Brains of Jello

Oh boy...what a day! I'm here at the Fiddlesticks Quilt Shop in Vancouver, Washington, attending the "Designing from Nature" class taught by Ann Shaw.

Let me tell you, my blogging friends, this is hard. I find myself behind the rest of the class at this point...which isn't the end of the world because I think I already having a good understanding of what comes after today. It will be the same principals I learned for the Four Fabric Forest quilts. For now, I'm struggling to create my pattern. That isn't a complaint, or even a worry. It just is what it is.

So I'm going to try to reconstruct what we've been doing so far today. Ann Shaw is a good teacher. The other students in the class all seem to have more experience with the technique than I have. Several of them have already taken the class at least once. There is a group of three from Alaska who seem to have done some work with her prior to coming to Washington...as if they might have spoken by telephone in preparation and then made one of her patterns.

She spent some time going over one photograph from each of us. We all showed up with quite a few images, and we all had trouble deciding. Since I was seated closest, she worked with one of my images first. She asked me which one I wanted to do, and then she picked out the image of the Adirondack chairs on the beach. (I couldn't tell if this was the one I selected. It all happened pretty fast.)

Whether I wanted to do this image or not, it's still a good one to illustrate what we learned today (and I suspect that's how it ended up as Exhibit A). We talked a lot today about "gesture" in photography. I've read a lot of photography books and learned a lot over the years, but this was my first introduction to this term. It has to do with the movement or connection...even the mood of a photograph. What are the lines and shapes?

She encouraged me to crop the photograph to just the two chairs on the right since they were the most visually interesting, and then she drew a line delineating the portion I'd be working with.

As she discussed "gesture" she asked us to consider what was happening in the photo...what story is it telling? And at that, I piped up saying it was taken when we went to the beach for our 40th wedding anniversary last year. As a story, it made sense to crop it to two chairs representing the two of us. Also, the chairs are facing toward the ocean. Are they looking to the past? To the future? At time? In other words, the chairs represent two people. Just as I'm writing this I'm thinking about how they are sitting on sand, which brings to mind the "sands of time"...and I could go on getting all sappy about this, but I think you get the idea.

This is a technique where lines are drawn and piecing is done in strips and little pieces. She talked about the difference between Ruth McDowell's technique and applique. This image could be done in applique, but it's a completely different technique, involving fusing, layering, and glue. In this case, it will all be pieced, and so our objective is to decide where to draw the lines. One must start with one line. While it might make sense to draw a line dividing the chairs, that also separates them. Ann encouraged us to draw a line that connects the subjects of the image with the "gesture" or the "story". In this case, she chose a line common to both chairs, which will bring them together in the quilt. I hope I'm explaining this in a way that makes sense. 

When the line was drawn, it looked like this. You can see how it connects the top of the red chair with the arm of the green chair (okay...turquoise, but "green" is easier to type).

And then she started dividing the image into more lines. The goal is to avoid "Y" seams, and to avoid having everything come to a star in the center. There is more, and I'll use the images of Ann's own quilts to say more about this below.

She did some work on this image of a dog brought by one of my classmates. In this case, the "gesture" is the way the dog is gazing off into the distance, looking at something, and so the first lines capitalize on that.

Some other ideas she gave us were these: This is her quilt of a heron (or something). She talked about the way the heron overlaps the border, which gives the bird a more commanding presence in the quilt.

 She used this quilt of a sunflower to illustrate several points. For one thing, in the original image, the seed pod in the center of the flower is a solid curved line. She likes to break up the line. The eye will still see it as a solid, but it makes it possible to piece in strips by breaking up the lines slightly, rather than having to work with curved seams. You'll see that I'll attempt to do this with the slats in my chair backs.

For this dog, she drew her first line down the center of the dog's head and then worked in some approximate symmetry from there. By doing so, the seam in the middle tends to disappear.

Here's another image brought by a classmate. I'm not sure how well this is showing up, but you can see that it is a grandfather holding his grandchild on his lap. The line is drawn to connect his shoulder with the child. The student had taken the class before and tried to draw a pattern before the class started. When she did, she drew her line vertically between the grandfather and the child...and that separated the two. It's a better design when the line is drawn horizontally to bring out the connection.

The quilt below was made by one of my classmates who has taken the class before. We were simply discussing fabrics here, but what a fun quilt! This is her car...a vintage Bel Aire or something like that.

So, if I'm confusing you with all of this, don't feel badly. I'm confused too. We broke for lunch here. When we came back, I left the class with another of my classmates to have our cropped images blown up so that we could work with them to make a pattern. This took approximately one hour, and it's where I started falling behind. 

When I got back, I taped my image to the table, then taped tracing paper over the top and then drew the outside border of my design.

Then, I started drawing in lines. I liked the first ones she had drawn connecting the two chairs, and then I went from there.

It was hard to know how much detail to include.

And it got even more complicated as I went along. By the time I was finished, I had even more lines than what you see in the image below.

Once the lines were drawn in, the next challenge was to make sure everything was able to be sewn together, that there were no "Y" seams, no crossed lines, etc. And then we were to create a "recipe" by delineating certain sections of the pattern as A, B, C, etc., Within the sections we were to number the pieces in the order that they could be sewn together. I'm sorry I can't say this with any more specificity, but in this case, you really have to be there in the class to follow.

At this point, the image itself is less important than the lines. To make it easier to see them, we slid a piece of paper under the tracing paper to make it easier to see. By this time, I was really tired and having a hard time thinking clearly. Also, the graphite was smearing and making a big mess. And...I was just getting frustrated. For one thing, in the position where I was seated, I'd spent the entire day looking at her back, and having her body between me and the thing she was telling us. It meant I was constantly jumping up and down so that I could see what she was telling the rest of the class. And, because I was behind, I felt as if I was having to be fairly aggressive to get her attention. She spent a lot of time with others, and seemed to be waiting for me to catch up. Finally, I just said straight out that I was stuck. It would have been easy at this point to move from frustration to tears, but I held myself together. 

I'll say here that I am enjoying the class, and I feel as if I have a grasp on what's going on, but it is more challenging than I'd anticipated. I'm sticking with it, but at the end of the day, my classmates were taking their work back to wherever they came from so that they could finish up...and there was no f*cking way I could do another single thing  today. I told her I wasn't going to be able to finish it tonight, and that I'd have to pick it up there tomorrow. No apologies, that's just how it is.

So before I finish up here I wanted to show you a couple more images from today. Here's one of Ann's chickens. There is another two day class taught here just on the chickens. This is also available as a pattern.

Here's a little eye candy from the fabric shop.

As I'm writing this, I'm at my motel for the next three nights, and I am tired. It probably shows in my attitude. When I checked into the motel, the woman at the front desk told me I had two rooms booked. "No," says I. "I have the confirmation right here," (producing printed copy of the email) "and there is only one room listed. One confirmation. One room."

She proceeded to check me in, giving me an upstairs room when I specifically said that I wanted a room downstairs. Then she said, "Regarding the double-booking, you're going to have to call--" there I cut her off.

"That isn't my problem. I'm not calling anyone, I'm not doing anything about it," I said. In my head I was thinking, and I have just one nerve left, and you're getting on it. That would be a big mistake.

So, long story short...I have one room...downstairs...and there is just one of me. And I'm hungry and tired. Time to head out for some dinner. Tomorrow is another day, and it's going to be a good day.

22 comments from clever and witty friends:

Celtic Thistle said...

What a fascinating class Barbara, I think your explanations of what you have been doing are very clear so you have definitely got the hang of the logic behind the technique even if it doesn't feel like it. It us very frustrating to feel that you have to ask for attention that seems to be freely given elsewhere I hope that improves for you in the next session.

Thanks for linking up to New to Me too. I can't wait to see the end result of your class.

Celtic Thistle said...

What a fascinating class Barbara, I think your explanations of what you have been doing are very clear so you have definitely got the hang of the logic behind the technique even if it doesn't feel like it. It us very frustrating to feel that you have to ask for attention that seems to be freely given elsewhere I hope that improves for you in the next session.

Thanks for linking up to New to Me too. I can't wait to see the end result of your class.

Marlene said...

Your explanations are clear Barbara but I do feel your frustration. I hope tomorrow sees it comes together-after some food and a good night's sleep. I love your choice of photo and the meaning behind the imagine.
Love her Heron and Chicken.
Hope you have a good day tomorrow.

The class examples are fantatic

SJSM said...

Yikes! I hate that feeling. I like how you can analyze the situation and know what you need for yourself. It is obvious you are picking up on the technique and learning the elements. The chairs will makes a wonderful quilt. What a great shot to work from. With so many taking this clas a second time that does tell you two things; the class concepts need repeating and the teacher is good at explaining a very difficult technique that is worth learning.

I'm looking forward to seeing you build your skills.

Quilting Babcia said...

I do hope you have a better day today. I can see how this process could become incredibly frustrating, and the amount of detail in the chairs seems really daunting, especially as a first piece. Hopefully a new day will bring more clarity.

Linda M @ Pieceful Kingdom said...

Hope you have a better day today. This looks like an incredibly involved technique. I don't think I would be able to keep up in a class with it. I do think the chairs and the story behind them will make a great quilt. Good luck and try to have fun!

Dana Gaffney said...

I'm right there with you, confused and lost. I'm sure you'll get it though, hopefully lots of sleep and food will have you ready to go for day 2. Don't compare yourself to the others, especially if they're more familiar with the technique.

Debbie said...

Hang in there...you can do this. I have seen your detailed projects and know you can. Love your photo and the story, so it will be worth the learning curve....the piecing curve :)

beaquilter said...

reminds of me EQ, do you have that?

Wendy Tuma said...

Wow -- thanks for giving us a peek at your class experience. I'm not sure I would've been able to get as far as you did. Cool concept, but would definitely take some thinking. I agree with the other comments -- you got this. You go!

Ellen Gibson said...

Barbara, I feel your pain! I once took a class with a similar technique but left after the first day.....I couldn't deal with all the little pieces. So good for you! You have lots of experience with piecing so I know you can do this and the result will be smashing. Thanks, as always, for sharing.

Lou said...

Hang in there! Today will be SO much better!!!!

Rosyquilter said...

Honestly Barbara, this is the BEST blog post I have read in a long time. Total reality! I felt your frustration, understood the close to tears part, loved your descriptions, was saying "you go girl" when talking to the motel receptionist... what a day! But you really spoke from your heart and the reality of taking an advanced class where you are there to learn something completely out of your comfort zone and not just there for giggles, laughter and friendship comes through in your written words. I did laugh with you and felt your frustration and I hope writing your blog helped you to sleep good last night, having vented to those of us who have been there, done that in the past. And am so glad you didn't stay up and sew last night. Can't wait for the next post and as always, love the pictures and graphic descriptions. Am alternating being envious of your class and glad it isn't me!!

Elaine Walker said...

Wow Barbara,! I am really impressed with what you are doing. Very complicated. You explained very clearly the steps involved. Hang in there, I am sure you'll have a better day today😉 wishing you a "light on" moment. BTW. I love all the photos you post. Thanks

Vroomans' Quilts said...

This looks a lot like a book I have 'Nature's Patterns' by Joyce Becker - but she uses less 'lines'. Sounds like this should be a class with 10-12 students so more hands on teacher time can be given. Hang in there sweetie - we all work at our own pace.

Sally T said...

Hmmm...others went off to work on their quilt and you went off and gave us a clear and fascinating description of your class. You definitely have me interested in the technique. And remember...you are working at a distinct disadvantage because you are used to having two quilting assistants.

Natureluvr57 said...

I dislike going to classes because 1. I hate dragging my sewing machine and supplies back & forth (lost an open toe applique foot once & haven't been back since) 2. I always fall behind. I'm trying to soak in what the technique is yet trying to keep up with my sewing. Every class I took (except one-beginner's quilt) I never finished....one class they were sweet enough to go into overtime and help 3 of us laggers to finish. I'm quiet and shy so I don't speak up like I should. Oh well....I love books and you tube and how to dvd's but I know it's not the same.I feel for you and hope today was better

crazy quilter said...

Don't fret, I know you can do this and be all the better for it. Behind is a relative term so really there is no behind everyone learns at a different rate and sews at their own pace. I can't wait to see what you create.

Jenny - the lilac cat said...

Gosh I'd have been brain dead by lunchtime! Love as always the way you take us readers into your life and experience in such an entertaining style even when the going gets tough. But you've written about it really clearly so the principles are there it's just a complicated process and design. But the end results will be truly unique.

Studio TBF said...

Interesting. Sounds to me like something is wrong with the class setup. Other students are taking the class again, why? They couldn't keep up? The project too elaborate for 2 days? The instructor told you to crop your photo, then you had to spend an hour getting it enlarged? Of course you are frustrated.

Kate said...

It does put you at a disadvantage to be in a class with others who have taken it before. If was an advanced glass that should have been pointed out before you enrolled. It looks like a fun, but complicated technique. Like making your own paper piecing pattern.

Marlyn Anderson said...

I own several of Ruth McDowell's books and have studied them to try to understand her technique. Your explanation has helped me a lot, regarding drawing lines to divide up the picture. I know Y seams are not wanted. Thanks for your descriptions and humor along the way. I can totally understand your frustration of feeling you were being left behind. Kudos for sticking up for yourself at the hotel. I so enjoy looking at your finished quilt now that I know the background process of creating it.