Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The long saga of the Blue Planet

Sometimes it takes a l-o-n-g time and a lot of attempts for an idea to turn into reality.  Here's the story of one such idea and how it has taken six years to get there (and the story may not be over yet).

In May 2005 I took a workshop from Nancy Crow called "Improvisational Composition."  One of the exercises was to block off a space four by eight feet, then divide it into two unequal sections.  The large section was to be filled with large shapes, and the small section with small shapes.  We would make our compositions first in black and white, then reproduce them in a wider array of neutral colors.

I had the idea to base my composition on a semicircle.  In my mind, this was the southern hemisphere of a planet -- perhaps the earth -- and it was cracking apart.  Hold that thought.

My first go at this composition was what I called "Black Planet."  I planned to fill in the entire left portion of the planet with small, fine-line piecing.

I loved the composition but it was very ambitious and would take a long time to sew together.  At about this point I decided to fold it up and proceed to the next assignment, rendering the same thing in neutrals.

My second go was "Brown Planet" and it too got to a certain point, but had to be folded up and taken home because the workshop ended before the quilt was sewed together.

I took both Black and Brown Planets home with me but never finished them.  That summer and fall I was busy preparing for a solo show and worked frantically for months to finish everything I needed.  Then I had to decompress from the show, and didn't do much of anything for a while.  I liked both the Planets, but they were so big that it would have been difficult to complete them with the limited design wall space in my home studio.

The following spring I went back to the Barn for a master composition class, and decided that I wanted to keep working with the southern hemisphere composition.

We had an extremely large group in the workshop, and space was limited, so I worked a bit smaller than I had with the Black and Brown Planets.  My first try went together quickly but I thought it was a little crude, a step backward in sophistication from my work the year before.

My second try was better, but there was so much piecing that I didn't get very far.  At this point I decided to stop and work on something else for the remainder of the workshop, rather than slog along to finish the piece.

Because my piecing tends to be intricate, complex and SLOW, I often hit this wall at workshops; the creative part is done and all that's left are hours and hours and hours of sewing.  That seems like a waste of valuable workshop time; better to start something new and do the exciting process of development with the help of the teacher.  You can always sew at home.

I worked on this piece when I got home, and then took it back to the Barn in December of 2006 where I got it almost finished, but then it got packed away and forgotten.

This spring I was back at the Barn for another master class, with the mission to haul a lot of old almost-finished pieces out of their boxes and decide whether they were worth finishing.  Here's Blue Planet up on the wall being contemplated.

I decided it was worth finishing, because I liked the basic composition and it was almost done.  I finished off the ragged top edge, took it home -- this is starting to sound like all the previous Planets, isn't it? -- but this time I quilted it!!

Only six years from idea to finished quilt.  I still like the southern hemisphere design, and reviewing my photos makes me fantasize about finishing Black and Brown, although realistically I don't suppose that will ever happen.  This quilt is a throwback, a pleasant reminder of where I was in 2006.  Since then I've moved in a different direction and probably won't return to the Planets; they were a good idea whose time has passed.  But it's nice to have one make its way to completion.

Blue Planet, 2011


  1. makes my request for a picture superfluous - great work!

  2. Thanks for showing the evolution of this.
    The semicircle evokes a vessel or a boat. Thus it offers me another interpretation.
    Wonderful work!

  3. Neat - I really liked seeing the process involved. (As well as finding out that other people take six years to finish something too...)

    I really liked the brown planet best. The blue is good - but the brown one talked to me the most.

  4. It's a wonderful piece and I really enjoyed reading about the history of it.

  5. I enjoyed seeing how your design evolved to become what you wanted from an imposed starting point. The blue planet looks like a lovely contemplative piece.

  6. Elena -- many of the people in my workshop also saw a boat (and were very attached to that image, even after I insisted it was a planet). I think boats are a primal image that are very comforting, but sorry, this isn't one.

    Leigh -- I like the brown one too but it's so far from being done that I don't even want to think about it. But it's there, pinned to a sheet, any time I decide to go back....

  7. Of course I think the blue finished one is superb, but something about the brown and black one speaks to me. Funny because I'm much more of a blue person than a brown/black person. So don't throw it away. You can always send it to me. VBG )