ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Right With this Picture!

I love receiving photographs of finished works from students. Last week Marnie Draper sent me the above photo of the tulip quilt she just finished, using my pattern. Marnie took my In Full Bloom class 2-1/2 years ago at Country Concessions Quilt Shop in Cookstown, Ontario. Either Marnie has some art background or she intuitively knows about good composition, because her decision to place the tulip off centre was a good one. I never had an intuitive sense of good composition, but learning from reading, classes, and observation over many years now is really making me feel more confident about design. Marnie has also developed an ability to see value, giving the tulip depth, making you feel as though you could walk right in!  I like the way she has also broken up her background to make it more interesting. I thought that sharing this photo today was good timing, given my last post where I talked about fixing my own composition.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What's Wrong with this Picture?

The theme of today's post is "what is wrong with this picture"? I will begin with photos of my studio, as it appeared after coming home from my two weeks of teaching at the Haliburton School of the arts. This is AFTER I put all my things away. Can you see why it felt impossible to work in this space?

Stuff was piled everywhere! Even the palettes of fabric I might need for my next projects kept getting stacked higher and higher on a chair. 

I couldn't even find the table tops!

Bits and pieces of projects were all over the place.

But now it is fixed!  See my closet on the far wall (this is with doors off)? Two new shelving units that fit properly and are heavy duty enough to hold all those bins of fabric were part of the solution. I was able to fit more into the closet than before the improved shelving units. One unfortunate fact is that I still have way too much commercial fabric taking up my precious space, meaning that most of my hand-dyed fabrics are stashed in a big white pantry (to the right) and a chest of drawers in the neighbouring room. Yes, I do use my commercial fabrics for backings and such, but at the rate I'm producing (or not producing!) work I have way too much fabric. Hmmm ... didn't I mention this problem about 2 years ago? The good news is that I now have an intimate knowledge of where my in-progress projects are and I have clear table tops to work on!

And on the theme of "what is wrong with this picture", I present the following. While I still love the tulip in "Queen of the Night", made in 2008, I am bothered by the stagnant composition. It sits centre stage with all that dead space around it, and it is far too symmetrical. While I knew better at the time, I was single-mindedly focusing on studying value to the detriment of other aspects of good design.

So I tried cropping the photo to make the borders less symmetrical.  

I tried colouring in two possible positions that I might add a stem, that would draw my eye up into the tulip.

I tried cropping all borders so they would be less overwhelming and "quilty". I want this to look like art, not a bed quilt.

Finally, I tried cropping all borders away, as well as cropping some of the dead space to bring the flower up closer. This looks more modern and arty, I think.

I could crop even closer if I wanted to and make the work even less symmetrical.This will mean that a quilt that was once 40" x 38" will be reduced to 28" x 24". But I'll feel better about it. By the way, these crops have been made digitally to the photo, not to the actual quilt. YET

Feel free to weigh in with feedback on the composition.

Right now I'm revisiting all the patterns I teach for improved composition. I am AOK with all the trees, but have a few florals to improve, which may be included in the patterns that get published and distributed. Up until now I have only sold patterns in conjunction with instruction. By the way, I should also announce that there will be a hosta pattern/s and a hosta class. The time has come!! I hope it/they will be available early in 2014.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Art Quilt Series at The Running Stitch

Not that many more weeks left before autumn, and the start of my Art Quilt Series class here in Ottawa at the The Running Stitch. Dates of the series appear near the end of this post.

Who is this class for? Anyone who would like to design their own art quilts. That might be someone coming from a traditional quilting background who wants to move away from using patterns or someone who wants to move into making art quilts without any quilting background. There is no sewing knowledge required for the designing and dyeing portion of the class. Eventually you will need to have a reliable sewing machine that you are familiar with to finish your work.

What will we do in this class?  We'll learn about the following topics:
1.  Creativity and Inspiration
2.  Composition, Design & Colour
3.  Turning your inspiration and ideas into original quilts.
     a)  Seat of the Pants Design
     b)  Designing Your Own Pattern
5.  Fabric Dyeing
6.  Edge Finishes

To see more about what my class at the Haliburton School of the Arts did this summer go to this link.

Here are a few design exercise samples I whipped up during demo's in my previous Art Quilt classes. The two small pieces below are done using a "seat of the pants" design method.

They are loosely based and inspired by this photograph I took at a ruin site in New Mexico.

Here's another seat of the pants design (all cut free-hand).

This abstract design is based on a close-up photo I shot of a glass fish on my windowsill, with the sun shining through.  You can see the composition I isolated below.

The following two small designs were created using a pattern I made from a sketch of mine (the sketch is immediately below the designs). 

Here's an example of a more substantial piece I made by creating a pattern from a sketch.  This piece is called "Heartbeat of the Earth".

Here's my original sketch.  Sorry about the quality. I could only find my enlarged sketch, which had to be scanned in two parts.

This small design was inspired by the photograph that appears below it, taken during a visit to the Bonnechere Caves.  This design was traced rather than sketched.

Here is a more substantial piece ("Red Stool") inspired by a combination of three photographs (in the second photo).

This quilt, "Moon Over Naikoon" was created using both methods: seat of the pants construction for the wind, waves, and trees, and making a pattern for the moon face.

You'll learn how to dye your own fabric to use in your original designs. You choose either an earthy or bright palette.  You'll be introduced to colour mixing as well as a more free-form method of dying multi-coloured fabric.
Earthy Palette

Bright Palette

Dates of the workshops (all Sundays) are as follows:

September 22
October 27
November 24
December 15
January 12, 2014.

Contact The Running Stitch to register.  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

See What My Students Did in "Flowers and Foliage" Class

Last week I enjoyed a second wonderful week of teaching at the Haliburton School of the Arts. Here's a picture of me on Tuesday night at Rails End Gallery. Each summer all the instructors teaching in the Summer Arts Program are invited to submit a piece for the faculty show, which is always held at Rails End Gallery. Tuesday nights students are invited to come out and meet the Instructors. This piece is called "Red Stool Macro".

Eleven students registered in my new class "Flowers and Foliage". WOW, did they ever inspire me. I can't tell you how gratifying it was to spend the week observing their progress. I came home last night feeling very inspired!  I'm including photos here of pieces that were finished, or almost finished.

Libby's piece was inspired by a macro photograph of geranium buds. She successfully brings a subject that the naked eye can't see to a larger-than-life form.

Bridget Hough's piece was inspired by birch trees in a location that is very special to her. She designed it so it would follow the seasons: spring on the left, summer at the centre, and then moving into fall on the right.

Holly's piece was inspired by a close-up photograph of a tropical leaf.  Adding the more minor veins into each section gives it a more complex look with a feeling of depth.

Ruth accomplished a lot in the week!  She completed and even quilted the flower portion of these irises, which are in memory of her mother.

She went on to complete a second piece featuring a poppy.

Just look at the drama in Sarita's orchid!  

Chris and her daughter Patricia came to the class together.  Chris, completed a much more realistic, but very dramatic,pair of hosta leaves.

Patricia chose a section of her photo that resulted in a very dramatic abstract composition. The diagonal lines give it a wonderful feeling of movement.

Dawn's piece is so close to finished (only the white section remains to be finished) that I had to include it here. Someone asked me during the week whether I would ever use fabrics with designs printed on them. I responded that I would not, but someone like quilt artist Ruth McDowell would do so very successfully.  I think Dawn's piece might even be more interesting, and more abstract, with the printed fabrics. Inspired by a close-up photo of the centre of a rose, her piece has a wonderful spiral movement in the centre.

Here's our class photo!  Thank you Dawn, Velma, Sarita, Ruth S., Libby, Ruth M., Holly, Chris, Bridget, Pat M and Patricia L.for an inspiring week.

I also had a visit from a student from last year's class. Barb dropped by to show some finished pieces, including her liberated radial design.

In addition, she decided to try making a quilt featuring hosta leaves on her own. Lovely, isn't it?

I am home now for a few weeks, getting unpacked and putting everything back in its place. Hmmmm ... funny how a whole carload of "stuff" doesn't quite fit back in my house so well ;-))