Inspiration. . . and a Giveaway!

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Nancy Crow Crosses Info

In the book I just finished reading, Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, he writes that “Nothing is original.”  He quotes Jonathan Lethem who notes that “when people call something ‘original,’ nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.”  And in our quilt world, I see this all the time manifest in the copyright squabbles, the this-is-my-original-pattern-syndrome and it’s only a variation of a log cabin, the insistence by some in the modern quilt movement that they dreamed it all up — this modernist stuff, without any regard for where the idea first surfaced. . . and then resurfaced.  When I see this stunning quilt by Nancy Crow, made when many young quilters’ parents had not even started dating, I think, as did Kleon when he quoted the Bible, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

But Kleon goes on to say that this idea fills him with hope, rather than despair:  “As the French writer Andre Gide put it, ‘Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”  Kleon encourages us to note where our influences come from.  I say, if you don’t know about some of the earlier quilters, try heading to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum and browse for a while.  Take a look at these early masters and be inspired.

Steal-Like-an-Artist-Kleon

To inspire you, I’m giving away a copy of Austin Kleon’s book, a small little treasure, perfect for some end-of-summer reading.  To win a copy, leave me a comment below and include a source of inspiration, whether it be another quilter, a photograph, an image, nature or something else–something or someone that provokes or triggers your spark of creativity.  Rather than just saying “nature,”  or “Michael James,” try to be specific, such as “the moment the sun drops to the horizon” or “Michael James’ ‘Aurora’ in his early work”  so that we can learn from each other.

I’ll announce the winner on my next post, and send you a gift card from Amazon so you can order it yourself; for this reason, it will work for international as well as domestic. Have fun, everyone!  This post will close on Saturday morning.

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Inspiration Strikes Everywhere

RachelPerryWeltyinUPPERCASE

On this, National Quilting Day, I thought I’d share two videos from the magazine Uppercase, which recently published work from Bari J. (The above picture is from the magazine’s website.)  They apparently are having a Spring Sale on subscriptions, if you want to be inspired monthly by their magazine.

Uppercase Screen Shot

Why do I mention this?  Inspiration for our quilts can strike anywhere and everywhere, and why not a gorgeously produced publication to give us a little inspiration?  I’ve been ripping out magazine pages for years, and clipping interesting photos from the newspaper for my files.  That Old Time Method parallels my Pinterest pinning, as well as the file of digital images from quilt shows, blogs and screenshots from Instagram.  I say, grab your inspiration where you can find it.

Here’s a vimeo about 10 surface design tips.

And here’s a little bit of what their magazine is about–fun for us to look at–a little eye candy!

Lastly, another source of inspiration for me has been other blogs.

Edrica Huws_6

That’s where I found out about this (now-deceased) quilt artist Edrica Huws. (Address of the blog is in the picture.)  Apparently nearly 51 years old when she began her mosaic-like patchworks, she sometimes took a year to create just one.  Here is an excerpt from an article in the Guardian newspaper:

“Edrica Huws, born in 1907, spent two years at the Chelsea School of Art, gained a diploma from the Royal College of Art, and worked as an artist until she married the Welsh sculptor Richard Huws in 1931. Five children later, and living in rural Anglesey with neither electricity nor running water, she turned her hand to poetry and began collecting fabrics for her patchwork. She was 51 when she began her first patchwork picture of a greenhouse. It took her a year. The challenge was in getting the assemblage of differently figured pieces to look like a representation of her subject, but not too like it. The scraps had to be treated like scraps, not like paint, or mosaic. Edrica said herself in a lecture in 1982 that to her ‘the essence of an aesthetic experience’ was ‘the control just winning’.”

Back to the blog:

Edrica Huws_5

Edrica Huws_4

Edrica Huws_3

 

I did a search on her name, and while I never found a way to purchase her book, I did find many photos of her quilts, apparently from an exhibition she had (and mentioned in the Guardian article).

Edrica Huws_2

And in a comment on the Guardian article, someone wrote: “Quoting from the book Edrica Huws Patchworks she says: ‘It was pleasant to have some recognition, but even without it, I would have carried on… When I had reached a time when I could have started painting again – I had more money, more time and more space, the three things that I lacked earlier – I no longer had the inclination. In a strange way, it seemed too easy.’ ”

Edrica Huws_1

Happy National Quilting Day!

Creativity and the Web

I’m thinking about all those affected by the horrific storm on the East Coast.  I have several quilty/blogger friends, as well as quite a few family members who have been affected and hope that they and their families are through the worst of it.  I’ve been on a blogging break this week from the computer (I wrote this post earlier) but I just wanted to jump in and send my thoughts to those who are dealing with this “Frankenstorm” and its aftermath.  Take care, everyone.

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In my class at school, we just completed a unit that was based on this book by Nicholas Carr, titled, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains.  We had our Discussion Panels last Wednesday, and it was fascinating that the students were fairly perceptive and able to discuss how the Internet has impacted their lives, for better or for worse.  One young man is fairly sanguine about the whole thing, saying, “Well, it’s here.  We just have to deal.”  Another pair of young women took opposite positions on the question of whether print was dead.  The internet’s main impact, that of re-wiring our brains due to neuroplasticity, was skirted around, but acknowledged when they all complained of the inability to finish a book before distractedly checking their phones for texts or messages.

And I think it’s rewired my brain as well.  Carr goes through the history of civilization’s adding of new technologies, from writing to moveable print to the typewriter and onward to clocks and the internet.  I was interested in his discussion on tools: “The tight bonds we form with our tools go both ways.  Even as our technologies become extensions of ourselves, we become extensions of our technologies.”

 I thought about how quilting has changed from the time when I used to trace a pattern onto cardboard, carefully cut it out and tape the edges for stability.  Then I’d trace it about a bazillion times in order to make a quilt, following along the pencil line for the seam.  I did use a machine for piecing, but hand-quilting was the only way to finish a quilt.  That’s why my list of 100 Quilts took so long to grow: our tools were more primitive before the advent of rulers and rotary cutters.

He also references Frederick Taylor’s Time-Motion studies and how it has changed how workers do their jobs (above: a golfer takes a swing).  Before Taylor came along, “the individual laborer, drawaing on his training, knowledge and experience, would make his own decisions about how he did his work.  He would write his own script” (218).

I think of us at work.  Some of us spread all our fabric out into a lovely mess (like mine, above).  Others fold and organize continually throughout the day.  I like to doodle around with my computer when thinking up a new quilt. Some like to start cutting, throwing the cloth up on the pin wall to see what’s going on.  Carr notes that with Taylor’s regimentation of industry’s messiness, something was lost.  “What was lost along with the messiness was personal initiative, creativity, and whim.  Conscious craft turned into unconscious routine.”

I hope I never become such a slave to a pattern or a ruler or a system of making a quilt that I can’t make  a creative and conscious detour into creativity.  But sometimes I wonder when I make a copy of another’s quilt, using one line of fabric if I’m not caught in a type of quilt-machine using Taylor’s demands for proscribed motion.   Is this creativity?  Am I being creative, or just following someone else’s script and benefitting from their decisions?

And like many of you, I’ve been following #quiltmarket on Instagram.  Carr said more than once, and I’m paraphrasing here, that trying to control the flow of information from the internet is like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant at full blast.  The internet caters to the new! unique! amazing! as we all know.

I also have Pinterest boards full of ideas, most are quilts which I’ll never make, but pin them up there nonetheless.   Can we be creative 24/7, or is that too exhausting?  Has the Internet made better quilting possible?  More interesting quilting?  Given us an access to a wider range of styles and types?

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I only know that sometimes the Internet affects us quilters, too.

So my question now, is how has the Internet affected you?  And has it been for better. . . or for worse?

Digital Images-NYPL

While I do think that the internet sucks up my time and not always in a good way, occasionally there are places that are interesting to visit, to gain inspiration.  The above image is from the New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery.

These two prints are by Maurice Pillard Verneuil from 1869.  More are found *here.*

I went into their Printing and Graphics section from the main page, then randomly clicked on the list as I didn’t want to wade through all the images.  Here’s another:

It’s harder to see this one, but the catalog indicates it has plant forms, peacocks, and a waterscape.

And this one could provide ideas for machine quilting when the quilt is done.

Applique, anyone?

So how does this relate to quilting?  By encouraging me to see new shapes and new relationships between shapes.  I sketched up a block, taken from some of the ideas in the first one, then played with it in my quilt program (flipping and twisting the block), gaining the slightly weird, but somewhat intriguing design below.  While I have to work mainly in solids on the computer, I could see this in rich florals, or another type of print where the edges blur from the colors overlapping from one square to another.

The idea, at least for me, is not necessarily to have a quilt to bang out in one week, but perhaps to tuck these doodlings away in a sketchbook, whether it be the digital or colored-paper-and-pencil kind.  The idea is to make new connections.  The idea is to have an idea.

Where do you get your ideas?  Other blogs? Flickr groups?  (You’ve already seen my take on Portuguese Tiles.) Nature? Quilt shows? Something a friend has done? All of the above?

June Flowers/Tulip Tutorial

Every June the jacaranda trees put on their bluey-purple-periwinkle display of flowers, and we all wander around wondering how we got to be lucky.

And like clockwork, every June they dominate my photos — exquisitely colored blossoms on hills, around bends while the rest of the year these trees blend into the landscape.

And I’m heading to a class with Becky Goldsmith (the designer of the quilt I did last year: Come A-Round) and we’re doing a flower in class, so I chose a night-blooming plant for color inspiration for fabrics to pull.  This comes from the Sherwin-Williams paint website “Chip It,” where you load up a URL of a photo and they provide their colors.  I just like how it looks, and it helped me pull from my stash.

So when it came time to decide on a block for the Far-Flung Bee, that was easy: a flower.  I also wanted something of simple construction (9-patch) because of my fabric requrements–I wanted some fabrics with text to be incorporated into the blossom.

Here are two versions of that tulip/flower block, and the text fabric is used two different ways; one is in the background fabrics and the other is included in parts of the flower.  That green fabric saying Blah Blah Blah is a treasure for me as my friends Bert and Rhonda sent it to cheer me after my surgery in December.  I’ll always think of them when I use those fabrics (thanks, guys!).  So here’s how to do it.

For one 9-inch flower block:
Cut four 3 1/2″ squares–3 from the background fabric, 1 from the flower fabric
Cut four 3 7/8″ squares–2 from the background fabric, 1 from the flower fabric, 1 from the leaf fabric
Cut one 2″ by 3 1/2″ rectangle from the background fabric
Cut two 2″ squares–1 from the background fabric and 1 from the stamen fabric

Working with the 3 7/8″ squares ONLY, place one background square on each of the flower and leaf blocks.  Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner, or if you have the Quick Quarter tool (shown above), draw a line on either side.  You’ll stitch just inside this line (towards the center), or if you have drawn a single diagonal line, you’ll stitch a SCANT quarter-inch seam on either side of your drawn line.

Cut from corner to corner, inbetween your stitching.

Press the seam allowance away from the background triangle, as shown.  Notice those dog ears on the corners? We’ll cut them off later.

Working with the 2″ square blocks and the one rectangle now.  Seam the stamen fabric block to other 2″ background fabric block.  If you’re like me and getting up and down to the ironing board gets tiresome, just finger press that seam towards the stamen fabric.  Then seam the rectangle onto this unit.  Okay, now go to the ironing board and press that flat.

Lay everything out. Smile, because it looks cute. AND it’s fast!  Seam them together in rows, working across the block.  Keep track of which direction that bottom leaf goes.  I did it wrong twice.

Now it’s time to trim off those dog ears.  (I actually trim them as I seam the pieces together, not waiting until a final moment, but this is just a reminder to get them off now).  I use that old fashioned tool that works so well: scissors. Snip snip snip while holding it over the trash can.

  I’ve flipped it over to show the directions for pressing.  Basically you want to have the seams going in opposite directions so they’ll “nestle” together when you go to sew the rows.  Lay it out again, the sew the final seams, joining the rows.  Double check that bottom row twice, so you don’t sew it in wrong (like I did).

You’re finished with one block.  Eat Your Vegetables, by laying a ruler over it and truing up the block to 9 1/2″.  It will sew down to a finished 9″ block in your quilt.

Here’s a mock-up of one layout, using 1″ sashing and corner squares.  I’ve also thought that since it’s based on an easy nine-patch block, that a grouping could be made of half-sized (4 1/2″ finished) blocks that could be interspersed for a more random look.  That’s for another day.

Enjoy your spring flowers!