Friday, January 28, 2011

Scale drawings, thumbnail sketches, or no plan at all

Quilters vary widely in how much planning they do before they start cutting fabrics for a quilt. Sometimes a quilter who doesn't like to do detailed plans will depart from her preferred way of working to do a commission or a quilt that has strict constraints.

Our Gallery president, Eileen Doughty, has done a number of public art projects. These usually require lots of planning and coordination with the commissioning agency. For example, Eileen did a commission for the neonatal wing of a large hospital. They requested that the artwork have the four seasons, trees, lots of colors, and fit in a 5 x 14 foot niche. The glass to cover the niche was limited to a four foot width, and so the join lines had to be considered when developing the design. The room decor has 12 hues, around the color wheel. (And there was an extremely tight deadline.) Here is how the finished artwork looks in its location at the hospital:

Eileen discusses her design process for this quilt here.

I (Floris Flam) was commissioned to make a quilt for a residence. It was to hang over the breakfast table and needed to bridge the colors of the kitchen and those of the nearby sitting room. My client and I decided the appropriate size of the quilt and discussed colors that would be used, including the blues of the sitting room and the beiges of the kitchen cabinets. I visited with a collection of blue and beige hand-dyed fabrics and we picked those that were closest to those in her rooms.She didn't give me any other design constraints, so I decided to use as my starting point a collage of magazine illustrations I made some time before as a quick design exercise. Here is my paper collage:

And here is the finished quilt:

You can see that it bears only the most general resemblance to the collage, but having the collage helped me get started, often the hardest part of making any work of art.

Most often, I work without a sketch. I start by selecting colors and fabrics from my stash and begin cutting pieces and pinning them up on my design wall, a felt-covered pinable board. Here is a photo of Autumn View as I was designing it:

I've cut strips and rectangles of fabric and pinned them on my design board (I was at a quilt retreat and was working on a portable board with my pile of fabric on the table in front of it). I added and removed strips of various colors and changed their sizes as I worked, trying as each piece was added to see what seemed to be the necessary next step. When I was pleased with the design, I started sewing everything together. Here is the final quilt:

I've enjoyed this month as your blog editor and am passing the baton to Ruth Blau for the month of February. I'll talk to you again in May.

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