Monday, August 31, 2009


It was with great excitement I learned that two of the artists participating in Compositional Conversation were selected to participate in the Studio Art Quilt Association's exhibition: A Sense of Direction: Sightlines.  Congratulations to Shelley Brenner Baird and Fulvia Luciano .
As it happens, the work being featured this week is by Shelley.   

I want to thank Terry for planning this project and for the invitation to participate.  At first I was concerned about my part in it since I was familiar with Terry's work -- pure, clean and elegant and all about the shape.  My work is all about the line(s), marks, gesture and is never clean, pure and elegant.  This project involves pulling pieces together, but for the past few years I have been working in painted and screened whole cloth with no rearranging possible.  But proposal mentioned "conversation" and I like to talk, and the directions stressed that we were not to "finish" the piece and not finishing pieces is one of my best skills!
When the piece arrived from Beth I pinned it to a piece of board and kept it near me all day and night and started thinking.  I scanned the fabric I wanted to use and made small prints to mock-up.  The first thing I noticed was that the entire left side had been untouched which felt like a good place to begin.

I tried three different approaches.  At first I handled it like surface design placing 4-5 of the large circular shapes on top of the existing shapes.

 After I let that sit for a while I realized that I was merely being decorative.  I also realized that different phases of the project involved different approaches and that at this early phase the bones of the thing were the most important part.
So then came plan B.  I decided to use the existing colors because my fabrics were so different from what was there I needed to tie things together (converse in a different dialect but at least the same language).  I departed slightly from that plan by including a bit of pink on the right side.  I used a large piece in a vertical that almost went from top to bottom.  But as I lived with it for a while I saw that I was not leaving enough room for anyone to do much but remove piece or cover it instead of interacting with it.


PLAN C - Final Version

Finally I cut a smaller square that I positioned to change the extreme verticality of the piece and introduced a horizontal option.  When I did this the remaining solid blue next to Beth's first vertical became an integral part of those vertical shapes.  I did the same on the right to emphasize the lone blue vertical and to make a new shape out of the black.  So that added some pieces to the puzzle without overwhelming it.  I am curious to watch this piece transform.  Have fun Judi.


Shelley says:  For years I studied printmaking, painting, drawing and photography in college and graduate school.  I taught photography, history of photography and creative bookbinding at universities, prep schools and continuing education programs and worked for a while as a graphic designer/illustrator.  I continued to study and create art in various media seeking out excellent teachers and mentors, concentrating on developing a body of work that reflects by background in this wide range of media.  Once I discovered surface design on fabric all of the separate pieces of my puzzle fell into place.

Fabric is resilient.  It can be dyed, bleached, painted, printed, burned, cut , frayed, glued, stitched, torn and mended.  The word itself comes from "fabrica" (Latin) describing something skillfully produced.  And the word fabricate means to dream up, assemble and create. 
I make non-literal narratives.  Marks I use may be balanced or reckless, austere or angry, surgical or ragged, literal or obscure.  Images are superimposed on cloth by screen printing, painting and drawing with dyes, paint and bleaching agents, processes both directed and serendipitous, as the reaction with the fabric is instantaneous and slightly out of my control.  The exact result is revealed only when the dye residue is washed from the fabric, much like watching a photograph develop in the darkroom.



 My many thanks to you Shelley for the great process description and photographs.  It is interesting to see how we are interacting but staying true to ourselves.  We will be taking a break next week and then return with the contribution of Judi Hurwitt.


  1. Oh my, this was SO much fun to read and to see. I'm incredibly excited to be next up in the bullpen!

    Shelly, your description of the piece as a puzzle is apt, from what I see. Your fabric additions are gorgeous and evoke movement and excitement in a playful, edgy way. That's exactly the kind of art I love to make the most... I'm digging this. :D

    Thank you SO much for your vivid account of your experience with the project; it's got me even more excited to open the box when it arrives.

  2. This process is so exciting to watch. Shelly was so descriptive of her thinking that one can see how she came to her result. I am so looking forward to more movement and possibly some changes as it progresses from artist to artist. Thanks for making this a public viewed process.

  3. I think it is especially interesting since Shelley has been developing her style with whole cloth and here she is faced with a work that is about as opposite as you can get. I loved Plan B but I appreciate her decision to move to Plan C. Shelley I love your candor and Judi I love your enthusiasm!

  4. This project really is exciting. Thanks so much for sharing your process with us, I particularly enjoyed seeing the photos of the different plans and ideas. Turning the piece upside down (or should we say back to how it originally was sent) seemed to add more weight on the lower right which then made the new addition on the right seem balanced. To me, it then made the gray lines have more movement. The long rectangle on the right created so much more depth in the piece.

    Loved how you showed the difference in plan B and C. Seems to me, by choosing C you have succeeded in giving a horizontal focus which adds strength to the vertical.

    The piece is coming alive before our very eyes. LOVE THIS PROJECT!!

  5. Shelly, I love your process description, and especially your "ode to fabric" & mark making. A question: my eye keeps going to the right hand side of your wonderfully, organic painted fabric (fantastic!) and following that hard edge. I'm considering if folding under that fabric leaving a bit of white & forming a shallow curve is something I would have thought about.

    It is such a joy to log in on Monday and see what the next person has done!

  6. I had to do every mundane life errand today and didn't return until late this evening.
    you know what kept me going? Yes, the chance to reward myself with checking Shelly's addition to this wonderful conversation.
    i am so excited about this piece and am already thinking about my turn.

  7. Congratulations to both Shelley and Fulvia! Regarding this project, I appreciate hearing about your "style" trepidation, lines, marks. I work in layer after layer, and had similar concerns. Love seeing your results and process. Making mock-ups with scans of your additions was an intriguing approach. The introduction of patterned fabric has indeed introduced a new dialect to the conversation.

  8. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  9. how pretty. i love the delicate colors in urban x.