the Nancy Crow workshop at Shakerag continues

Let's see, I left off with my first composition.  A dud.  I am considering doing a bit of slicing and dicing with it and see what happens.  I have never done that before.  Once I finish piecing, it is usually over for me.  But what would happen if I restructure it?  m-mmm

Many of the ladies in the workshop produced some terrific pieces.  Naturally I didn't think to ask permission from most of them to post pictures on my blog.  But Karen obliged and here she is with her first composition. 

Sorry about the blurry pic, Karen. I think my hands were weak
with fatigue when I took this one)  

Note that she is sitting rather than standing by her quilt.  
We were already pretty tired by day two.  

Here is a much better shot
And it is oh so much better to see it in person.  

So, Karen hung in there and was one of the few that actually had her composition completed and partially sewn together by the end of day 5.

 Notice that she is now gleefully standing.  Nancy really, really liked Karen's composition and even helped her start sewing it together.   A little adrenalin rush happening here, maybe?

Karen is an expert seamstress, sewing and designing couture clothing, dyeing exquisite silk scarves and fabrics, but she doesn't do a lot of quilting.  She does know a lot about art and can critique with the best of 'em.  She has a great eye for design and color.  Nancy saw a huge potential in her and encouraged her to also go home and make a quilt per week.  Karen was brave enough to request a week off for Christmas, but I never did hear Nancy approve of that.  Nancy sorta put me in charge of staying on her back to continue with this.  Since we live in the same town, watch out Karen, I am gonna be checking in every week.  And calling for you to HELP! me.  

Another amazing lady in our class was Frances.  From Franklin, TN , she is 86 years young, has dyslexia, (which prevented from attending school as a young girl), now has double vision and has recently retired from her late in life career as a "dec -a -raata"  aka, interior decorator. She would climb up in her chair to pin things on her design wall, refusing assistance from anyone for anything, she was always there early and went home late.  To have a meal with her was an entertainment of the lifetime.  Oh, the stories she could tell in her genteel, southern manner.  Twinkling blue eyes, a cute wink and a nod, you are never certain if you should believe everything she told us.  The fact that (she says lightly) some movie star, what's her name that married some ole country singer, lives in her nearby her,  makes me think that she is not easily impressed and has lived a full life indeed.  

Frances brought her stash of home decor fabrics to use for her composition, as she was quite revolted with those loud (bright) cula's (colors) that some of us were using.  Nancy sent her over to see my stash and get something to brighten up her composition.  She meandered over, whispered to me, "what does she mean by bright colors?  Is she talking about that horrid orange?' pointing to the orange hand dyes on my wall.  When I confirmed this and then politely suggested perhaps a hot pink, she threw her hands up and said "phewy!"  As you can see, Frances does things her way.  

As for me, I am about to catch up on my rest and recovering from a nasty sinus and ear infection, sore throat, the CRUD as we call it down here.  But I am ready to grab my rotary cutter and start slashing this afternoon. More details will be trickling in.  Stay tuned.  

Nancy Crow workshop at Shakerag part 1

Nancy Crow. What can I say? She isn't kidding when she describes this as a graduate level class. It seems to me that she structures each workshop according to the average artistic level of the entire group, once she gets the feel for what we can accomplish. Although Strip- Piecing and Restructuring is described as an beginning to intermediate class, it is the second in the series of workshops that she offers. As far as artistic training, I am a babe in the woods. As far as the sewing stuff, I can handle that fairly well. So. Nancy Crow. What can I say?  She is one of the best teachers I have ever had.  Tough, but fair.  Lots of excellent teaching critiques.  I was constantly screwing up, but boy howdy, did I learn from those mistakes.  And that is what I wanted and needed.  
I had brought with me tons of fabric as noted in my last post. Right away, I was "awarded" recognition for having a huge "candy store" of luscious fabrics. That was about the only thing I got right all week.  I did, believe it or not, find that I still desperately needed more dark-darks, dark brights, and some light values. (Off to the dye studio I go.) Lesson learned.  At any rate, Nancy seemed delighted.

For the first composition, (day 1 and 2) each student sewed together free formed cut strips of fabrics following specific parameters, then free form cutting these strips into all sizes of rectangles and squares.  Then, place/slap those cut pieces on the design wall very quickly ( as in a New York minute) and intuitively. So here is what I did. Hardly pausing to to glance from one to the other.  

Nancy approved and told me to run with it, filling in the white spaces. I heard her words, but I didn't follow through. I tried to hard to make it all balanced, matchy and nicey nicey,etc.  Just had to keep messing with it.  I have yet to wrap my slow brain around the concept of line/space or figure/ground as it applies to abstraction. So I ended up with this. To which Nancy commented, "I liked the first one better". And so do I. Lesson learned.

(actual colors are brighter)
You know, when I got home with this, I had several well duh! moments.  Such a simple assignment, and saying that I never perform well in a workshop situation, is an understatement.  Were I following her instructions at home, all alone, it would have been great fun.  Now that I am home, I will be able to follow her directions and as she challenged us ,  "make lots of strips of fabrics and make one large quilt each week."  There's that old adage leering at me yet again,  "practice makes perfect".
I cannot begin to tell you everything that I learned last week.  I learned a whole lot about myself (better late than never, huh?)  And I think am beginning to grasp the composition concept. Nancy wants us to learn how to critique our own compositions, which is what I need.  Still working on that part.  She said so many things to me that are only beginning to sink in.  
I am still in recovery. I don't think I have ever been so exhausted in my life. Childbirth was a snap compared to this workshop!  Come to think of it, the results were much better with the birthing of the babies.  And oh yes, I recovered more quickly from childbirth than this 5 day (and night) workshop.  
More to come, gotta go rest again.  

June 10 is Almost Here

No, no, it's not my birthday, or anniversary, or a new national holiday.  But it will be a holiday of sorts for me.  I am off to Shakerag in Sewanee, TN for a 5 day workshop with Nancy Crow.   This is something I have wanted to do for years and at last, the time is about to arrive.  I've been dyeing and buying solid fabrics for months.  It seems that I will never have enough of the right values and colors, but perhaps I am likely a bit OCD on that issue, as my friends have hinted.  On the other hand, as Nancy says, you can never have enough fabrics.  Or is that what I say?  What about you?  Can you ever have enough of the perfect shade, tint, hue, color, solids,prints, plaids, stripes? So, thus far I have 7 plastic tubs of fabric.  Here's a couple of the tubs:

That doesn't include the high contrast print/stripe/plaid/dot fabrics.  Or the 4 yards of white and 4 yards of black.  That is in tub 8.  And mind you these are substantial tubs.  I won't release the plastic tub measurements, because then everyone will know that I am, indeed, OCD.  

I've made many improvisational quilts in the past, using a multitude of prints as well as some small projects using solids - as with pillows.  But can I do a beautiful composition on a large scale?  Scary scary scary.  In readying myself for this experience, I have been playing around with solids, just to see if I can remember how to start from scratch, without a pattern. Using mostly shot cottons, I began cutting and sewing.
Sketch One  11 x 14

Sketch Two  11 x 17
Okay, I started from scratch, but these are little ones.  Sketches a la Gwen Marston.  And there are no parameters, no rules except that all fabric must be solids.  Jump in and go for it.  Abstract. What is abstract and what does it really mean? 

Ah, well.  So, meanwhile, I have been multitasking in my studio I must admit.  But then, who doesn't these days?  I am quilting, still, on the dogwood quilt.  All the while thinking of abstract design.  Pictures coming soon.

I completed the Friends Shirts Quilt.  Footloose, no rules, no matchy-matchy points, all fancy free piecing. Perfect for practicing some traditional machine quilting with feathers and all that stuff.   All washed up and cuddly.  It will be my blanket of choice for my week on Monteagle Mountain.  Taking my friends along, as it were.

I also began working on my homework assignment # 5 from Lorraine Torrence's book, Fearless Design for Every Quilter.   The assignment, if I choose to accept it, (sorry) design a simple, well balanced composition as a line drawing and interpret the composition in 8 color schemes.  

"turn a blind eye and a deaf ear" achromatic

"turn a blind eye and a deaf ear" monochromatic
Only 6 more color combinations to go.  

Lorraine's homework projects have been much more challenging that I had thought they would be.  I discovered that I do not like being forced to follow the rules. Rules are so limiting.  But then, momma always said there was a reason for them.  To make you stretch and learn.  Yet, my secret self has been revealed.  Deep down, I honestly do not like much structure in most things. I have spent my life trying to conform, fit the mold, and follow the rules. At age ## I am so OVER IT. Rules are good for some things, but not so good for other things.  Ya think?

What is that going to do to me at the upcoming workshop?  Okay, so I must remember the reason I wanted to take this workshop with Nancy. Following her guidelines and be disciplined, because I want to learn more about art, composition, to stretch myself as much as possible, to dig deeper and find out more about myself.  Wish me luck.