The Year Long Class

In 2015 I went to a 5 day workshop at Empty Spools in Monterey, California. In 2016 I signed up for Elizabeth Barton‘s year long online master class. It is a design class; knowledge of techniques that work for you is assumed. Each month the students get an assignment, and have three items to produce: a sketch or plan, a quilt layout, and a final quilt. We get to see everyone’s work and Elizabeth’s comments.

Our January assignment was value, and we were to submit three black and white sketches, then a blocked out quilt, and finally a completed quilt. We could use a color other than black, such as blue or brown, but all the fabrics had to be in that color family.

Based on Elizabeth’s recommendation, I went with the following sketch. It’s based on a photo taken outside the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio, by my friend Judy.


JAN JMM Sketch 3I blocked my quilt out as:

JAN JMM Blocked QuiltElizabeth’s comments were that the leaf on the right needed more shading and that I needed to make sure the two leaves weren’t the same size. The space ratio needed to be more one third/two third to focus attention on the dominant leaf.

I revised to those ends, and tried to add still more shading with my quilting. From the back this piece looks like I covered almost every inch with thread.

JAN JMM FinalI’m not thrilled with the end product. It feels more like an exercise than a work of passion. It may be the still life type subject matter. However, my purpose was to learn more about design and how to realize my intentions. This may bring me to a word for the year – focus. As in, I need to create work with more of it and focus more while creating the work.

Oh, Elizabeth said it was elegant and showed “a great grasp of values.” She also said “You don’t need to have Great Big World Shattering Messages each time. Showing Beauty is enough.” Well, I’m good with that.

I’ll let you know what the coming months bring with this class. I know others have taken it, but don’t know how they felt at the end.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, In Process

10 responses to “The Year Long Class

  1. Nena

    Going out on a limb here… I think you were so outside of your box that you were/are very uncomfortable with the process and therefore the result. One can think that making decisions on the fly is freedom/letting the creative juices flow. But, one makes subconscious allowances for “doing on the fly” that one doesn’t for a “planned” piece and is therefore more likely to be hypercritical and expecting, and in some ways demanding that, without realizing it.

    Lighten up on yourself and give it a go again and again until it feels like making a piece on “the fly”. Then you realize that both are the same. One you let loose and listen as you go. The other makes you sit still and listen before you go. Either way, you have to stop and listen. One is more familiar than the other and therefore feels better.

  2. It’s fascinating to see the steps you went through! I’ve always been ambivalent about teaching pieces, things I’ve made in response to an assignment but without particular inspiration. But I admit I also learned a lot from doing them. I hope you feel that way about this.

    • There’s no doubt I learned a lot from this piece. It is one of the more carefully planned pieces I’ve done lately. And therein lies the rub. I like to make decisions on the fly rather than working out everything in advance. That said, the discipline is good for me.

  3. Interesting. I want to check out this class, and I definitely want to hear what you think of it as it unfolds. Value is so basic to quilt design–do you feel you learned anything you didn’t already know?

    • It’s one thing to read about and understand a process. It’s quite another to actually do it. The value (haha) of this class is the feedback, the suggestions for improvements. And an advantage of the written, online format is to see the feedback everyone else’s work gets. You can learn a lot that way.

  4. You sound disappointed in the end product. Were you happier with the process? Do you feel like you got good feedback on the way through? Can you take what you learned and apply it to a piece you feel more passionate about? As a value exercise, to me it looks like you accomplished the goals.

    I’m wondering what method you used. Is it fused applique? Did you already have the various shades in your stash, or did you have to buy it? How big is the finished piece? Did you feel like that was the right size to accomplish what you wanted?

    • I deliberately chose a size (about 12 inches square) and subject (the leaf photo) I felt was doable in a month’s time, especially a month in which I was gone from home for 2 weeks. The method is fused raw edge applique from fabric I already had. The exercise was valuable in training my eye to extract the essentials from the photo and let go the ornamentation. I had worked up an abstract version of the leaf photo that cut it in half, reversed the halves, and repeated the sequence; but that would have been far more complex. Going simpler was the best way to carry out the exercise. It was like doing preliminary sketches for a more complex work. I had to translate the color to black and white, which took a while. Other students’ work was all over the map. Some were much larger than mine and more skilled. Others were very much practice pieces.

      • If you viewed/printed the photo in black and white, would that have been a short-cut in the translation process?

        Yes, the month was quite short, what with being gone. I’m feeling it, too. 🙂

      • I did print the photo in black and white before doing the sketch, however, I kept remembering the tender greens of the photo as I draw away with my pencils. I really like color, but controlling that variable is invaluable to improvements in my designs because I can’t use it to make up for poor design.

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