Thursday, April 2, 2015

Failed series 2 -- layouts

Writing about series that were canceled early -- ideas that got the old college try but for some reason failed to jell.  This series started in my first workshop with Nancy Crow, in 2003.  We were strip-piecing, and this assignment was to make six strip-pieced panels, then cut and rearrange them into a composition.  I loved the finished top; it used some of my all-time favorite colors (that lavender has appeared in many, many pieces) and I thought the composition was successful.

Layout 1: Six-Column Format

I never quilted it, although I can't remember why; I think I got sidetracked into finishing my alphabet series for exhibit.  But after that show, I returned to the series and made two more pieces.

My thought here was to make several strip-pieced panels, then as I cut and rearranged them I made two compositions instead of one.  They were twins, of course, with the same fabrics and strip patterns, but had different characters.  They were the same size and intended to be displayed side-by-side, but as it turned out, one was accepted into a traveling exhibit and went away for a while.  Meanwhile, the other one was shown a few places and even won the top award at an all-mediums show in a museum.

Layout 2 and 3: Two-Page Spread, 2004

By this time I had attached a meaning to the series: newspaper layout.  I trained as a journalist and worked on a newspaper early in my career.  My father was a newspaper typographer and I grew up with thoughts of different layout patterns.

The artist statement I wrote for this series read: "These quilts are about newspapers.  From day to day the same stories keep reappearing – politics, war, weather, sports, scandal.  Today’s newspaper is different from yesterday’s in its details, but not in its recurring themes."

I spent some time with one of the books my father wrote about newspaper design, writing down several ideas that could constitute more quilts in the series.  For instance, "reverse pyramid" is a diagonal composition, describing how ads are placed at the bottom of the page, sloping up toward the top.  But somehow the list of titles and diagrams never got translated into fabric.  I got sidetracked into other series and priorities.

At first I thought I would be called back to the series after my father died, which happened in 2007.  But I wasn't.  In retrospect, I realize that the strip-piecing, a technique that I love and have taught in many workshops, is too closely associated with Nancy Crow, my friend and mentor.  While Nancy has been a huge influence on me, her gravitational pull is so strong that I have struggled to develop my own voice instead of succumbing to the easy temptation of working with strip-pieced panels.  I'm not sure I yet have the self-confidence to venture back into strip-pieced territory.

Bottom line: visually striking, emotionally and intellectually powerful, but too derivative to handle???


  1. We all internalize what our teachers taught us. I wouldn't look on them as failures in any sense of the word. Sometimes so much time as passed between then and now that there is no longer a connection with the old work. You know as well as I do that you can't force yourself to develop your own style, that it will come and reveal itself to you as you work. I wouldn't worry about Crow's gravitational pull on your work - you're her student - and to some degree that's expected. But if you don't START down that path, you give yourself no opportunity to move toward something else.

    I think you have a hell of a style. You have nothing to lose. Go for it, and good luck!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Millie. I really don't consider the quilts to be failures, but the series didn't succeed, if that distinction isn't too precious. Simply writing about these pieces and how I feel about them has been good for me. Maybe I will pull them out of the closet and work in that vein again.

  2. Your bottom line is good brain for today's work in the studio. Thank you.