can. This will allow more changes in color. I know the customer wants lots of reds and burgundies in the bottom of the quilt so I try to make sure there is as much space for these colors in my plan. And I think and think some more. Trying to get the feel of the quilt--to step back into it almost.

Finally I start to lay out some of the fabrics that I know go into this quilt. Just a sketch of color. A guide that will change as the quilt progresses. The greens fall into place

The reds are harder. After all they need to go from burgundy and plum up into the apricots and melons. And after lingering in the more intense colors, they will need to shift quickly.  I sketch it out. Snap pictures. Think. Walk away from it for a day or two. Change out the fabrics. Again.

Then decide I absolutely must start, take a long deep breath and hope the quilt will pull me along.  After all I remember from the first time I made this quilt that it was only lovely colors until the last rows were sewn. How scary to put so much time into the work without knowing that it will work. Still start I must.

Does this ever happen to you? Do you find it a challenge to change the size of a quilt you have made before? Do you decide sometimes that you just must do something?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

living life forward

I don't know about you but  usually I do not remember the speeches at the graduations I have attended. Sure there are snippets--the young friend whose middle name is so appropriately Sunrise bounding onto the stage barefoot. Her enthusiasm for life contagious and uplifting. That was the memory. Another young friend giving a heart felt speech--she had not chosen to be planted in our area but just like a young seedling she made the choice to flourish here. Such a complete and honest speech for one so young.

Of course there were others. The over long speech by a teacher chosen by the students. Alas all I remember of that one was how hot the sun was. How I wanted those great words "And in conclusion..." There was the famous speaker at the prestigious school whose voice echoed from the loud speakers. No, I don't remember a word he said. I was just hoping there would be no more rain that day.

Indeed I only remember snippets from my own graduations. Eighth grade where I wobbled to receive my diploma on high heels. Not my forte. The great aunt who despite grave illness made it to my high school graduation. College I avoided. I was not into ceremony back then.

This time it was different though. It was someone near and dear to me. I had known him since he was the cutest six year old. And I had been there before. Only vague hints from that time too. This time though I paid close attention. What memories would it stir? What would I learn? This time, the setting was formal and ceremonial. The chairs lined up on the floor. Such wonderful patterns here.

The graduates marching in. Adding the human element of design to the basic pattern.

The ceremony of the robes. So ornate and colorful.

The designs of the graduates on the floor. Adding that human touch to the patterns of the chairs. Hard to capture with the lights and Jumbotrons.  Yes, isn't that almost a quilt--adding the human touch and variation to the regular patterns?  (Of course I know my readers were waiting for that--weren't they?)

The speaker quoting Soren Kierkegaard:

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Something to contemplate isn't it?  Inspector General Donald Verrilli mulling over the events of Boston recently. Reminding the graduates that much will be expected of them. That the way to prepare was to live your life every day responsibly and intently--using your best judgement and being of service. That these resources that you develop as a daily basis will serve you when events demand even more of you. This actually stuck with me as true and useful.

Yes, this time the ceremony moved me to tears. It was after all the graduation of my step son who had worked so very hard for his achievements and all I can say is Congratulations on a job so very well done. I can't wait to see what he does next. 

What do you think? Has this happened to you?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

it's about family

Sometimes it seems there are quilts I just have to make.  I may not know why when I start--I just want to see what it will look like. I am curious. But there is something deeper too. At least that is the story of this quilt which I began some days ago. I knew I was tense. More pre-occupied than usual. After all, the memorial services for my FIL were going to be held soon and my DH and I were hosting the after party.  I think I should put that in Caps. This was a BIG deal.

You see my FIL comes from a large complex family. Relatives on both sides. Some of whom I know--they may even live just down the road from me.  Others that I had never met before.  Or just knew slightly. There were the traditional rivalries and factions. Those who did or did not  speak with each other. Stories going back way before my time. The end of an era. The passing of the torch to the next generation--my generation--and all of the emotion that the loss of a father or a father figure can create.

Now those who know me know that I am not a party giver. I work in my studio. Make quilts. Play in my garden. My family was small and compact. I knew my stories and my histories. But somehow we were hosting 50 people. I had to be organized. In charge.

And this is where the story returns to quilts. After all, my loyal readers are really not very interested in my husband's family or even my angst about throwing a party. But of course what did I do to calm myself but start a quilt. Like duh!!! I wasn't even sure when I started why I just had to make this quilt but I needed something to do. And I was curious about this piece. I could almost see it in my mind's eye.

So a few days before the party I made the first tentative blocks.

Amazing how good it felt to pin these four squares up on the wall. Yes, this was the way to go.

A few more. These colors are so lush. I felt like I was doing something.

But would it work? I knew the idea involved motion and color going both ways. Let me try.

Interesting look. The next days I came in and made a few more rows. I do love how it is coming together, don't you? Still not sure exactly where it is going but it feels like a statement. A purpose. Come to the studio. Sew. Make progress. Relax. Center myself.  Go home and clean house. Shop. Confer with my DH who has been working even more tirelessly for this occasion--it is his family after all. His father. His loss. Deal with the issues that invariably arise.

The day came. Of course it poured. But the sun came out just as they played Taps. There was enough food. Pizza and polenta. Lots of ice cream--my FIL loved ice cream. So many absolutely wonderful people to meet. So many great stories to tell and retell. And I realized that maybe the reason I just had to make this quilt was because it too was about family. How interwoven it all is. Tales that weave in and out.

I am still not sure what the quilt will look like when it is done. So much work to still do on it--I find it hard to be patient as I piece one row--one strip at a time still hoping that it will all come together as I want it to. But maybe this is why I had to make this quilt at this time? Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever make a quilt to sustain yourself? Is this why I sew?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

the quilts of Ann Brauer--it's May

Finally it is spring. The trees have this wonderful green haze. The little maple flowers add just that hint of red. The forsythia is a burst of bright yellow against the grey and brown. Never have the daffodils look so wonderful. Even my first peas have shown in a delicate row of hope.

As you can tell, I love this season which always come as a surprise.

Meanwhile I have been working hard in the studio. This coming Saturday May 4 is the first ArtWalk in Shelburne Falls from 4-8. Lots of studios and galleries will be open with wonderful work. I hope some in the area will manage to attend--the Bridge of Flowers is open and simply glorious in its spring colors. Those who have been following my work on Facebook or even on my blog know that I got inspired to make a series of fun little purses. Indeed I created a Wall of Purses with each one inspiring the next. I have decided as a Celebration of Spring until Mother's Day, rather than having a quilt of the month this time,  the purses will remain at $60 each. Yes, they can be shipped USPS Priority Mail.

Purses--8x8"--quilts--Ann Brauer

Later in the summer, I will be doing the American Craft Exposition in Evanston and the Berkshire Craft Show in Great Barrington--but more on those later. And for those coming from a distance, do call first since this month I also have a large family gathering as a memorial to my father-in-law and then the graduation of my wonderful step-son. I am so very proud of him and wouldn't miss it for the world. And yes, I do have an architect for the new building!!!

Meanwhile have a great spring. Enjoy the season and the light. Color is everywhere these days.