Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Making myself clearer 2

When I wrote about two pieced quilts in the Form, Not Function show, Sandy left a comment:  "I am not quite sure what you mean by some statements."  I had described Sandra Ciolino's work as "a classic 'motif' quilt, using a simple block over and over in different shapes, sizes and configurations to make a complex overall pattern."  Sandy said, "Not being a piecer/patchworker, perhaps I am not really seeing the classic in this?"

So let me walk that statement back and explain it in a little more detail.

Sandra Palmer Ciolino, Precaria #4: Kinetics

Perhaps it's just those of us who have studied with Nancy Crow, and the next generation of those who have studied with those who studied with Nancy, who are intimately familiar with the concept of working with a motif.  In this approach, you start with a simple sketch of one or two shapes in a box.

Here's Sandra's basic motif, a five-sided shape just touching a four-sided shape:

She turns it in different directions:

She stretches it out:

She stretches it out in the other direction:

She makes blocks with just the four-sided shape:

Or just the five-sided shape:

The size and shape of the motifs varies, the orientation varies, and most important, the colors vary to give you a whole lot of tension and complexity.  Figures become ground and vice versa.  I have seen people use their motif in dozens of quilts, each one subtly different; it's a technique that allows you to explore many different aspects of composition and design and understand how all the moving parts work together.

I infer from the title of Sandra's quilt, Precaria #4, that she's been using this motif for a while.  It would be interesting to see other works in this series!


  1. Thanks for the explanation; love the quilt, in fact it could pull me back into big-quilt making...

  2. I could see some of the motif thing, but didn't understand it. But I have done design work in City+Guilds (not P+Q) using the idea of doing things with shapes such as she has done. So thank you for connecting the dots on how this works for quilt designs.
    It is definitely not something I am attracted to, but it helps to have someone explain something that looks a bit of too much going on in one piece.

  3. Kathy, Thanks for using "Precaria #4: Kinetics" to teach a lesson about manipulating a motif. There are currently 10 quilts in this series, and 6 are posted on my website: