Monday, October 26, 2009


Welcome to week Ten of COMPOSITIONAL CONVERSATION. I have been out of town and found myself unable to log on to my email so it was really fun this morning to download the image files from Paula Swett and see how she has handled our project piece. Following one of my favorite mottos, "Why wait?". Here is Paula's final version of our piece.

Stage Ten: by Paula Swett

Paula's Comments

I received an email stating Gayle had shipped the project. While I was waiting from Sat. to Mon. for the package to arrive I reviewed everyone's composition and conversation with the project (I now call the project "CC"). I also reread Terry's initial remarks and rules for the project.

I decided to write some rules for myself that would help me to respond to the project.

1. I will not look at the postings again until after I finish working with the piece. It will distract me and influence my dialogue.

2. I will remember not to take everything off and start all over (original rule).

3. I will keep digital camera and computer at my side to document my dialogue.

4. I will create some working rules when I open the piece.

5. Do not break any of the above rules ( Ha Ha)

The project arrived on Mond. evening. I invited a friend over to witness the opening of the long awaited package. (feels like an exciting Xmas gift). I opened the box and first glanced through the bag of extra parts and looked them all over. Many pieces were familiar as they had appeared in earlier compositions. My professional life was in social work. In fact groups were my specialty thus I hate for anyone to feel left out and now my mind is already scheming "Maybe I can work these pieces into my conversation".

I opened the project and hung in a horizontal format on my design wall. I photographed the piece, rotating several times and finally decided which layout spoke to me.

New orientation of project as done by Gayle Vickery Prichard.

WOW!!!!! I see much has happened since Marcia's changes. There is so much going on that I stand way back from the piece and just keep saying "oh my" and "oh my goodness". Translating my expressions means "where do I begin" and "what can I say" and "I can't wait to start". Intuitively I jump right in and attack the middle section. I audition some of the beautiful pieced work from Beth. I need to warm this area up and help integrate this middle into the rest of the piece. I then put a section of Rebecca's green shape along side the red shape in the left unit.

Second stage of Paula's exploration.

I now removed my two added pieces. After looking at these quick additions/auditions I soon realized that I must have a framework for this conversation. I will be quiet and still observe, document and LISTEN to what I see in the piece presented to me. After listening I can dialogue with this piece. This is important for my compositional process as I could jump all over the place. Tomorrow I will devise a sort of road map to maintain focus.

I spent much of my night arranging/rearranging planning during sleep time. This is good in that I know I am engaged with the piece and excited.

I wake up and want to hutr anyone who gets in my way of running upstairs to the studio. Seeing the piece first thing in the morning is invigorating.

Observations - Day 2

As a young child I used to play the whisper game also called the telephone game. The leader would whisper a sentence to the person beside her and this whisper would continue around the circle. By the time the sentence returned to the leader the original sentence was immensely changed.

I am artist #10 and a lot has changed since Terry whispered this project to all of us. I know some of the early artists' work has disappeared. I have watched how once the work is shipped to the next person that voices have disappeared. There are 4 more artists after me who will also possibly change my work. I speak of this issue of loss and change not in judgment of good or bad, but to acknowledge. Many of the large shapes have rounded edges. There is a large black shape in high horizon on the right side. There are 3 sections with the right and left sections containing several colors (bright and mostly primary, except for the cold grey/pinstripe section). Smaller shapes --- x's, ovals, small rectangles and markings drawn all over with crayons or ????


  • Keep the large shapes and remove all small pieces that do not add to the piece.
  • Figure out a way to transition left side to right side of composition.
  • Resolve the grey/pinstripe area and make the entire composition converse
  • Keep in mind color (color distribution throughout the piece, value and really talk to the X's maybe more and in different sizes and colors probably best in groupings
  • Remember the negative spaces
  • Really like the challenge of the high horizon
And on and on in the composition game my mind goes but will put the brakes on now.

I begin by putting the green remnant shape of Rebecca's work snug with the large red shape on the left side. (needs more happening over here) this addition looks like the "shape to nowhere" so I move it to the top of the red shape. A strong vertical shape that goes edge to edge will give strength to this side. I also removed some small rectangle pieces and the face and pants.

Stepping back from those moves I am reminded of how just one move and the piece is out of balance.

Third stage of Paula's exploration.

Fourth stage of Paula's exploration.

I know this is the beginning of the struggles. I am glad I am documenting this work. In my studio I intuitively compose and do not speak out loud to myself about my compositional considerations.

I now audition a shape from the traveling bag of pieces and place part of the surface designed fabric coming out of the large shape of red on the right. I am again concerned about how to connect the left side to the right and to work in a continuous high horizon. Well, that shape didn't work at all, very distracting and not at all pleasing to my eye.

I know that I must resolve this high horizon now because I want that idea to work and that it will be an important part to resolve. I cut a red shape with arc that created the line to the other side and horizon. I added varying sizes of x's for color, value, movement and repetition of shape.

Fifth stage of Paula's exploration.

At this point I sit quietly with what I have done so far. I realize once more each move makes a lot of noise. I turn my attention to the bl/grey/pinstripe area. This is the first time I notice the upper right corner of this section has a chunk cut out of the blue background and the black does not reach the edge. I resolve that issue by using the yellow/green color (felt that I needed to add that color to the piece anyhow) to replace the blue grey and a new crisper white and black stripe. (Much time spent deciding on width of stripe and pressing exterior edge into slight curvilinear edge.)

Sixth stage of Paula's exploration.

I now go back to the left side realizing the green shape that is not extended to the edge and it needs to go off the edge. I pieced an addition to that. I now am disturbed by the x/s and spend some time refining color, size and placement. The pale yellow rectangle that float on the red piece (left side) are replaced with a rectangle shape revealing the underlying violet.

Final version (same as first image).

I must say this has been a great exercise for me to really listen to myself as I work.

Thanks again for the opportunity to engage with a wonderful group of talented artists.

Thank you Paula. You make an interesting observation regarding the use of design elements and principles when the artists has internalized those guidelines. How do we listen to our own creative self in the privacy of our studios?

More about Paula.

Mini Artist Profile - Paula Swett

Artist Statement

I credit my mother and two grandmothers for giving me the passion for and gift of handwork. I learned from them to knit and sew, to create clothes and quilts. However, what was created went beyond the material process. I was woven into an intergenerational community of creative women who's contagious passion to express continue to be a common thread in my life.

My work is a personal narrative, weaving imprinted images retrieved from childhood, with my life's journey and current events. My work expresses a glimpse of life, a momentary look or a non objective impression. I work intuitively reacting to the creative inspiration and to the mediums I use. An intimate dialogue is created between the experience and the designed surfaces that result.

My voice is boundless. When I create my work, I use photographs, journal pages, sketches, and the thoughts from life's passages and everyda musings.

I use many methods in my work including improvisational cutting, piecing, layering, stitching and dying to name a few.

Paula Swett is a studio artist. She lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. She has been working with her own hand dyed textiles creating art quilts since the early 90's. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.

Paula earned a B.S.W. from the University of Vermont. She has studied with many of the leading fiber artists for the past 10 years. Paula has taught art, art quilting, owned an art gallery for many years and continues to support the arts in her area.

You can reach Paula at:


  1. What a difference that yellow strip makes. In my opinion, it brought the piece to life and connected the two sides. It is so much fun watching this project unfold.

  2. Wow, watching the piece transform is amazing and so is reading about your process. I was intrigued with the comparison of our process to the Whisper Game, although in New York we called it playing "telephone". Sometimes its really easy to hear what was said before, sometimes you dont hear and it becomes jumbled but as the game goes on jumble becomes the pivotal point and begins to make sense...might not be what was expected..but hey, isn't that what happens in a conversation. You start on a journey taking totally new turns expecting one thing and finding something totally new an unexpected.

    At this point in the process it feels like the piece is starting to take form. The elements are beginning to feel balanced both in shape and color. Repeating the x shape in different sizes and colors also seems to add depth,and texture. The horizon makes my eye travel across the piece, flowing across the canvas and then weaving in and out through the blue shapes that pop through the red. There is a sense of movement with intent.

    I particulary like the word listen in this piece. I felt Paula paid attention and build on what she heard using her guidelines

    In answer to Jeannes comment about about working in such a public forum, it doesnt feel difficult to put up the work, but is hard to comment comfortably in such a public with total honesty. I think it does effect who writes and what is written.there have been times I was not sure what to write, but that will be talked about at another time...

    I just had to comment on how Paula was able to look at the work she been given and really listen to what was on the board and try to have a conversation with what she was presented. I feel the connection between what gayle presented with what Paula produced plus with the repetition of the red shapes from Marcia's addition. The original one red shape that stood alone was beautiful,but with the use of such a strong shape your eye kept being drawn to it.


  3. Wonderful description by Paula of her process and great comment by Beth who is one of the artists who worked on this project early on. For a time I thought that working on the project in the middle would be the most difficult stretch...adding but not I am thinking the last contributors will have the most difficult work...adding, refining, perhaps altering and really moving toward completion. In truth, every phase of the process has unique opportunities and difficulties but the creative process is a wonderful thing and we are all having our own experiences and I love being able to hear about that process and see the results.

  4. Paula,

    I really enjoyed reading your process & how you resolved the piece as you received it with the parts in the "not used" bag. I chuckled at your social work training in wanting to include everyone's contribution.

    Reading another artist's method of approaching this conversation has been one of the most rewarding things for me in participating in CC. It isn't easy as we are each putting ourselves "out there". I really love the honesty and openness. I just wish I could see you better, Paula, your photo is so small! :)

  5. A note about Paula's photo. Paula sent me her studio shot twice, 2 different versions, and for some reason they came as thumbnails both times. Sorry Paula, don't understand why this happened.

  6. Catching up here after several days of being sick. First to address Jeanne's question about working this way in a public forum: I see it as a rare opportunity to truly converse with the other artists as well as the public viewing this project. I mentioned in my post the sense of trepidation I felt, especially moving or changing the work of others. In the end, I felt that part of the goal of this project was to respond as myself with all of the "censoring" voices turned off. Hard to do, but the only way I could respond honestly.
    The comments about responding to the piece in front of you are also astute, I think. That is what I tried to do, and I think Paula has captured that, as well. When working on the piece, it was very hard NOT to resolve it, but now also really fun to see what choices Paula has made to respond in her own honest voice.
    The "new" orientation, to me, looks more figurative, so that was an interesting choice. I like the addition of the additional "x" shapes, as well, dancing across the field. The addition / reintroduction of the yellow-green also works well, but still leaves a cross-composition resolution for the next artist to deal with. Maybe she will take everything off, and start over! Who knows, but this is a fascinating process to observe.
    Paula, love reading your thought processes, and seeing what choices you put into effect. Great work, and fun to watch.

  7. Wow, another new interpretation, and one so fresh and exciting. Every Monday, when I can come here and see how our baby has grown and evolved, has been, for me, like waking up on Christmas morning and tearing into the biggest present under the tree.

    Once again, the piece has taken on a life I never could have imagined when we started (that's half the fun of this, for me) and while I feel less and less qualified to comment on the actual design principles being employed by all these amazing women (whose quilting experience far outstrips my own), I can still very much appreciate the artistry, voice and sheer creativity of my fellow artists.

    The work has become lively, fun, flirty and playful... and very engaging.

    Well done, Paula!!