Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Principles of Design - Contrast

The Waverley Art Quilters are studying the book Connecting Design to Stitch by Sandra Meech. This is the third and final year that we will have studied the book as we will have finished the book by the end of the year. We have art quilters at all stages in our group from beginner to advanced, so this has been a great way for the beginners to learn about design and it never hurts for the more advanced quilters to have a refresher course.

Last month we were reading all about Contrast. Contrast is very important in design because it highlights the centre of interest and affects the rhythm, balance and unity of a quilt.

One of the most obvious ways to achieve contrast is by value; value is the amount of light or dark in a colour. One of the best ways to find out if you have enough value contrast is to change your quilt photo into black and white.
 Most people have smart phones these days and you don't even need to take and photo and convert it to black and white with the modern phones. You just click on the black and white button in the camera app and you see the image through the phone.

I have a photo of a little quilt I did years ago and at first glance you might think that it doesn't have enough value contrast.

Summer by Linda Steele
When you look at the photo in black and white you can clearly see the value contrast.

Another way to achieve contrast is by size, I put different size fish in my Life on the Reef quilt to add interest.

Life on the Reef detail
Just for interest I looked at my Life on the Reef quilt in Black and White and although there is some value contrast I think I could have improved the quilt with even more. The bottom section has a definite lack of contrast.

For my Art Quilters project I wanted to continue my practice with contemporary piecing and so made a quilt where I was thinking about winter ice. The contrast with this is obviously value contrast; it is only small about 16" x 12"

Winter Ice ©2017 Linda Steele

Bye for now,

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Crazy Patch Swap 2017

I belong to an online Crazy Patchwork group called the Southern Cross Crazies, we are a pretty quiet group with busy lives but every so often we have a swap or some sort of activity. I decided to participate in the latest one because I am doing a lot of machine work at the moment and I thought it would be nice to have some handwork to do.

There are 6 participants so I had to make up 5 crazy patchwork bases and send them off to the next person on the list. They choose one block to work on for the month and then they get sent onto the next person to work on.

Here are the blocks that I made up, I used silk fabrics.

 It can be hard to photograph silk because it reflects light back onto the camera. They look better than in the photographs.

I received Patti's blocks in the mail, some of her blocks were green and some were cream. I chose a green block.

Patti's base block

She was quite specific in that she wanted cream thread on the green blocks and green thread on the cream blocks.

It took a lot of the decision making away when you can only use one colour. I managed to finish it quickly, well ahead of the allotted time.

Patti's block complete
I think that it looks pretty, I've been a bit worried that the lace flower motif is too big for the spot and it takes the eye away from the centre. I've been torn about whether to leave it or not and in the end I have decided to keep it. If she really hates it she can remove it and put something smaller.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Abstract Art

I have been busy working through an online course on Abstract Art with Lisa Call. I first met Lisa last year at the Fibre Forum in Ballarat where I did a 5 day Working in a Series class with her. You can read about that here. I caught up with her again at the Nancy Crow classes in New Zealand earlier this year.

This is a year of trying out new things and so I thought her Abstraction class would be ideal for me. I have learnt so much about the abstract artists of the 20th century; it has been a very time consuming but wonderful learning experience.

Every week we learn about a different style of art and then she gives us a challenge to complete and at the end of the week she critiques our work. There are only two weeks left of the class now.

I thought I'd show some of the work I have done.

In the second week we had to find a landscape photo and use it as inspiration. I picked a photo of trees.

Here is my abstract composition based on the photo.

Another week we had to work on non-objective art and think about variety, balance and repetition.

This is what I came up with.

A couple of weeks ago we had to copy an abstract expressionist artist to try and understand what they were doing. I have spent the entire course also trying to piece everything so I had to modify the design so it could be pieced in the allotted time I had.

I chose Gravitation by Kandinsky.

I thought it looked fairly simple until I started to try and piece it. I didn't like the brown background so I changed that as well.

I have really enjoyed the class and it's a shame that there are only two weeks to go. The work by the other participants has been fantastic, some are quilters and some are painters. I have learnt so much from Lisa's critiques of their work as well.

As you can see I haven't quilted anything and as they are only exercises I probably won't but I will never look at abstract art the same way again.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Art Quilters Challenge

The Waverley Art Quilters got together last month for our first meeting of the year. At our Christmas break-up dinner at the end of last year we were all handed a paper bag with our challenge for the holidays. It was a very uninspiring piece of fabric and some lace.

I looked at the fabric for weeks wondering what on earth I could do with it. I tried out a few ideas but nothing excited me.  Finally I decided to play it safe and made a needle case with it.

I put a piece of wool felt inside for the needles and pins.

The other members of the group were much more inspired than me and did a wonderful job with their challenges.

I don't think it is appropriate to put their work on my blog, however it can be seen on the Waverley Patchworkers Facebook page.

Don't forget that the Australian Textile Exhibition is on at the Cranbourne Gardens this week.
Bye for now,

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Australian Textile Exhibition 2017

The Australian Textile Exhibition is on again next week and if you live in Melbourne, Australia or happen to be in town, it will be worth the visit.

The exhibition will be held at the beautiful Cranbourne Australian Gardens, corner of Ballarto Road and Botanic Drive, Cranbourne.

The exhibition is organised by Leesa Chandler of Chandler's Cottage and it will be held from Tuesday 28th February until Sunday 5th March.

The gardens are open 10am to 4pm daily and admission is free.

There will be quilts, sewing demonstrations, a Chandler's Cottage pop up shop and the Great Australian Bag challenge.

I happen to have three crazy quilts in the exhibition.

Crazy about Australia

Naturally Crazy

Crazy about Spring

As well as the wonderful gardens to explore and the quilts and bags to enjoy, there is a lovely cafe.

Sounds like a great day out.

Bye for now,

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Fabric sorting

I have spent the last couple of weeks sorting out my sewing studio. Did you notice that I wrote sewing studio instead of sewing room? That is the term I am supposed to use apparently, actually I should use the term studio not sewing studio if I am to be taken seriously as an artist!

We will see how I go with that. I am sure if I say my studio to the family they will not know what I am talking about however my son in his 20's talks about his music studio all the time and nobody bats an eye.

Anyway, since coming home from the Nancy Crow classes I decided to change things around. It took ages and I got into a terrible mess.

I sorted out the fabric that I loved and wanted to keep. I packed up fabric that I loved but knew I wouldn't use again and gave it to the Waverley Patchworkers Gift quilts program.

I packed fabric that was not in the more modern style and colours but still liked into boxes and stored them out of my 'studio'. I know where they are if I want them again.

Then I got out all my plain and more modern fabrics and sorted through them.

I decided to try sorting them into values instead of colours, the way Nancy had suggested. I am not sure if I will keep them this way though. Time will tell.

I've got my lightest lights and lights separated into two drawers.

Then I have my light mediums, mediums and dark mediums.

You can see by the photo above that I am very short of light mediums and finally I have my dark and darkest dark.

Having the fabrics sorted this way makes it easy to see what I am short of but I still am undecided if this will work. If I had a green drawer for instance I could still sort them in values but they would all be values of green.

Here are my cupboards nice and organised with all drawers and plastic tubs labelled.

I didn't just sort through fabrics though, I also changed my room studio around so that I can press the seams without getting up from my machine.

So far it's working well, now I just have to get on with some sewing and find out if I am really going to like my new style and what sort of quilts I am going to make this year.

I have been buying more fabric though and I am finding it so exciting and refreshing to be bringing home some new colours.

Bye for now,

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Two weeks with Nancy Crow

I spent the first two weeks of 2017 in New Zealand doing master classes on design and composition with American teacher Nancy Crow. It was the most wonderful two weeks of sewing, taking in new information and concentration that it took me the next two weeks to recover.

Below is a photo of me with my Australian classmates and Nancy.

Julie, Me (Linda), Nancy Crow and Wendy

There were 18 students from New Zealand and Australia and we stayed on site at the beautiful Silverstream Retreat. It was a short walk to our classroom and the dining room where we had all our delicious meals. We were certainly well fed.

Classes with Nancy Crow were all that I had heard they would be and more. It is not often that you get a chance to study with such a passionate and dedicated teacher who teaches classical art concepts in quilt design.

The first week the class was called Improvisations- Let's Experiment part 2. Many people in the class had done Nancy's classes before but for us new students it was a huge learning curve.

The class was supposed to start at 9am but Nancy was always there at 8.30 putting notes up for us to copy into our books. Pages and pages of notes about what our focus should be and definitions of colour and design and assorted exercises we had to do. We had to write quickly as well because those notes would only stay up for a half an hour.

After writing down the notes we had to start designing and only had one day to design and sew our first composition.
We all had our own work station of two tables and a large cutting mat and iron and ironing board and two large design boards. Here is a photo of me at my design board on the second week.

Me at my design board
My work station

We had to cut out various size strips and shapes out of black fabric and then start pinning them up to make a composition of about 20" x 20". We had to freehand cut with no rulers and no sketches on paper either.

My first composition
After you had quickly pinned up your black fabric design onto the white design board you had to start cutting out white pieces to fit in the spaces and sew it together by the end of the day.
What a way to start the two weeks, it was such a daunting way to design and sew. I somehow got it done. This first design was supposed to be the basis of our work for the rest of the week.

The next day after writing up more notes, we had to do a design at least 4 times the size but in black and white. We had to make a pattern in black fabric first and then sew it together using black, white and grey and we had a day and a half to make it.

My design pinned to the design board.
I somehow got it done by putting my head down and getting on with it.

Here is my grey-scale composition sewn together, I don't particularly like it but the idea was that you didn't have time to think much, you had to work quickly so the design started coming from inside of you. Nancy says that you have to make a lot of duds before the good stuff starts coming out. Even so she thought my composition was strong.

Week 1 grey-scale
Then we had two days to make the design again in colour. That is where I had a problem. We had to use only black, white and only 5 values of colour. We had to sort our fabrics in light, light medium, medium, medium dark and dark. I took over a hundred yards of fabric and so many of my colours had to go back into the suitcase. We used our phone cameras on black and white to see the values and if your fabric did not sit exactly into those values it couldn't be used.

Even Nancy agreed that I didn't have much left to work with. I didn't have any colours that were in each value group. So I might have had only a medium and light green and no other values etc. It made it very difficult and I had to really work hard to make it work! It was so hard but I learnt so much about colour and value.

Colour study pinned to design wall.
The photo above is where I left it at 1.30 in the morning after going through so much trouble trying to get it where I was happy.

After not much sleep I got up the next morning and sewed it together and managed to have it done in time for the critique session on Friday afternoon.

Me with final colour study week 1
At the end of each week you had to pin up all your work and Nancy would critique it. She was always brutally honest and we learnt so much from the experience.

Week 2 was called Lines, Shapes and Figure Ground Composition part 2. We thought week one was hard but week 2 was even harder. In this class we really concentrated on value and colour.

We were given design exercises with the idea of getting ideas and finding your voice. We were supposed to complete 9 configurations with various criteria. The first one was to make a design that had a linear curve and two lines but no figures could touch each other and one figure must touch the edge.

That was the easy one; number 7 was to make a composition that had 6 lines, 3 narrow curves, 4 shapes and 3 curvilinear lines. I am not sure now if it was this design below or if this was another one. Anyway, they got really complicated and we only had a day and a half to complete them. I think I got six done before she made us go onto the next thing.

For the last exercise we had to make a composition in black and white and make it again in white and black and use flat blacks and white and glowing black and whites and then start with colour.

We made it once and then had to repeat it in the opposite values. That means if it was a dark in the first composition it had to be a light value in the next one. We had to make 6 in all and it was exhausting work but once again we learnt so much about colour.

Finally on the last Friday we had to take it in turns to set up our work for the two weeks and be critiqued. I was so tired I could hardly stand but I was still sad that it was over.

When Nancy was not advising or answering questions she was watching and analysing us as well. I actually like a person to tell you straight out what she thinks. Too many people say that things are good or OK when they really think the opposite. Nancy has strong opinions but she can back them up with years of training, teaching and experience.

Me with my two weeks work

So what did Nancy think of me? She said that I didn't complain and had a strong work ethic. She thought my compositions were strong but the widths of my lines were too similar and I have to work hard at making them different widths. She also said that my colours were too greyed and depressing and she wants me to work with clear colours. She wants me to stop doing all the work that I have done in the past and spend a year working on abstract, contemporary design to find my voice.

So that is what I am going to do, it's only a year out of my life and I was wanting a change anyway. I wonder how many duds I will make before a good one comes out?

Nancy Crow is thinking about coming back to teach in two years time and if she does I will book in again for sure. Next time I will be more prepared and hopefully will have better choice of fabric to work with.

Bye for now,