Last week, my friend, Sheila Stern and I hit the road and traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for a week at Quilt Surface Design Symposium. We took Rosalie Dace’s class, “Here and Now”. This was a class with emphasis on color and value, line, shape and texture to express our own journey to where we are now in our own life. It was a class of eight so we all enjoyed the intimate setting with lots of personal input from Rosalie.
Here we are, eagerly awaiting our first day of class! We’d both taken a class with her before so we knew we were in for a no nonsense, challenging, but inspirational week.
Her first questions for us were:
What makes you happy? (Working with fiber, creating, combining colors.)
What pleases you most of all? (Gorgeous colors, beautiful vintage kimonos, hand dyed fabrics, Asian ikat, and wovens.)
Where am I going in my life? (Learning to be bold. Taking risks. Following my heart.)
What am I communicating? (Flow. Balance.)
Why? (It grounds me. It makes me feel more centered and balanced.)
Where am I going to put the focus? emphasis? (More on this later)
Where is the focal point? You need to make the viewers eye go to it by line, color, contrast, scale, repetition. (More on this later, too.)
What is a meaningful symbol? (Circles, (always!) and gingko leaves. I don’t know why but I love it.)
See what I mean? That was all within the first 1/2 hour of class and she gave so many examples along the way. Then we had to do a rough sketch and start creating our work for the week! Yikes, talk about jumping into the fire!
I had brought along a beautiful ceremonial silk woven shawl from Laos in the most gorgeous colors. When I saw it, it just spoke to me. I saved it for a whole year, waiting for sometime like this to use it. It’s very precious to me.
I had bought this piece from Susan McCauley at her booth in Lancaster. You can find her fabrics online at http://www.mekongrivertextiles.com/fabric.php
Here is the back. The tag on the fabric says “mystical animals and flowers”. The back is just full of little knots where the images were woven and tied off. So much intricate handwork! The front is not without its little bits of threads which hang loosely and it’s so tempting to just pull on them or cut them off but that just opens up a can of worms, as you can imagine!
I sketched out a rough kimono shape covered with layers of circles and flowing lines. I wasn’t sure how I would execute the whole thing but I had a good idea about the basic background so jumped right in. Here you can see the shawl used in a sort of kimono shape with lots of other silks and hand dyed fabrics surrounding it. I had to use dark and subdued colors around it because it was such a bold and geometric focus fabric.
I’ve also added the solid black vintage kimono fabric with the gold mountain emblem stitched on it, some more burgundy ikat silks, and cotton homespun from Susan. Another fabric I added was a beautiful purple hand dyed silk charmeuse that Karen Jantzi brought back for me from Beirut this winter. It’s the lightest (almost white in spots) fabric which creates a nice flow of movement.
By day two I had most of the background done and we were looking into various ways of adding chartreuse green around the quilt. I wanted a gingko leaf which you can see in the little bit of batik near the top.
You can see here by day three she had me try using the triangle shapes for the chartreuse near the bottom. That really worked because it repeated the many triangles and diamonds in the focus fabric. At this point I was going crazy with the lack of circles and flowing lines so I started adding them with little bits of silk and organza. I like how it adds another layer and more depth. But the lines were still too boxy. Rosalie encouraged me to think of the quilting and stitching lines as another layer and to add them on top of the whole thing.
At this point I had to baste the quilt to the batting and backing. This was a challenge without my long arm! It took me all of day four just to get it pinned and basted. It was so crooked and full of pleats on the back! I felt like a complete novice. Rosalie made a few comments like, “have you ever tried using a plum line?” and “did you really baste down the outer edge of your quilt??” We do on the long arm but apparently not when you baste on the domestic?? I was clearly in the dark here. I used to send my quilt tops to a longarm machine quilter who would baste and quilt them for me!
Here is my final quilt top, roughly basted. See how the kimono section swerves to the left at the bottom? I tucked all the backing fabric behind the quilt so you would just see the quilt top for show and tell. I did have time to do a little bit of twin needle stitching. Check it out here:I did a double row around the outer edge and another inner row. When I got home I, of course, ripped out tons of basting and re-basted on the long arm. I finally got it squared up, I stitched with metallic thread, twin needle in long flowing lines all over the quilt. But when I stood back, the fabric was so bold that the stitching lines barely showed up.
I then went to my good old stand by, couching. I couched with yarn over all the long flowing lines and finally got the result I wanted.
Here you can see my little shout out to the gingko leaf. I made a bolder statement of it with the couched lines. Rosalie had encouraged me to extend the stem of the gingko in the leaf to create a line. She also asked me to use the light areas of the purple silk charmeuse to create more lines.I extended the gold lines in the focus fabric down into the lower purple area. This is a very different kind of quilting than you learn to do from the master teachers at machine quilting classes! It’s very outside the box and free flowing. Rosalie kept saying over and over, “don’t do TOO MUCH quilting on it.” I think she knows I come from the machine quilting world and not the art/surface design world so much. That was not a slam against myself but, surrounded by all these people with fiber art degrees or mixed media degrees, you get the idea. It was so tempting just to quilt each little section to death and I know that would have killed this piece. There is so much about this piece that is an embracing of my past and looking forward to what is ahead. I’m not sure I can put it all into words right now. I just know that my mind is whirling and very unsettled. Maybe unsettled isn’t a good word. That seems negative but I feel unsettled in a good way. Maybe it’s because: “A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
There is so much more about the week that I have to talk about but it will have to wait for another post. My classmates were so interesting, our roommates were wonderful, the visit to the Quilt National exhibit in Athens, OH, was mind blowing. All the time on the road with Sheila, catching up and listening to music from the 60’s & 70’s, what fun!
Most of all, Rosalie Dace is a master teacher. She is like no other. I have so many quotes, notes, memories, more than I can ever fit into one blog post. Also, she STILL caught me forgetting to close my rotary cutter. I got scolded multiple times!