Archive for the ‘repeat designs’ Category

Blocks, Repeat Units, Diagrams In Fabric And Thread

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024

Most of my fabric art is landscape inspired, and while certainly not representational/pictorial, is diagrammatic rather than abstract’ . My brief encounter with traditional patchwork and quilting in the late 80’s left me with a love of the designs of units known as “blocks” in quilt speak, or “repeat units” as I refer to them. I’ve only ever made one traditional pattern quilt (a small wall quilt, using the Flying Geese pattern) but I own a couple of antique ones, of the Dresen Plate and the double Wedding Ring patterns.

Awful but it’s the only photo I have (sorry) of the Flying Geese wall hanging I made in a Blanche Young workshop in 1988 in Denver CO. From memory ~75cm x ~120cm.

Many of my designs are ‘repeat units’ of the kind of diagrams I hand drew to illustrate university papers in physical geography, way back in the pre-computer era. In 1988, even as I was learning about traditional quilts, as an embroiderer I always designed my own works. One day I sprayed some paint onto fabric for an embroidery background, but despite it not turning out as I expected, it did end up being a vital part of what became my first art quilt, “Ancient Expressions” ( read the full story at )

Ancient Expressions series: top l-r #12, #1, #10, #9 bottom l-r #13, #14, #3, #2

My first original designs were a series of fourteen wall quilts, made between 1988-1992, all with the title “Ancient Expressions”. Each work in that series has (1) some element of landscape features, because, of course, the nature of the landscape has a huge influence on the development of a civilisation on it (2) references to activity of man in/on that landscape via the repeat patterns which Man always gets around to making on important surfaces or everyday objects, for decoration and/or communication (3) they’re all in earthy colours. I’ve never declared the series closed, but haven’t added to it for over 30 years, either.

While I was making the last work in that series, I was privileged to attend a workshop on designing art quilts – including positive and negative space, figure and ground, colour, sets and using basic shapes, and other modules, each of which she later built out into much more detail to become a full pretty advanced, intense 5-day workshop topic in their own right. My notes from that 1991 or 1992 workshop are not currently accessible, but I remember that, really, we were introduced to probably all the things that are now individual workshops on her incredible workshop list. We worked very hard in that workshop, knowing that we were pretty lucky to have her in Colorado thanks to the policy of the wonderful art quilting group I belonged to, the Front Range Contemporary Quilters, That organisation still brings national and international top level art quilt teachers to Colorado every year. My main takeaways from that Nancy Crow workshop, her books and the lectures I’ve experienced, were (1) the importance and relevance of pattern and repetition to my art (2) focus on what I’m doing, think about why, and record what I do (3) probably least important in her eyes, but a huge plus in mine, was the brief demo she gave of the essentials of freehand cutting and piecing, a tremendous time-saving technique which I have used ever since. It results in what I call ‘organic’ lines that fit perfectly with the whole improvisational approach to pieced surface design. Many people have taken Nancy’s workshops down the years, and while I think you can often identify art quilters who’ve fairly recently studied with her, I think that people who gained most from her teaching work have worked hard to apply it to their own art until it no longer directly reflects her influences, and believe I’m in that category. I value her influence as much as I do the late great English embroiderer, Constance Howard.

Two New Collectors

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

It’s always a joy when someone wishes to exchange their hard earned money for some of my art. Since I enjoy creating and making textile and fibre art I don’t think of it as ‘work’, even though it is, and as ‘work’ is occasionally frought with difficulty or stress even, between concept and completion.  Today I am hoping that my two newest collectors will have many years of enjoyment with my works in their collections.

This week I was pleased to see my 12″ square in the online 2010 SAQA Benefit Auction was purchased by a collector in the USA, Francie Gross.  I am embarrassed to say I forgot to photograph it before sending it off, but it is in the style of Timetracks 11

  a portion of which is shown here.

It is still up on the auction pages, 2b, at the SAQA online auction which enters its third week this week with the works shown on pages 3a and 3b – just click the link on the page above the pics andyou will go to each in turn.  Perhaps you’ll make a bid for some of the interesting pieces still to come under the hammer in the next few days.

A few weeks ago I sold two works to an international collector, a personal friend, who chose “Timetracks 16” and also this one:


It’s not shown in my website, partly because I haven’t ever decided just which category it belongs in, or exactly what name to settle on it.  For a long time it went as ‘Untitled’ which I always think is an artist’s cop out. 

Yet it is an important work, because it took me into the “Desert Tracks” works that followed and will probably be added to over time. It is a work focused on those aspects of the traditional ancestors of modern art quilts that appeal to me and appear repeatedly in my own work – blocks/units, repetition, and hand quilted surface patterning.  The finished edges are applied with a gold metallic fabric, double layered and cut on the cross, left ufinished – also from a time when I was beginning to consider less conventional bound edgings on my work, and burned edges appeared soon after making this one.  It has always looked good in local exhibitions here, and I know it will be well placed in  its new home.

It just occurred to me that someone with some clout in the art world should declare a day each year to be designated “International Art Collectors’ Day”.  I still have the very first painting I bought, nearly 55 years ago with 8s 6d of the 12s pocket money I was given to spend at the annual school fete.  It is a postcard-size watercolour of a landmark mountain range in northern Tasmania where I grew up, and I remember choosing it from a whole table of perhaps 50 or so little watercolured landscapes, probably done by the art teachers at the school, and certainly framed by one of the parents’ framing business – handy use for the their framing offcuts, probably!  It’s still in the original frame – I think I will do it the honour of having it framed in a more modern frame next time I’m back in Aus – I have always loved it.  In addition my parents had several watercolours painted by a cousin of my father’s, John Nixon Gee.  Dad took me along to JN’s house one morning when I was maybe 6, and I remember watching him paint a little while I was there.

OMG – Laser cutting Machine

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

My regular readers and all who know me personally will know that I am by inclination very low tech, my love of fabric and stitch having been expressed through hand and sewing machine techniques, with the occasional aid of paint by various techniques, and the use of adhesives and bonding materials. Wherever possible I use a rotary cutter, of course, and scissors for the tricky bits. In recent work using leather, I have resorted to hand cutting with scissors and using a leather punch to achieve lacey effects. However, last year, after attending the SDA conference in Kansas City and seen many interesting developments in work on show there resulting from some of the new technologies being explored in the textile field, I then spent some time with my computer and graphics design savvy son, who opened my eyes to the potential of a laser cutting device…. and so, I have been thinking and dreaming about this for the past 6 months. Finally, last week DH, DS and I all went to visit the distributor of one of these machines for an actual demo. It took me very little time to realise that this is an answer to my love of repeated units, the tricky non-traditional materials that I love, and slightly arthritic hands which really feel the impact of hours of cutting and punching through something like leather. And, the time saved putting my ideas together will be enormous.
It was no mean feat to get from Easton MD over to Fredericksburg VA, at 3 hours each way – but once there we spent several hours with Paul who ran one of these machines through its paces. I took along a selection of fabrics and other materials I was interested in seeing perform under the laser cutting beam. Although he had other stuff like granite, wood, laminated plastic and lots of other ‘hard’ materials, it was leather and fabrics including synthetics I was especially interested in, and sure enough, he did not have most of those things around. By either scanning the lines of a hand drawn or photographed design, and setting the level of the laser’s focal point to the surface of the material being cut, the same shapes can be cut, enlarged and reduced, with the aid of the dedicated computer, onto which of course the settings for each material and the different designs you are working with can be saved. The cutting takes mere seconds, no matter how complicated the shape. And, the scope of endless exact repeats is infinite. DH’s eyes were really opened, and I totally fell in love with a machine that day. My son says it was like watching a kid in a candy store….it was all I had hoped it would be.
One great thing about cutting/burning with a laser is that especially on synthetics, the heat seals the edge each side of the cut – meaning handling of the shapes does not lead to instant fraying, something that is hard to combat and which has been rather offputting re cetain materials – nylon organza, synthetic metallics and silk especially. See detailed view above left.

The full view, right, shows : UL cutouts of an artificial silk-like fabric with embossed glittery Christmas shapes; some gold lame UR; at LL some batting; and LR some stretchy red metallic knit fabric – all cut with exactly the same pattern at different sizes.

Odd layout – sorry – in deleting some text I accidentally got rid of one pic- which did not go back in where I wanted it – sigh – it’s just one of those days Blogger wins. I am just not re-doing this – it’s too hot and humid.
The samples are of Paul’s designs – he is an engineer and as I told him, it shows. I’d have gone for more organic shapes, but we didn’t have all day to fiddle around, and it is clear to me that between now and when the machine lands in Uruguay I need to make myself familiar with Adobe Photoshop, and get ready to start tapping the potential of this machine. The cost? IMHO quite hefty – but, really the smallest desktop model I am getting is just a bit more than one of the fanciest top line sewing machines available – and a bit less than setting up with one of the popular long-arm quilting machines. And so I have chosen to take a higher tech direction that I feel is in tune with where I am going with what I am doing.
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