Nancy Crow workshop: sets and variables, days 3, 4, and 5

posted in: Color, Learning | 2

Now for the second part of last week’s Nancy Crow workshop. We finished up the first assignment on Wednesday morning. Mine wasn’t complete, but after lunchtime I folded it up anyway and got ready for the second assignment.

This time she wanted us to concentrate on gradations in size and color. We were supposed to choose a single motif and create a two or three column quilt. Each section would gradate in value from medium to dark and also from very small to very large, and each section would reverse. For instance, one column would start with the small on top and the next would have the small on the bottom.

For this project she wanted us to begin by blocking off a large grid on our design wall. This one was on the very small size at about 45″ by 60″. Each section represented a different gradation in value and size. Then we were supposed to start pinning multiple background fabrics to each section. (I only put up one.) Once that was complete, she wanted us to compose a mock-up of our design directly on the wall. For this approach, she said we would have the entire quilt designed before we even started sewing. And when we were done, we were supposed to cut the shapes freehand by just looking at our mock-up. Yikes!

I went back to my work station and started by pulling all my background colors and arranging them from dark to medium tonal values. That can be quite a challenge because you have to disregard the actual color and just look at the value. I think I need a lot more practice doing that.

Sometimes it can help to determine the value of a piece of fabric if you take a black and white photo, but even that is not necessarily 100% accurate. After a while, Nancy came over and made some corrections, so I felt I could proceed.

For some reason, I hit a brick wall and just couldn’t wrap my head around how to start. I knew we were supposed to continue being “free” but it just wasn’t working for me. I slapped up some simple motifs in graduated sizes and sat in despair for a while. I even went over and talked to my friendly neighbor, bemoaning my fate, and I (gently) knocked my head against the dividing wall. It didn’t help.

So I decided I needed to just get started somewhere, even if it ended up being wrong. That’s how I ended up with this little piece. Extremely labor intensive –as in, all Wednesday night, Thursday morning, and most of Thursday afternoon. Lots of strip piecing and cutting. Only about 10″ by 12″. It was a place to start but, it just wasn’t working.

At about 4 PM on Thursday, I decided to start again. When I looked at my mock-up, I realized I kind of liked how the motifs looked like they were floating. Never mind the fact that the motifs weren’t really changed or manipulated like they should be. Instead, I decided to concentrate on learning Nancy’s approach of cutting shapes freehand just by looking at the design wall. I obviously missed learning that technique in some other workshop, so at least I could try to learn it now, even if it wasn’t strictly the assignment. I also thought, maybe I should learn how to cut and sew a straight line without a ruler. So, with my new self-assigned project in mind, I started again. This time, it was going to be a one-column quilt! I immediately felt relief and could just enjoy the process again.

I think it is funny how different the two projects turned out. Even to me, it doesn’t look like the same person made both pieces. But, learning the process was invaluable. I talked to Nancy a bit before the workshop ended and asked her what direction I should pursue over the next six months, beginning after the wedding, of course. She pretty much said what I’ve heard time and again. Just do the work. Lots of it. Yep. I agree. I need to buckle down and quit making excuses and just do it. That’s the only way to really learn.

2 Responses

  1. Linda Steele

    Love your post. I think you must have been talking to me. I have also been out of my comfort zone, trying to be free with paint. I came to a stand still, sort of shock. I just have to get on and do it!

    • Maria

      Hahaha! I think you are right. I know it is good to get out of my comfort zone, but it doesn’t always feel like it at the time.