Sometimes it’s difficult to make a start. You wonder how to begin to organise a design on your blank canvas, whether it’s paper or fabric. But help is at hand. Deborah Boschert has taken traditional elements and principles of design and condensed them into a series of eight Design Guides, that go a long way to help us with that process in a friendly, non-academic, way.
You may remember that several posts ago ( October 2017: ‘Design, Composition and Play’) we looked at another of Deborah’s design guides: “One Amazing Line” and I made an English Paper Pieced snake with some embroidered ladders. Here is another, much more proficient, example of what a simple line can do, ‘Sketching with Silk’, a 9 x 36 ” piece by Ellen Linder.
Today I wanted to talk briefly about another of Deborah’s Design Guides, one that she calls ‘Third Plus’ and to see what I can make of it with some simple EPP and appliqué.
Her first directions is to “fill one third of the space with one fabric and the remaining two thirds with another fabric.” I chose an 8 x 8 inch space and two shades of fabric that complemented each other, for a sea theme.
These are Moda Grunge fabrics ‘Crystal Sea’ (the lighter fabric on left) and ‘Cabana’ (the darker fabric on right) which are perfect for background interest. They come in a HUGE range of colours and shades.
The next step is to put ” something interesting” on the line dividing the two fabrics. You can put this slightly above, below, to the right, or the left of the line, whichever suits your idea better; and this is a composition that works in portrait or in landscape, which is another thing worth exploring.
The “something interesting” that you add can be a shape, like a cloud; or a symbol, like a plus sign; it can be a line that works across the composition; or an arrangement of small things, like flowers or sea shells. You can play with texture and colour, too. So, there are stacks of options that can take your initial idea different ways.
As I am an English Paper Piecer, I begin with paper shapes, so I drew my design out and placed my “something interesting”, a face, just a squeak below the centre of the line. I drew it out as a grid first because I considered a patchwork background, but changed my mind and stuck with simply joining the two pieces of fabric.
The item of interest that you add to your line doesn’t have to be an appliquéd piece, like mine. Yours might be embroidered on, or you might have a series of patches worked into the centre. My plan is to appliqué the face on the background, then embroider it (perhaps adding a little paint). After that I will embroider on the hair as a series of rolling waves and then appliqué a small boat riding the waves. I want to call my composition ‘Lady of the Lake'( though as I am in Scotland, perhaps I should be calling it the Lady of the Loch !
So here we go. The first step is to tack each background piece and then sew them together. It will look something like this (without those horrible tacking stitches of course!)
As the face is going to take me a while to complete, I need to leave you here and show you the finished item in the next post, where I will talk about any changes I make, and about the surface embellishment.
In the meantime, you have all the information you need here to make a start on your own Third Plus project and I will gladly post pictures if you send them to me. You may also want to check out Deborah Boschert’s book online. it is called ‘Art Quilt Collage : a creative journey in fabric paint and stitch’. I can’t recommend it enough for when you want to take that next step into something more ‘arty’.
I also wanted to say something briefly about copying, today. I see that in the UK, copying is something very much frowned upon. As I see it, here we are encouraged to separate ourselves from others and create something unique. I grew up in the Far East where copying is encouraged and you would be thought very arrogant indeed to think that, as a beginner, you could just go off and do your own thing. I attended Chinese Brush Painting classes where students would watch while the painting master created a painting in front of their eyes and then copy it.
One day, after several years of copying, my painting master paid me the highest compliment (actually the only one he ever paid me). “Just like mine,” he said. Of course it wasn’t but it was his way of telling me that I was nearly ready to create my own compositions. The painting was Paddy birds (from the paddy fields), in a tree.
I agree that copying work and passing it off as your own is not acceptable but there are advantages to copying work as a learning exercise and I don’t think we should be afraid to embrace that. After all, didn’t Picasso say something like it took him a couple of years to learn to paint like Rembrandt and then the rest of his life to learn to paint like a child ?
We can learn things from copying that lead us to a better execution of our own ideas in the future. I often copy designs I am drawn to on Pinterest. Here is an example.
I copied this little quilt because it allowed me to try some small appliquéd shapes for the first time as complete something fairly quickly. Sometimes I adapt designs to suit myself. Here I changed the shape of the basket because I liked this one better. I also added a tail and some whiskers to the rabbit. I am quite happy to say it is not my own design, or that I have improvised on top of someone else’s. It still makes me smile whenever I look at it.
In copying I can inhabit the shoes of the maker, understanding a little of what it took to make that design, or use those stitches. Copying helps us experiment, gives us something specific to focus on: What would it be like to make a primitive design like one person, an embroidered landscape like another? Though copying we learn about what we most enjoy and want to go on and develop. Some people are so talented they can create something unique from scratch. Most of us have to learn slowly by trying out different things in a bid to find our own unique take on the world. Copying is a good way to start out. What’s not to like, as they say?
After ‘ Lady of the Lake’ is complete, I will return to some more Scottish themed ideas that are already in progress, with one or two especially for Spring. If Deborah’s Design Guides give you useful food for thought, we could try out some more of them……let me know, ok?
Till next time…