What’s wrong with this picture?

Image Source:
carolinefrechette.com

Do you ever look at a quilt you might put away that just doesn’t look finished? A quilt that didn’t make it into a show?  Maybe it’s a quilt that is sitting in your studio right now and you don’t know what to do next?

Yesterday I attended a SAQA pod meeting. It’s a group of art quilters from Southern Nevada and Utah who meet on alternate months. As a group we decided to focus on critique. Each meeting several members bring work in progress. 

We divide the hour into equal portions and allow members to provide feedback to a question the artist asks the group.Questions could be open ended; “Is this quilt finished?” or  specific “How should I quilt these shapes?” We end the feedback with the artist stating some take away ideas. A comment(s) that they can use to improve their work.

As a facilitator of this group I encourage members to follow a formal process I used when I was teaching and while getting my masters in art. This method has become second nature to me. I find it invaluable. 

Principles of Design

The first step in the process is to take a minute in silence to look carefully. This might mean getting up close or standing back. Next the observer wants to look for the elements of design used in the composition.  When giving feedback you can reference these elements. “The red organic shape in the upper left corner...”

Next you want to ask yourself how these elements are organized using the principles of design as your organizing idea.”The red organic shape in the corner is the focal point.” Understanding and using the design vocabulary is important to providing feedback that can be used by the artist to improve a composition or to correct a design flaw. 

The last to steps are interpretation and judgment. In my master's program interpretation often identified the work by genre or subject and with a reference to another artist or art movement." The red and grey organic shapes look like a dry riverbed. It reminds me of the carefully arranged stones in a zen garden."

Judgement is the point where the observer gives constructive and  specific suggestions or a clearly articulated summary. “The red shape creates a strong point of emphasis. I would add 3 - 5 smaller and less intense red shapes to create movement through the composition.”


In the future I will be posting some examples of this process on my YouTube channel and will have a workshop outline on my website.


Until next time.....
Margaret

My YouTube Channel

July Post Channel

 

 

Teaching gives the gift of deeper understanding of a subject to the teacher.

As a person who spent her career in the classroom, I had been hesitant to start on that path again. People often ask me “Do you teach?” My reply has been that I am focused on my own work in my studio.

Recently I got the itch to share my knowledge. 

As an art teacher there is a hard rule: Don’t ever present a project to a class without having made that project. I often made numerous sample projects over summer breaks or after school until I could make them in a fraction of the time I would  allot to my students.

I knew I had a project locked down when I could write down the lesson with a description of the supplies, setup and steps in less than 15 minutes. It was ingrained in my brain. Another sign of readiness was being able to easily modify the project for different ages, time constraints, limitations in space or supplies came easily. 

Now that I am retired, I have enjoyed leading a friendship group at my local quilt guild. In that group I shared some basic principles of art, some techniques and little art history. This has been a real joy.  One of the members of this group asked me to share some information about how I printed photographs onto cloth.

She is only of many people who see one of my quilts and ask “How do you do that?” Now I have an answer to that question: Check out my YouTube channel. 

YouTube is an amazing platform helps meet the needs of a variety of learners. Because a presentation is easily shared and can be viewed multiple times it’s a tool that anyone can use as a reference. It is also arranged in format that is good for the brain.


Research says our brains like to take a break after 20 minutes of instruction. Good teachers understand that pace and incorporate something different before piling on more information. Ask the class to get up even for a minute, write down a note, share your understanding with partner, etc...


When I was teaching middle school I always limited my instruction to the first 10 minutes of class. So when I created this presentation on how to get a photo from a phone printed on cloth I aimed for 10 minutes of instruction. 

The video is now up on YouTube and I plan to create several more. It has been fun to figure out this process. I hope in the future that I will see more art quilters using photographs. 

Until next time.......

Apply and Adapt

In my May post I described the wonderful week I had at the "Empty Spools Retreat". In this post,  I am going to share with you how I applied what I learned and adapted that leaning to my own work.

Sometimes people  are so impressed with a teacher or a quilt; they too fully embrace everything they learned in the workshop and make  a “duplicate” or at least a quilt that can easily identified with a specific artist. 

Although this often a necessary step on the road to creating your own unique style, it is best to apply what you learned and adapt that learning to fit your needs.


The class was given by Valerie Goodwin. One of the reasons I was drawn to the class was that her desired learning outcome for participants open ended.  

She described a process of using design thinking.


 

Map of a road through pebble beach. This was my final project which has an ocean waves, a road and homes under construction
Map of a road through pebble beach. This was my final project which has an ocean waves, a road and homes under construction

"An art quilter’s most valuable asset is his or her creativity — and it needs to be reinforced through an understanding of design thinking. In this workshop you’ll find creative thinking exercises. Beginning with an exercise related to the seven principles of design --work instinctively with color – explore creativity through experimentation."          course description

The products created in the workshop would  combine several techniques. The product was related to maps, but it was clear that the opportunity for creating your own spin on the idea was supported:

You will create paper map-like collage compositions through a series of quick "hands-on" exercises and subsequently make fabric constructions. The goal of this class is to allow you to create little spontaneous works that can become the basis for a final small quilted art map. You will develop these pieces using freehand scissor cutting, layering of varied fabrics, and other techniques to create an interesting work of art.

We started with simple paper compositions that would be an example of the each element and principle of design. Next we created postcard size compositions.These sketches required participants to build a composition on a woven substrate using a technique not unlike quilt as you go. Next we painted some areas, fused organza and finished with both hand and machine stitching. The compositions were loosely based on a map.

Post card sized maps.

In the final project we had a larger substrate. My final composition ended up being 22 x 16. We used the same process but that process to our own “maps”. Most participants created projects in the style of their instructor. Mine was a more abstract composition.

Valerie supported my decision to cut holes through the layers and to create three distinct zones which stretched the length of the composition. I think it came out pretty well.

More importantly when I approached my next quilt, I had an increased awareness of the power of design thinking.

“Sky Lanterns” is the result of apply and adapt. I used fused organza on the lanterns which lets some of the background color show through. When I created the image I focused on design concepts like movement, contrast and balance. I have no interest in creating maps but I do have a passion for creating art.


 

Until next time.....
Margaret

Invest in your Art: Empty Spools Retreat

I spent last week at “Empty Spools”, a quilt retreat located in Asilomar. Asilomar is a California State Park located just north of Pebble Beach. It is stunningly beautiful. The retreat lasts for five weeks and offers workshops in traditional and art quilting.

Participants often return year after year with friends who make this more than learning experience; it becomes a tradition. I went with a seasoned participant who knew the routine and helped me find my way around the various buildings on the property . We have already decided to take the leap again next year.

Logo

Taking the time and investing the money to go to a retreat like Empty Spools has helped me to sustain my creative process. The class I selected was Map Play. As you may know, I focus on creating portraits and have dipped my toe into landscape. You might wonder why I took a class that focused on something outside my area of interest. There are two reasons I chose this class: the instructor and to learn a process I can apply to my own work.

The instructor was Valerie Goodwin. Valerie is a Professor of architecture teaching in Florida. According to the description of the class, the focus would be on understanding and using design concepts. She presents the class with a visual problem to solve. This kind of instruction allows students to experience a process of visual decision making that can be applied in their own studio.

Valerie described how a map is abstraction of a place that provides the reader with information. She showed examples of maps that show undeveloped plots of land in a urban setting, a map of a power grid, a map of burial ground discovered when a building was being excavated and many more. Each map tells it’s own story.

In my simple map quilt, I created a highly abstract map of drive through the Pebble Beach Community. The composition had three zones which stretched the length of the surface. I focused on my memory of the drive and isolated what I saw; homes, the road, fences and  the coast.

The visual problem was to make a map that included two opposing concepts: expansive/enclosed, order/chaos .......

The road would divide my opposing concepts. On one side of the road was the ocean. The other side were buildings in stages of construction. The view was from above. What struck me during the process of making the composition was how easily it flowed.

  • Using systematic thinking helped. First Decision: What place was I going to map? Next Decision: What information did I want to provide? Big Idea: What were the opposing concepts found within this map?

During the work period I thought about how we could only see the coastal waves when there was hole in a construction fence because the established properties where enclosed by walls and barriers. This struck me as being important. It was a metaphor about the wealthy being able to control their lives in a way that is impossible for most people.

I took a risk and cut some holes in the surface. Valerie was very interested in this idea and suggested I add a few more holes to balance the composition. I was pleased with the result and was happy to have a skilled teacher guide me in making design choices.


In the my June blog I will share with you the techniques I learned in this workshop and how applied them to my own work.

Until next time....
Margaret

 

A Professional Tribe

At a recent quilt guild show, a fellow quilt artist mentioned they did not join SAQA because there were "no meetings." Her expectations centered around a perception of SAQA as organization just like her local quilt guild would be if it was only made up of art quilters.


This conversation made me think more deeply about the value of the tribes that I choose to belong to and why a professional tribe is important. 


 

Photo from Life Magazine
1950 Quilt Guild.

We all belong to tribes. As humans we formed tribes to share work and increase security. Tribes are defined as a social construct that bonds people by something shared. A tribe could share family ties,an area of expertise or a common interest. Successful tribes provide their members something of value.

After I retired and moved to a new community I checked out organizations that I thought would be interesting. After a few misses, I discovered that my local traditional quilt guild was a wonderful tribe that helped me expand my skills and has given me the opportunity to make social connections.

My critique group is a small tribe of trusted friends who provide me with valuable feedback. Recently I helped lead an art quilt friendship group which allows me to share what I know and to learn from quilters who come from a traditional quilt background. This medium size tribe gives me the opportunity to connect with other quilters who think outside of the box.

In each of these groups I belong primarily because I found value in social interaction among people who share my passion for quilting.


A professional organization is a large tribe that  provides value to its’ members by promoting the an area of expertise or a discipline. Members of professional organizations get access to the latest information in their field. Most professional organizations have a conference where members outside a local community can network  and keep update with current trends. 

The primary role of a professional organization is not social.

SAQA is my professional tribe. It is large organization in which members gather in local and regional groups, online and at conferences. Like other professional organizations SAQA’s value to me is not social. It provides me with status as an art quilter and allows me to grow as a professional.

SAQA as an organization promotes the discipline of art quilting. It has a global network of artists who have the opportunity to be included in exhibitions traveling around the globe. Professional publications including a journal, exhibition catalogues and books document the growth of art quilts from craft to museum quality artwork.

As a member I can use SAQA resources to pitch a show to gallery or museum. I can network with local SAQA members to share strategies for promoting our work and creating opportunities for regional exhibitions. I have also participated in webinars, special interest groups and discussions where participants from all over the globe connect via teleconference.


My advice is belong to a tribe which supports your goal.  If your goal is to be an art quilter, don’t be afraid to make a leap into a professional tribe like SAQA. There is real value in going beyond your own local community.

Until next time....

SAQA  is the Studio Art Quilt Associates.