Posts Tagged ‘keeping a record’

Taking Notes

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

I just watched an interview on BBC World with American writer Donna Tartt whose work I don’t know but must read soon.  All three novels including her just released “The Goldfinch” are available on kindle and audio.  Recorded books are a great help to me, as I can ‘read’ while doing other no-brain-required stuff like walking the dog or quilting.  Interestingly Tartt was talking about the pre-writing stage of a book, which termed evanescent and exciting as she gathers up ideas, and consults the vast quantity of ‘notes and bobs’ she constantly puts into a note book.  She always has a notebook with her  to jot down ideas and observations as she experiences them.  In this planning/designing phase of a book she can write absolutely anywhere including a friend’s couch, in the bath, in a public library, and on the bus.  The interviewer countered that many writers would balk at writing in a public library as being too, well, public. Tartt responded that to her its wonderful, as whenever you need a character there’s a passing parade of potential to choose from to flesh out a story. 

The next phase, which can last a long time is the hard work of writing the story, for which she didn’t use my term ‘hackwork’, but mentioned the hard work to be got through once her planning or designing has been done.  In this phase I usually put on the headphones and listen to a recorded book or favourite.  My hands are busy but my mind can be elsewhere.  She talked removing an 80-page passage of writing from her recent book in this phase. The reviewer was aghast at the thought of removing 80 pages from a draft, as after all, that’s a high percentage of an average modern novel !  To Tartt a particular piece of writing had to be done, if only to then show her where she should really be heading with the work; and if it meant ditching a chunk to improve it, then so be it.  I don’t often ditch large sections of quilts I’m working on, but have, and for that same reason.  And occasionally a problematic work might take a spell in a cupboard, and emerging appear fresh, and redeemable.  Writing a novel is not the same as planning a textile work, but there are definite strong similarities.  I know people who’ve cut up sections of a larger work and presented them as small works, and I have one or two that I’m tempted to ‘reshape’ this way, being OK because its still the artist’s hand (and eye) at work.

Tartt writes her notes on paper.  I’ve blogged in a long post  here about my own use of a visual diary. In addition I use the notepad on my iTouch or phone for little lists, odd thoughts, snippets or ‘bobs’.  And as I always have some camera or other with me – pocket-size digital, phone or iTouch –  I can take a pic, each of which is worth a thousand words, they say.  I just ‘read’/listened to a marvelous book “The Mobile Wave’ by Michael Saylor which I need to listen to again, as I now understand the potential of smart phones much more and need to maximize the use of the one I just acquired.  I finally decided to abandon the pre-paid one that works only in Uruguay, because too many functions weren’t working well on it (um, I did drop it a few times )  And yes, I have got one of those impact absorbing cover thingies for the new one, JIC   ;-p 

 

From Visual Diary To Material Form

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Commenting today on the SAQA list on an issue we’ve been covering there, Laura Wasilowski’s comments reminded me I hadn’t dropped in on her blog in a while, and while I was diverted I found a thought provoking recent post on why an artist should have a sketchbook with her at all times.  Laura’s work is characterized by lots of lovely simple repeated shapes with crisp clean lines, and always in her signature wide-ranging colour palette of modern clear bright colours.  The few open pages of the sketchbook she photographed to illustrate her post show the firm decisive hand that graphically captures her favoured organic shapes and patterns.    Laura is a busy teacher across the USA, and commented that when she travels from home these days she regrets having to leave so much of her materials for creativity at home – we can no longer pack the kitchen sink to take with us on a plane!  However, creativity never really rests for an artist – despite what we might seem to be doing at any time, there’s always something going on up top, even if we are away from our own tools of trade.    Laura finds travel provides valuable time for sketching ideas in her book which she always has with her.

It set me thinking about my own process.  I thought I’d write a little about it, since I am always interested in what other artists do to get their ideas from brain to paper or fabric.  Lots of my ideas get to some note form on paper, a list, a sketch, an important word perhaps, and the majority of these jottings wait in limbo there for days, weeks,  months, years even, before taking on some form in fabric and thread.  As examples, take this collage of several pages from a blank page notebook I’ve been using on and off since my son gave it to me c. 1992    I  still use it sometimes – pencil diagrams are augmented with words, lists, quotations or a phrase of an idea, also in pencil – I keep my eraser handy but ideas no matter how inconsequential they seem at the time once jotted down tend to stay – its only diagrams that might be amended.

Collaged sketch book pages

All from typical pages, each group sums up the ideas in my head at the time. In the UL image, for example are diagrams exploring my ideas, and words suggesting approaches or possibilities which shortly after I put them on paper became the working diagram for ‘Ora Banda’ (1992)  my first quilt in Quilt National, 1993.  These diagrams are really as far as I ever go in making a’pattern’.  At that time I was using the ruler to cut shapes and precise 1/2″ strip inserts.  Some time I will explore the development of the curved wandering strips that appearted in much of my work 1993- 2002, when my strips became freehand, too.

Ora Banda

The LL photo was one called “Waterweave” which I think I only have on a slide back in Australia (note to self – get it scanned next time you’re there)   See the K1P1 annotation?  I don’t really need reminding of the image that set this one off, but in a very large ad across the bottom of the newspaper page there was a line drawing of one of our famous Antarctic explorers, Douglas Mawson I think, pictured wearing a really thick sweater with folded over ribbed collar/neck,  fisherman style – Knit 1, Pearl 1 ….  have I ever mentioned that to me a line means a potential seam?  These days that process also happens in digital form on my computer screen.  I don’t currently doodle with a Wacom tablet or anything – but I do manipulate photos I take, for even a ‘bad’ photo can be useful as an aide memoire – and I do a lot of deleting, too, once I have thought about what a pic actually says when I see it on screen.  Many saved ideas wait at that point, page or screen,  for some time, perhaps years,  before taking some form in fabric and thread.

Last year I blogged about a group of quilts based on the patterns of sand ripples.  It was for an exhibition for which entry was by proposal – my proposal included a couple of collages to show how the surface textures translated to image in  previous works:

Earth textures - golden textures submision, blog

I was proposing designs based on sand ripples – so here I collaged some of my photos

SAND-001

and then that collage was manipulated with an editing program to give the appearance of being pencil sketches:

sand-web pencil sketch

My point is that my visual diary, my sketch book in effect,  is in two parts – or perhaps it’s in transition from paper to digital form.  It really doesn’t matter – because as I wrote in a blog post last year  “Writing about photos I’ve taken….. helps ideas crystallise in my mind as well as provide a record, and so blogging regularly is probably the closest I’ll ever come to journalling.  Some artists put almost as much time into journalling as they do into their art and living itself.”    You can read that post in full  here .

 

 

 

 

 

Batting Studies

Monday, December 5th, 2011

All quilters and many mixed media artists know battings come in a variety of composition (the fibres they’re made from) and loft (meaning how well they push against the surface fabric to raise the relief of the quilting design) and in the case of quilts for beds, warmth and washability can be factors in choosing an appropriate batting.   I’m no batting expert, but regular readers know I am very keen on samplising to see how different materials and techniques work out.   I have my favourites, but I’m not pushing any brands here- availability is highly variable according to which country or state you are in, and what your local quilt shop carries (that is if you have one.)  I buy good batting when I am in Aus or the US,  and which of my favs I buy depends on what’s in the shop nearest my Aus home or my daughter’s CO home at the time.  🙂

|I quilt by hand and machine, very often together in the same piece – countlessw examples in the  galleries on this website, even in the first gallery of pre-1988 mixed media works – ie, before I began learning about making quilts.  I teach a 2-day workshop on innovative quilting,  Quilting With an Attitude   The focus is to encourage the quilter to consider more than just the basic machined stipple patterns or the basic hand quilted running stitch; so early in the workshop students do a variety of samplemaking using both hand and machine stitches on the same sample sandwiches they bring pre-made from home,(ie their own fav battings) through which they then see how the same fibre performs in both hand and machine quilting.  So the excellent comparative study by Linda Steele of Australia and posted a few days ago 1/12 on  http://lindasteelequilts.blogspot.com/2011/12/batting-test.html  I found interesting as far as it goes.  Linda apparently does not do hand quilting,. despite her interest in surface stitch, but does do wonderful machine quilting, and it is worth taking a look at her award winning quilts on her website.  Her remarks about each batt she used are comprehensive, but I found myself wishing the same battings had been used for hand quilted samples, too, as it is by hand samples that even more differences in the hand can be detected.  (eg. loft, thread drag and bearding)

Back in my early novice days as a quiltmaker, I took several workshops, joined a great local guild (Arapahoe Couny Quilters, Denver, then  new and very progressive) and a local bee.  I loved it all, and could have remained a maker of traditional quilts, but various people I met through embroidery and quilting connections, plus my own creative embroidery background, caused me to head out into making my own original designs.  While I was still learning that batting isn’t just batting, the ACQ gave out to members 9″ squares of the 10-12 different kinds of batting available in our area including some that were nationally popular at the time.  Back in 1988, no one did machine quilting (although Harriet Hargreaves was probably already doing so,  preparing her first book and workshops on the subject) and the needlepunched cotton and wool batts, so favoured today, were not on the market.  So it was all hand quilting; the batts were cotton, polyester or cotton-poly blends of various lofts; and a fellow embroiderer gave a piece of silk batting ( felt nice but ultra l-o-w loft)  to include in my study.   Each batting piece went between light coloured fabrics on front and cream behind, and I hand quilted the same motif on each.  Each was bound and a grommet  put in a corner; I then put them all on a binder ring to keep together.  On the cream back of each I wrote the brand, composition, and any remarks on handling or results.  The differences were really interesting, as Linda pointed out; and really, now, to balance up that study I should/could hook those samples out of my Australian cupboard and  machine quilt something on each of them.  If I remember next time I go back I’ll retrieve them and at least look at them.  Some products have probably totally disappeared – certainly newer ones have emerged – eg. the much vaunted bamboo batting, which got a thumbs down from Linda – I believe that contrary to popular belief it is less ‘green’ than pure cotton batting, so who knows why it is to popular today – I haven’t come across it and am not likely to either, in Uruguay!  Well, how wrong I was there! a few days ago, April 10, much to my surprise, I found them while looking in a suitcase for something else:

Can’t imagine what happend to make one look very shrivelled, though …

 

 

Planning -My Way

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Quilters talk a lot about how they plan – and planning comes in different styles and levels of intensity, if that’s a phrase I can use here.  Many now use computer programs that manipulate photos,  draw lines and shapes, insert colour or fabrics,  putting together images to produce prints on fabric via home printers or printers in the university departments where they study/work  then do more processes (print, paint, machine and hand stitch, applique, cutting  holes, whatever) on top of that.  Others draw up large cartoons, cut each piece out and use these as patterns for areas in the piece they’re working on – an ancient, low tech, but tried and true way of developing a design.   Some keep photos, drawings, writings  and quotations all organised together in a visial diary, and I’ve seen some incredible albums that are themselves works of art.    And plenty of others keep little bits of paper floating around, backs of envelopes, paper serviettes, or tiny notebooks that tuck into their purses alongside the little digital camera.    This is more me – I always have at least a pencil and a scrap of paper if not an actual note book or camera with me.  Photos I download regularly, but the bits of paper… well, sometimes they turn up months later in a pocket or handbag I haven’t used in a while. 

Many years ago after recognising this weak link in the ideas chain, my son gave me for christmas or my birthday – they’re the same week – a fabric covered blank paged book about A4 size, urging me to keep my design ideas in it.  I have fairly consistently done so and now  it’s about 2/3 used, always in pencil so I can erase if necessary, which I don’t often do, as I think ideas should stand even if they aren’t quite ‘right’ in their form.  Occasionally I look back, finding the original ideas that led to particular quilts that sometimes I didn’t visualise as such at the time; so for example for each time I have been in Quilt National I can find the germs of those ideas there though the quilt doesn’t look like the original pencil ‘sketch’.   There are ideas I didn’t use at the time I noted them, but what I have diagrammed and written is enough to build on later.   Sometimes I go back and write a note on a page/diagram like “this led to Mission Beach , april 1995”   

Anyway, I thought I’d share something of the early design process as I know it, with these  two unrelated pages being fairly typical:

Hmm - it's been a while - this page goes back over 4 years.... and perhaps I didn't make quite enough notation to help me remember what the heck I was thinking about when I made these jottings! However, I did do them and one small piece did come from part of this page, and I think there are interesting ideas whether they bring back what was originally on my mind, or not! They're sort of short hand I understand. Diagrams and lists.

This work doesn't actually exist, but the notes are part of the shorthand about a lot of my recent work. My textile art is often designed on a grid base - that structure common to tradtional and non-traditional quiltanking, the zone if you like that I like to explore. My materieals are often anything but traditional - for example the Tracks series.

In another post some time I’ll relate a couple of diagrams to actual works, such as “Ora Banda” and “Mission Beach”  I’ll posssibly even show you the one wonderful drawing that I just cannot work out how on earth to put together!  I’m pretty good with piecing, even if I do say so myself – a line in my design book  is a seam waiting to happen – but this one has defeated me.  Stay tuned.

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