Festival of Quilts

I’m back!  Actually I got back on Friday night but we had to collect the kids from their various camps in the south-west yesterday and by the time I had done that and unpacked their stinky clothing I had no energy to do anything except be a zombie in front of the computer and have an early night.    All next week is holiday club at church and I’m helping with the crafts every morning so I thought I had better write something about last week before it all scrambled up in my brain.

The course was wonderful though it was very strange to be at the NEC on Tuesday and Wednesday with hardly anyone else there.    When all the quilters started arriving on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning it was quite a shock to the system!  We didn’t get to see the exhibition before Thursday, although we did get in half an hour before it opened because Erika took us in to view her exhibition and told us how she came to make them and the progression from one to the next, which was fascinating.    They were all very monotone – she had mostly just used discharging and quilting on them.  She said that she felt she needed to get right back to the basics and not be distracted by colour, so all but a couple of the last ones had no colour at all apart from black and the sort of cream/sepia colour you get from discharging.  I found them very refreshing, after being bombarded with all the colours in the rest of the quilts in the exhibition.  Very simple and to the point.

We did very few organised exercises during the course – she asked us to come with a possible subject in mind.  First of all we got together in pairs and talked about our chosen subject – she said she thought it was important to articulate what we had in mind because often just talking about it would bring up thoughts about it that we hadn’t been conscious of – and we did a word association exercise with the subject, writing down all the words or phrases  connected with it which came into our heads (a sort of brainstorming, I suppose), and took note of any that particularly enthused us.  We also did some mark making to music (not necessarily connected with the subject) and she read some poetry to us, at intervals all through the three days.  Then she told us to come up with four designs in different shapes of frames connected to our subject, because having to fit something into different shapes would affect what we came up with – a vertical rectangle, a horizontal rectangle, a square and a circle.   (A long, thin, horizontal design would have a different emphasis than a square one).  Then after this she set us an assignment  – basically to come up with a more-or-less finished piece of work (this turned into a quilt top for most of us) by the next day.  Cue for panic!!  This was to be based on either the subject or about how we felt at that moment.  We had to present this to the group the following day.

She set a few ground rules, the chief of which was that we weren’t allowed to offer any comments or even praise about anyone else’s work, or even to go round looking at it (except surrepticiously!).  This was amazingly freeing, because it meant that we could concentrate on our own work and weren’t distracted or feel the need to say ‘that’s nice’ just because someone had said that about our own… 

My subject was mud, specifically the River Usk which is mostly mud at low tide and I ended up making something based on the design I came up with for the vertical rectangle (very unlike me – I usually don’t draw very much at all!).  This is a photo of the sketch – I don’t want to post a photo of my work as it is at the moment because there are a number of pieces in the process of being made and I don’t want to dry up my creative juices prematurely! 

rough sketch of quilt

It was basically a sort of abstract rendering of the various layers of the river floor and the way the mud was affected by footprints and the action of the waves – a cross section… lots of lines and layering and cutting back and ripping!!   By the third day I decided I wanted to concentrate on getting lots of design work thought out because lack of a direction in what I’m doing is what normally keeps me away from working and if I have lots of ideas and stuff started then I feel like going into my workroom and carrying on.   I ended up with about 4 different things started and lots of stuff in my sketchbook so I hope that I will carry on with that.

All in all, I had a fantastic time and met up with a number of online friends, several of whom recognised me from my photo!    I spent the Friday going round the show and trying to see as much as I could.

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3 Comments:

  1. “Then she told us to come up with four designs in different shapes of frames…”

    I first experienced the importance of designing in a specific space when I was coming up with a pattern for a class on curved piecing. I drew various horizontal curved lines across a square of paper, then took a pot lid to make a circle, as I wanted the class to learn how to set a circle into a square frame. When I lifted the lid, I realized the best parts of my curved designed seemed to fall outside the circle and the part left in the circle wasn’t very interesting at all. So I started over by drawing the circle first, then adding the curved lines within. Ever since that experience, I’ve been very aware of the influence of the size and shape of the paper I begin with when sketching or drawing a design. It really does make a difference with what you end up with, and I wonder how many quilters realize that.

    I applaud your bravery for taking a class like this. I am totally intimidated by the thought of what Erika had you do! Sounds like it was an excellent experience for you.

  2. Your blog loaded perfectly!! How wonderful your class sounds and cant wait to see what you make. I love classes where youre encouraged to explore your own creativity and I love what you got down on paper. Thankyou too to Sheila for her comment ~ dont think Id really thought about the size and shape in that way before. I really enjoyed the festival and found it to be a really uplifting and inspiring time. Have a wonderful crafty week, Judy x

  3. Thank you, Sheila and Judy. Sheila, I think that if I’d known what I was letting myself in for, I might have thought twice about going! Although to be honest, if I had thought twice at the time, all the places would have gone… they had all been taken by the second day they were up on the website.

    Fitting the design into a specific shape wasn’t something I’d ever really considered before, either – my drawn designs either tend to stick to the shape of the paper or sort of fade away at the edges …

    I think that just having the three days away from the house and not having anything else to do helped getting down to it, too – since then I haven’t done anything, mainly because it is school holidays…

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