1/21/14

Transforming the Traditional: Day One

It's been a long day, but a good day. I was up at 5:45 this morning in order to be on the road by 6:45. My goal was to arrive at the Oregon Garden early so that I could check in early as I requested. The woman I spoke with on the phone a couple of days ago made it sound like it was going to happen, but it did not. When I was finally able to check into my room at the end of the day, the same woman apologized and said they hadn't known my room was ready. It was annoying, but no one died as a result. I figure when no one dies, it can't be a very big deal. So beyond that minor disappointment, everything has been going well.

The Oregon Garden Resort is a nice facility, although smaller than I expected. The light in the room where the workshop is being held could be better, but I'm getting by with the bright light on my sewing machine. I have Big Bertha with me, and she's by far the biggest machine in the room. I'm not sorry I brought her. I know all her buttons and quirks, and since this workshop topic is way outside my comfort zone, I'm glad I'm not also trying to figure out the sewing machine.

Lura Schwartz Smith is a good teacher, although she's much more art-brained than I am. I appreciated her acknowledgement that some of us have art brains (not me), and some of us are more "color-inside-the-lines types (me). The latter is my description for it. She called us "math brains", but I wouldn't classify myself as a math type. Nevertheless, I am a take-no-chances type. After all, I used to work in a hospital emergency room..a trauma center, no less. I'm very cautious in all things, including art.

Sometimes I had a little trouble following what she was saying simply because I'm unfamiliar with "art" terminology. I'm here to tell you right now that I've not taken a single art class in my entire long life. When I was in school, we had to choose between art and music, and I was always in the music classes. So when you get down to talking about perspective and...hm, can't even remember the words beyond "perspective"...you artsy types will know the words...anyway, it's all Greek to me. So let's just see what we've been talking about today. The first day was devoted to techniques needed for this quilt:


We're really focused on how to distort those traditional blocks to turn them into something else. We started with straight lines, and I'm going to try to demonstrate using the notes I took today. I'll apologize right up front for these crappy iPhone pictures. I was trying to be surreptitious with my photography, and using flash just seemed rude.

So the gist of this is that you want your lines to look like a railroad track as it leads away from you to a vanishing point on the horizon. The vertical lines (the "rails") will be straight, but not parallel as they meet up with the vanishing point. The horizontal lines (the "ties") will be parallel, but--and this is the important part--they also compress as they get further away. We were using the star in the upper left-hand corner of my drawing as our traditional block, and then distorting it as it moved farther away.


Then we did it with curved lines, and she had us think of a banana as we drew our curve...not too curvy, in other words. Then, it's pretty much the same process. The "ties" are still parallel, but the key here is to recognize that the lines that form the points of the stars will be both concave and convex. She had us think of a bird's beak and that the beak needed to be able to close. If the lines curve in the wrong direction, you end up with something shaped more like a tulip.


We briefly talked about what she called "Tilt-A-Whirl" designs where they don't necessarily head toward a vanishing point. In that case, she had us envision a fan with the vanishing point off the area of the design. Again, the lines get compressed and fan out more in the wider areas, less in the narrower areas.


Clear as mud, right? Then we set about making our blocks. I won't go into a lot of detail about how we did this. Basically, we took our pattern and cut it into individual pieces, then use the pieces for our patterns to cut the individual pieces of the block. This meant adding a seam allowance and keeping straight which way they faced and whether to use dark or light. The blocks end up wonky, obviously. Here's the one I made:


Very wonky, but when you lay it on the pattern, see how it looks?


So far so good. I was feeling good about this part of the workshop. Now, remember the quilt? We had a photograph included with our packets, which was very helpful.


Our next trick was to make the grass. I got pretty lost on this part and ended up sort of holding my breath and cutting. Sewing those curved seams was pretty easy for me...it was cutting them right that threw me for a loop. Still, I ended up with something looking sort of okay.


This is a technique I'll want to play with some more to get a better grasp of it and to feel as if I have some control over my work. As it is, I'm just hoping and praying that it turns out sort of like what I'm trying to do. And, so far, it isn't. Whatever I end up with is pure luck.

Tomorrow I think we will be something on the order of the grass. I hope it's a little easier, because a whole day of that might be my undoing. And that wouldn't be pretty at all. You never want to see me when I come undone. It's not unlike the Incredible Hulk, only with more tears, moaning, and grievous wailing.

Anyway...we're going to make some of these roses.


As I've told a few of you, I pretty much brought my entire stash of scraps for this workshop. I looked around the room to see how many bags others brought. I'm happy to say that if we were scoring points for the amount of fabric we brought, I would definitely win the prize. It's always good to be the winner at something.

While I had expected to spend all three days on the above two techniques, she tells us that the third day she's going to work on "inking", and I would hate to even try to tell you anything about the many different media she described in this "inking" explanation. But if it helps, here is a piece she used to discuss what we're going to do. It had something to do with allowing the lightness of the fabric show through the "ink" and simply using the "ink" to make it darker. And she also said not to worry about getting too dark because it simply meant that one had committed to taking it to the next darker level. I opined that it sounded a little like sawing the legs off the table...which is what I fully expect to be doing in my corner of the room.


I'll just say that many of her works had cats in them somewhere. This one just happens to be her kitten that was rescued from a wood pile just as the weather turned to below-freezing temperatures. You have to feel some fondness for a person who would rescue a kitten, not to mention including cats in most of her work.

So dinner is about 20 minutes away. I guess I'll stop there. It's been a long day, and I'm tired. While I'm still not thrilled about being in a roomful of strangers, it isn't bad, and I'm managing it okay. It definitely helps to be engaged in an activity like sewing. I can sort of keep my head down and avoid eye contact unless I'm feeling up to it. Hopefully, dinner will be comfortable as well. I've been messaging Mike today and he reminded me that it would get better as time goes by. Of course, he's right.

29 comments from clever and witty friends:

WoolenSails said...

I wish I could take the class with you, but sounds like fun to me, even with the fact that I have no perspective, lol. Love the kitty piece, would love to learn more about that.

Debbie

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Oh sweetie - you have learned to fly, so soar. Don't be afraid to ask questions so you don't get lost in the verbage. There are others probably thinking the same and just as shy to ask. Smile and breath

Junebug613 said...

Looks interesting and confusing. I'm sure you'll figure it out. Sometimes, when I get home and start trying to work on something that confused me in a class, I figure it out better on my own. I'm sure you will have an AHA! moment. The kitten is lovely and I look forward to hearing about that technique. Keeping your head down? I seem to be the one who people ask for help and clarification. As if I actually know what I'm doing. Ha! But I also have a sarcastic humor and enjoy the classes. Hang in there!

BillieBee (billiemick) said...

Sounds really hard to me, but enjoy yourself.

The Slow Quilter said...

This looks like a very interesting class to take, I cannot wait to see your finish projects.

SewCalGal said...

Way cool design. Love all the tips that you shared.

Not sure if you are aware, but there is a feature in EQ7 that allows a flying geese sort of design to flow with the wind, as you've drawn. Maybe EQ8 will morph that technique to let us take any block into that morphing direction. I do so love what you've shared. Have fun.

SewCalGal
www.sewcalgal.blogspot.com

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Barb, it's coming along beautifully. Perspective is an interesting deal. We were doing that in the only art class I've ever taken the week my sister died. needless to say, perspective is still out there waiting to be learned by me. I get some of it but complicated curves are for the more well-trained.

You're sounding like me in a crowd-head down, nose tot he grindstone, ears open... Hope the food's good.

Sher S. said...

I'm so proud of you for stepping out of your comfort zone. I do know it's hard to do, I've been there too. Just be yourself, enjoy the other ladies and keep an open mind for the pattern. If you don't understand any of that, please ask her to explain again or in different terms. Teachers usually don't mind having to go over it again or put in different words. They just need to know you don't understand. Take a calming breath and relax. You will do fine. Love what you have done so far. Smile! we all love you.

Cath said...

oh my goodness Barbara, I would be so lost in that class....I am a paint by numbers kind of gal!!...but I think you are doing a fabulous job and I am looking forward to seeing some more. Remember you are not on your own there....we are all there with you in spirit!
Cath @ Bits 'n Bobs

Patrica said...

You are brave, just remember it not rocket surgery ;). Seriously I would be completely lost but it's good to stretch and the ink part sounds like fun. Fake it til ya make it!

Brown Family said...

I was in music, too. Art was not my thing. I do understand prospective and the rail road tracks meeting off in the distance. I have lived in flat country and actually seen that!

Tami C said...

You class seems to be going quite well. I've never taken an art class either. I like your churn dash block that you made. The little Kitty piece is really cute. This inking thing sounds interesting. Enjoy yourself. :-)

Lee said...

Fascinating class, great learning experience in many ways. Relax and enjoy it! I had art in high school and later learned oil painting (I painted the work on my blog header), so understood all you shared. We will expect to see portraits of Smitty and Gracie in a future art quilt ;p

Beth said...

Thank you for sharing all this at the end of a long and likely very tiring day.

I hope it feels a bit like you are taking all of your bloggy friends along with you, because I feel as if I'm one degree separated from a quilt workshop, while still avoiding the whole strangers-in-a-room aspect.

Mary Huey said...

I understand that explaining what one is doing to others help imbed things in one's brain, so you have now imbedded all this new stuff a bit deeper! When you get home, find the book Quiet by Susan Cain and read it -- it will make you more comfortable in a room full of strangers!

quiltzyx said...

I'm glad you've had a good first day - perspective or no! The Churn Dash block looks spot on. I haven't sewn blocks for perspective quite like that, but I have paper pieced flying geese blocks that sort of swirl & get smaller & larger. Relax & breathe & enjoy yourself - remember, there are quilters surrounding you & that's bound to be some good juju!

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I have no doubt that you will do fine with this. It looks really hard and you're always up for a challenge.

MalinisQuilts said...

WOW! I love that scenery project. Can't wait to see yours all finished.

By the way, your grass looks good.

Jeanie said...

This sounds like a fabulous, fabulous class! Don't overthink things.... you are doing just great and I'm sure your final project will be great. Can't wait to see your updates. Relax and release your creativity! Have fun!

Diane Wild said...

I can't imagine you feeling uncomfortable in a room full of quilters. I think you're missing your helper,Smtty. Your project looks wonderful. Sew on.

Marjorie's Busy Corner said...

No I can see me being uncomfortable...not you!! Great post Barb.

Dana Gaffney said...

I followed all of it until the inking, but I like the cat :), remember art is what you make it, if everyone's quilt looks exactly alike, well...you may as well paint by numbers. Take what you learn and make it your own, even if you use a little of it later then the class is a success.

Ray and Jeanne said...

Good for you for going back today! Your work looks like the photos so I'd say you are doing great! This sounds so far out of my comfort zone that I ache for you but I'm sure you will stick it out and learn something! Good Luck! ~Jeanne

Ulla's Quilt World said...

So lovely! :)
Greetings from Finland!
Hugs, Ulla

kathyinozarks said...

sounds like a very inspiring class-and to learn something out of your norm is always good for us too-take a breath and just enjoy it-it's art so however your piece turns out-it will be ok-hugs Kathy

make.share.give said...

Wow! I think you're art-ier (more arty?) than you realize. Those pictures are amazing and the quilt will be too. Can't wait to see today's work!

Lynne said...

Wow! It all seems very interesting if somewhat complicated. I've not tried piecing curves so that would be a challenge.

MooseStashQuilting said...

You have no idea how much I wish I was there with you. Looks fascinating!

Kate said...

I remember perspective drawing, but that's about the extent of my artistic endeavors. Looks like you are doing well, even if your brain feels full.