Saturday, January 23, 2010

First Study of 2010

Completed Textile Construction #1 2010

If your weather has been like ours here in SC, it has been a colder, damper winter than usual. This has really made it difficult to get into my wet studio and so it inspired me to work on some ideas for studies that don't require that studio.

I have been thinking for some time about exercises to help people break through creative barriers and generate new ideas. I think that sometimes the very process that we use for 'finished' work acts as a barrier to exploration so I decided to try some ways of working that allow you to start immediately and freely. I have also been thinking a lot about obsession and how some artists are able to use their ability to stay with an idea to create amazing and wonderful work. The following exercise is a result of these thoughts.

I started by creating a procedure that I would follow. I've talked about this before.


  • Select a piece of fabric that will be the substrate on which I will sew (12" x 12")
  • Select several fabrics in colors that I know will be interesting together
  • Cut the selected fabrics into small pieces in a free manner
  • Place all cut fabric in a container and mix

Cut bits of fabric

I prepared a batt of the substrate fabric, cotton fabric and backing fabric. I determined that I would sew the cut fabric to the substrate in the following manner:

Quilt sandwich
  • Working directly on the fabric sandwich, blindly take a small 'stack' of the cut bits and sew to substrate. I call this Organized Random. It is organized because I preselect the colors and it is random because I use them as they come out of the container.
  • Start by sewing one row in the center and work out to each side
  • Turn and sew crosswise rows until the bits are all used

First row of bits.

Second row of bits being sewed to substrate.

Here you can see that I have used all the bits I had cut and I was only about half way throught the second set of rows.

After looking at the piece at this stage I decided to cut some bits from pieces of the substrate green fabric and finish the vertical rows. The idea being that it would bring the green back to the surface.

Here I have completed the second set of vertical rows with green.

The piece was then squared up and I added a binding which is turned to the back. I like the effect and I plan to do more. I promise, next time I will use something other than green and red;)

What do you think about this way of constructing a piece?


  1. I like this way of constructing very much, random piecing is definitely my favourite piecing technique. I think this is a great way for colour studies. You determine which colours you want to work with, the quantity of the colours (i.e. 1/3 bright red, 2/3 dark red), and after a little preparation off you go, just sewing the pieces in place. Really great!

  2. I like your way of constructing this piece. If it´s OK I might try it for a small challenge quilt. I know exactly what colours to use, but was unsure how to bring them together as it has to be an abstract. Thanks a lot for sharing this process.

  3. This is a great way of working - I really like your "organized" part of the random AND the decision to bring the green substrate forward. It resulted in nice movement and encouraged me to view the study from right to left which I really like...

  4. Thanks for the comments. Love hearing from you and happy you find this a useful process! My best to you both.

  5. It's a mille fleur! a thousand flowers!
    Have you seen Michael Brennan-Wood's work?
    Or Tim Whathisname? (that'll be real easy to google!)
    Or the African who joins all the strips of metal together...sorry I'm blocking on names today.
    I love the colour choice too, green and red are hard to work with I think.

  6. Hey girl. I don't know Michael but will look him up, or Tim...can't look him up. Have seen the metal work....great and just got a link this morning to which is also wonderful.....Something is in the air.

  7. It's a very appealing way to work. Now I wonder how I can adapt this to weaving, which as you know flows in one direction only...

  8. Very cool, Terry. I didn't know there was any other way to work besides randomly - but this is a new take on it!

  9. This is a very interesting way to compose and I think bringing up the green was an excellent choice to unite the figure and ground and subdue the bright red.

    By the way, I think the African metal artist that Elizabeth Barton was referring to is el Anatsui (one of my faves)
    Leonardo Drew is also one of my faves and will be showing at Sikkema Jenkins in Chelsea from Jan 30-Mar 6th.

  10. Rayna, you are a breath of fresh air and way funny. Love it!

    Nancy, Many thanks for the links. I would love seeing in person the work of both of the artists you mentioned. I appreciate the right mix of elegance and rough treatment and both of these artists have that mix.

  11. Terry, I love this new piece and will throw another reference for you-- Victor Vasarely- an early inspiration for me. Although yours has a very pleasant looseness to the grid structure. The limitation of color is very effective and somewhat mutes the affect.

  12. Oh Yeah. Victor....I remember him. Yes, there is a correlation. I plan to try this on a larger scale.

  13. I know this is only a study and you are already on the next one, but I'd love to see some nice handstitching over the top of this to make it even more special!

  14. Great idea Kathy. I may try one where the elements are hand stitched directly to the substrate.

  15. I would love to see what happens if you then cut some really large shapes into this so your substrate actually becomes a background... It would be an interesting contrast of very complex next to bold.

  16. It's great to see your process Terry. I find the similar shapes and sizes of the pieces you are using very interesting - the end result seems to have a jazz like rhythm.

  17. Terry, I love this idea. Do you mind if I give it a shot, too? What a fun way to build a quilt!

  18. Hi Terry, this is an interesting study. Lots of depth and movement and energy as the colors and layers play off each other. The suggestions that Kathy and Judy made also popped into my mind. Your sample stimulates LOTS of creative ideas and would be a great class exercise.

  19. Terry, This is great, and it gives me about 100 new ideas. Oh to have more hours in a day. Thanks for sharing something new.

  20. Thank you Judi, Jeanne and Leslie! This process is a challenge and one I have and do enjoy. I so appreciate your comments!

  21. Love it! Your approach of structured randomness evokes surrealism and the chance music of John Cage. Found a term for it on Wikipedia: aleatoricism – creation of art by chance, exploiting the principle of randomness. You may have started a new quilt movement. That'd be cool!

  22. Thank you 'mad elena'! I'll have to learn to pronounce that. Fun idea. I've used this concept for years but never thought to look it up and see it if had a name. It can be freeing and a challenge all at the same time which is an odd combination. Please visit again and I appreciate your taking the time to comment.