Posts Tagged ‘strip patterns’

The Bungle Bungles of Australia’s Kimberley

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Known as “Purnululu” to the indigenous people of the region, and later known by Europeans as  “The Bungle Bungles”, these ancient landforms are located in a remote region of Australia’s north west known as The Kimberley.    It’s hard to get to, distances are long and rugged travelling, and though very expensive, flying over it is a very popular way for some to experience it.  I haven’t been there yet though I have travelled over a lot of the Kimberley region, including all the towns mentioned on this location map.

The Kimberley map

The Bungle Bungles have long been depicted in Aboriginal art from the area, and the formation has become a familiar motif in collectable art  in formats ranging  from paintings to Tshirts, graphic logos and 3d sculptures.

I’ve been inspired myself.   Back in 1993 I finished a quilt called Nightfall In The Bungle Bungles  155cm x 148cm part of which is shown here on the left. When finishing off this quilt, I went to a workshop by Nancy Crow at which I learned the basics of improvisational piecing which changed the whole way I piece fabric.  If I’d left making  NITBB until a month later, it would not have looked like a row of Egyptian pyramids 😉

BBungles Kimberley 2 collage blog The idea stayed with me and in 2002 I had another go, and the result, above right, was Kimberley 2, 70cm x 110cm.  

 

Wherever you go in this area it is impossible not be be impressed with distance, remoteness and dramatic scenery including waterfalls gracefully falling over over towering cliffs into the clear refreshing pools at their base.  Such cliffs inspired Kimberley 2, 1996,  110cm h x  70cm w, an irregular shaped peice photographed against a black background.

kimblerley

 

This morning I came across a call for entries for a textile art competition to be called ‘Kimberley Dreaming’ to be shown in Australia later in the year.  The required format is 30cm x 30cm.  I have some ideas gelling and enough time to put one or two into effect before the closing deadline – so I’m off to dig through my scrap bag for suitable fabrics to begin putting something together.

 

 

 

Love Affair With a Special Fabric

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

A very special fabric and I were first introduced in 1990, and I’m still in love with it.  Its a cotton,  printed black with irregular tan coin spots, designed by and American designer, Jennifer Sampou for P&B Textiles in the early ’90’s.

 

I was living in the US when it was released, loved it at first sight and bought some on the spot realising it was the perfect border and sashing for this quilt, below, I was making at the time. “Through The Windows of My Mind” 1990, 256cm sq. became one of the earliest  Colour Memories quilts, inspired by the vegetation colours and landscape features of the remote tent camps we lived in for a couple of field seasons in the Northern Territory. This time, 1975-6, I now refer to as our Tent Period, and to me this quilt says it all.

Through The Windows of My Mind blog cropped-1

Several years later, I saw this fabric remaindered somewhere in the USA at $3/yd, so naturally I bought the remaining half bolt.  Although this fabric design was released in several colourways, the tan/black certainly is evocative of Australia’s sunburnt landscape and our national sense of colour; plus clearly in the minds of some it also referenced the dot paintings of some of our indigenous artists.  As Jennifer and her range were clearly American I am sure this is happy coincidence, and I think the black/tan colourway was actually too hard for American quiltmakers to use with their totally different ‘national colour palette’ – no wonder it was remaindered, imho.  Having about 9m of this fabric now, I began work on this 2m sq work, “Desert Wind” 1995, and I wish I had $1 for every time someone said something like “Oooh, so you do Aboriginal quilts, too !!”

Desert Wind copy blog

I understand the comment of course, but it’s never been said about this next one though, which to my mind might be more deserving.  Its title “Kimberley 2” 2002  90cm x 110cm refers to the Bungle Bungles rock formation located in the Purnululu National Park  up in the Kimberley region of Australia.

 

Kimberley 2 blog

 

I also used it as a background fabric to the blocks in this next quilt, “New Directions” 2002  96cm x 84cm    in which the lines and arrows represent people coming to our ancient continent from all directions over its entire  human history: the black/tan of course here signifies the original immigrants, our indigenous people who crossed the land bridges from Asia  perhaps at least 60,000 years ago.

New Directions blog


I still have about a metre of the fabric and eke it out,  and there are plenty of small bits in my scrap bag so pretty well every Ebb&Flow quilt has a little in it somewhere.  Some of it went into a bed quilt for our daughter a few years back, and there’s some on our bed, too.  I kick myself when I think of the 4 metres I used on the (never seen) back of “Desert Wind” .   I guess I naively assumed at the time that such a marvellous fabric would always be available … well of course, I now know that’s not true !   But what is true is that every now and then a fantastic fabric will come into my orbit;  I will instantly emotionally bond with it and recognising it as special, will buy as much as I can, at least 3 metres if possible.  I always make sure I have a credit card or some cash on me when I’m out and about in likely places.  Most important of all, I know I will use it because I love it.

 

Fine Strips In Pieced Quilt Designs

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Kathy Loomis’ blog today referred a reader to her 2010 tutorial on piecing very narrow lines into a background fabric, which for some time have been a feature of her work.  She’s not the only one who pieces narrow at times – Lisa Call , Margery Goodall and Alicia Merrett  are among other well known quilt artists who produce great effects with very narrow lines pieced in.   I know Margery well but have never watched her doing her machine piecing;  Kathy described her process in that post; and I have no accurate knowledge of the steps Lisa and Alicia use or in which order, but I would say that they all do the cutting and piecing in different order, and perhaps even with different equipment, as none of their works look like the other – and nor do they look like mine, either!

When I first started to insert strips years ago, I worked out how to get them VERY even, parallel, usually about 1/2″ showing on front, but worked down to narrower strips after a time, as in “Strip Lighting”  1990 – the strips range from  1″, 3/4″ , 1/2″to 1/4″

Strip Lighting

 

Ora Banda 1992 (below L) and Window Onto Bougainville Street 1992 (below R)  are early examples, and you can find full views of these two in my  Colour Memories gallery on this website.  With straight cuts into the background fabric, strips cut exactly parallel, and carefully followed seam allowances, the result is predictable, and was pleasing at the time.

Bougainville St and Ora Banda collage blog

I eventually worked out how to avoid the dreaded bias cuts AND achieve a fair bit of curve using straight cuts from selvedge to selvedge, and it doesn’t even matter if the lines are a little uneven !!    Why? Because, as long as there’s enough seam allowance,  the main secret is that for the second seam I turn the work over and sew that line from the other side, that is, with the strip lying on the sewing table, beneath the background fabric.   

In 1991 I discovered that even straight strips will curve very nicely with proper handling, a learning process that began while making  ‘Lilydale’.  I was in hurry to meet a self imposed deadline, and had trouble with some cuts that came out unexpectedly a bit off, but some of those fabrics were fat 1/4’s of which there wasn’t any more to piece in – so with necessity being the mother of invention, I learned how to manage slightly curved inserts! 

Lilydale

Eventually I  incorporated more pronounced curves with strips, with a good example being Bushfire 4 (2004)  but there are  many more in the Colour Memories gallery. The strips in each are all cut selvedge to selvedge, really, there are no bias strips; and my piecing is as good and flat as anyone’s, anywhere.  These strips were cut about 3/4″ and appear on the front as something less than 1/2″.

Bushfire 4 adjusted blog copy

To make straight strips combine with curves, though, needs a workshop with hands on demo, and plenty of practice –  is is a little more complicated, but it’s not hard.     It took me a while to work out how far I could push the degree of curviness, but ask me to teach in your area and I’ll come and show you what I learned!

………………………………….

2003 marked a new phase of inserts – with an organic look, often very skinny, too; but its still the same that once you get to sew – the sew-the-second-seam-from- the-back-thing still applies. This is ‘Lightstream’

Lightstream copy blog

and it led to the group of quilts I now label the Ebb & Flow quilts – gallery on  this website with plenty of examples.

 

Experimenting and Learning Through Projects And Collaborations

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

On the Quiltart list this morning a member described a group project which in truth is better termed a collaboration.  Whatever you call it though – this project required identification of common goals and comittment to achieving them through a group-made art quilt.  What was missing from the post is any analysis of  how the idea came up, how the group came to decide to carry it out, and why – what the expectations of the group were to start with.  Clearly some dropped out because of technical challenges faced, and others didn’t drop out because of  loyalties they felt to the group.  Deeper examination before hand, though, might have meant the project didn’t happen at all and at least some of the group may not have learned what they did in the process.

Some of the real problems such projects can present are described in April’s words:  “We all learned quite a bit along the way as this piece was way outside the comfort zone of all of us. I think that the piece will be quite amazing when it is completed, but it has been quite a struggle seeing it to fruition. Some people dropped out as soon as things became difficult and challenging; and others stuck with it even though they had no real interest in the project, but they were reluctant to abandon the group. It has been an interesting example of group dynamics to say the least. But it doesn’t really matter, as we are all still close friends.”   You can visit the   April Sproule  post  to find out more about their project, and see pics of how it developed technically.   

In my early art quilt making days I belonged to a small SE Denver group we called “Quilt Explorations”, which we formed to explore non-traditional quiltmaking, and we focused on design in particular.  We often set ‘themes’ for monthly individual exploration, and participation was optional, so the results were truly individual, and varied depending on each person’s interest and drive, time available, etc. The most successful theme, where everyone was enthused to produce something, was based on the b/w picture of the front end of a gorgeous vintage car given to each of us by the member who suggested the exercise..  We each took some element from that photo on which to at least design a small quilt, even if  time was too short  to actually make it.  Everyone came back a month later with at least the design, most had started and some had completed a small quilt.  After 2 months we had a collection of  about 10 finished quilts.  At the next group exhibition these were all hung together to show the diversity of results  when people work from exactly the same initial image.  I don’t still have that photo, but found this image of the kind of pic we all received:vintage car - strip lighting 2 blog

 

In about 1991-2 I was in love with inserted straight strips, having not yet heard of life-transforming freehand or improvisational piecing which prompted the technical experiments to achieve the curvy inset strips characteristic of my 1992+ Colour Memories quilts.  With strips on my mind ,the headlights of the car caught my attention.  I produced this small wall quilt about  50cm sq.  I called ‘Strip Lighting’

 

Strip Lighting

 

We never did a group collaboration – I doubt anyone would have suggested it as were were all clearly set along our own paths when the group came together,  and such a project would have felt a diversion of dubious value from our individual goals. I have never been drawn to a collaborative project to produce a work / works of art, and maybe will explore this in a later post…. and perhaps I need to do some self examination on the matter first!

 

Similarities Inevitable At Times, UPDATED

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

A member of the QuiltArt list this morning referred to ‘Scott Murkin’s technique’,  and I thought  “Hmmm, I wonder what that is….”  (As I don’t get the popular quilt magazines and books these days, its easy to be out of touch with the very latest)  Anyway, it turned out to be freehand or improvisational piecing, anyway!     And when I went online to find out about Scott’s work I found this site,  http://www.scottmurkin.com , and there is a quilt

scott murkin

that looked to me very like an adaptation and re-arrangement of blocks from one of my own bushfire quilts .  They have a great deal in common, I’m sure you’ll agree, but I’m not suggesting that this is in anyway ‘copying’ something I did ages ago:

Bushfire 4 adjusted blog copy

Bushfire 4      1999

 I think it is inevitable that  quilt makers using the same techniques in similar colours, will sometimes produce similar looking works.  We can usually tell looking at someone’s work who they studied with, since, for a while after that workshop their new work reflects what they have learned, but in time their work reflects more of the artist and increasingly less of the teacher.  It’s why I myself no longer attend technique-driven workshops, but they are the bread and butter of the quilt making industry, of course.

“Scott Murkin’s” technique is what I and many others learned nearly 25 years ago from Nancy Crow – not that I ever called it ‘Nancy Crow’s technique’ because for her, technique has only ever been the means to her end – in the classroom it was to speed the process of exploring colour and design, and working through her long list of class exercises was only really possible via cutting and piecing freehand/improvisationally.
But actually, it wasn’t her technique, either.  It was developed by a Canadian quiltmaker, Marilyn Stothers who Nancy used to take into the classes she was teaching at Houston in the late 80’s and early 90’s and have Marilyn show her students how to do it.   Nancy then began teaching it herself as a method useful in her classes on colour and design.  As we all know, today there are many contemporary quilt makers working this way all over the world, and it has become a contemporary quilt making tradition, if you can say such a thing…. and yes, I think we can.

Since learning the basics, I’ve always worked this way, and taught many students how to cut and piece freehand.  I’ve no doubt someone uses “Alison Schwabe’s technique” to describe their own improvisational piecing, but I claim no ownership.  If you’d like to have a go at it, email me for the basic instructions (2 pages incl, diagrams and links)  and I’ll email it by return.  There’s enormous interest in piecing like this.

Last month I taught my “Hot Quilts From Cold Scraps” workshop in Dongara Western Australia, and Hobart Tamsnaia Aus.  I always promote the class as being about planning and making successful scrap quilts, and one in which people who work via traditional geometric piecing will be alongside those who are piecing improvisationally.  In other words, how you piece is up to you, and you just need to come to class knowing how to piece one way or the  other, it’s not a beginners’ class.  I always say I don’t actually teach  freehand piecing in class, as there isn’t usually time even in the 2-day version, and so if you want to work that way you need to learn the basics at home before the workshop.  That usually works well, and one or two people always ask me for those instructions in advance.  In Dongara there were about 20 enthusiasts in the class – fabulous facilities accommodated them easily – and about 1/3 went to work piecing traditionally, the rest improvisationally.  They produced some wonderful work, and everyone achieved plenty of it.    The class in Hobart blew me away though.   I had been a bit concerned at the low number registered, and anticipated the group dynamics might be a bit unexciting among only 7 of them. But not in this case – all had very strong individual approaches and a couple did interesting things no one has previously produced, including myself! Some already knew improvisational piecing, and the 2 or 3 who didn’t clearly did want to work that way.  So once everyone was into their  exercises before branching off in their individual directions, in such a small group it was easy to teach them the basic methods by demonstrations using the samples I had with me.  They were all dead keen and very quick on the uptake. 

Thanks to Pat and Susan who both supplied Marilyn’s correct surname which I’d used wrongly in the first version of this post!  I have corrected and edited the post to include the gracious corrections I received from Marylin herself, whose website http://www.marilynstewartstothers.ca/ presents her and her exciting work in some detail – and I can only say after looking at it that we don’t hear enough of her.

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