August Master Class

I’m now in month eight of my year long master class with Elizabeth Barton and August’s theme is letters. To date I’ve completely finished about half my projects and am building up a backlog of items to quilt. Right now I’m quilting my rhythm piece, but the others are becoming increasingly restive as they importune me from the design wall.

But back to August and letters. Elizabeth warned us she was going to take off the kid gloves with her comments and she wasn’t kidding. I think her comments on my August sketches were the most critical to date.


I began this assignment by perusing the fonts available in Microsoft Word, but ended up making up my own for 2 of my 3 sketches. I’m sure my hand drawn letters were influenced by what I studied.

Sketch 1 takes part of Hillel’s famous quote, “If not now when?” and outlines the letters in black and red. I printed the letters from Word, though I can’t remember the font name. The letters would be filled in with french knots at varying densities, so the word “now” would be most densely embroidered. I would use an ombre fabric as the background. I thought of reversing the colors so the french knots would be white, but that got tricky to convey in a sketch.

August JMM sketch 1 resized

Sketches 2 and 2a take my old nickname, Jo, and arrange the letters as a square. I see doing this as prints on fabric, with some type of offset effect. One thought I had is to print several variations from the same printing plate (probably self stick foam or a monoprint) and sew them together. I might also overlay the letters in organza.

August JMM sketch 2 resized

August JMM sketch 2a resized

Sketch 3 is a bit of a cheat, as this is a project I just started for a reuse/recycling theme. The letters for the phrase, “OK make do,” are made of fused together selvedges cut into letters I hand drew. The other fabrics are bits from old projects and my husband’s shirts. I’ll be making this anyway, but I’d welcome your insights. I think the yellow block on the right side is too strong but I haven’t yet come up with a replacement.

August JMM sketch 3 resized

As the above indicates, I seem to need my letters to say something rather than just be.

Eliabeth’s response:

It’s a great quote…so one starts well by being attracted to the quotation.
However, how does the design relate to the quote?   It’s 3 horizontal lines, and if you just drew three horizontal line, the middle one with some texture, then it would look like a calm, peaceful design…
so I think the first step would be to figure out how to create the emotion visually….
.also, I’m puzzled, I don’t know the quotation – but without a comma, it doesn’t really read right… is that part of the quotation?
Should each word have equal weight?  You’ve given them each the same visual weight, but if you say it out loud, one doesn’t do that.
One possibility would be to use one of the techniques that we explored earlier in the year: layering…begin in the background, softly quietly low key with the IF, then slightly on top of that and a little more advanced the NOT, and again overlapping and advancing the NOW – each one getting bolder bigger more saturated…until the WHEN nearly knocks you over…..
or, did you want it to feel more resigned, more apathetic ?
Somethng to think about!
This one has a very nice Celtic feel to it!  you’ve got some interesting negative space…and I think if you had 4 repeats of it…and fairly large, it would be very beautiful.
always get the design right first, I think you really love the process of making !! and you get seduced into considering that before you’ve really worked out the design.  I know we all get tempted by that…
However, I do think this one is clear, simple elegant and would look great with more repeats. Also it would  be wonderful in black/grey and white!!

Re the one below… the yellow simply looks like it needs something in it but is otherwise fine…….the bit I’m not sure of with the blue with two triangles on the left side – it looks like a K – since the rest is text, then we are programmed to seek more text and I find a K!!
I like the idea of a recycling message using recycled materials…but again think of the impact of  the design first….I think you did that with the second one which works well…
I suggest you make the design a little simpler since the actual letters will be more varied, used garments and selvedges are great – they add a lot of interest, so keep the rest simple.  So I’d make lots of letters like this, all onto identically sized squares of recycled cloth….
Keep up the positive/negative flip flop – that’s nice and striking….and just get rid of all extraneous stuff..just the squares with the letters…and I’d use many different statements that stem from our childhoods when we were making do without knowing we were recycling!!

I’ve been working on sketch 3 and have indeed simplified it, though I don’t see how to incorporate the statements Elizabeth suggests. As to my other ideas, I’ll be working on a way to print sketch 2, and doing a series of prints sewn together.



Filed under Art quilts, In Process

7 responses to “August Master Class

  1. I’m with Kerry — always thinking of how to incorporate words, my thoughts, into my designs. Maybe I will work more on that. As to the yellow square in the 3rd piece, I thought it was fine but if needed anything, perhaps balancing on the other side with similar or same.

  2. After reading the comments it sounds like you have already made changes or have new plans. I was thinking worn denim behind (or around) the letters could set them off well but knowing a bit about your work, that may be too contrived or predictable!

  3. I agree with her about the two triangles reading as a K, but not about getting rid of the “extraneous stuff.” One thing I love about your work is that there are always multiple layers of interest going on, new things to notice, and I think that holds true in that piece, with the “extra” scraps of cloth. If it was reduced down to only the saying, I would feel like it was one more slogan demanding my attention, because the words would have so much more emphasis, and there would be nothing else to balance them. To me, the way it is makes the message clear but in a softer way. Just my opinion.

    I especially love how the diagonals in the letters make them stand out from the backgrounds.

    As far as the yellow square on the right, maybe you could applique a little something there, or bring it into more unity with the rest with however you choose to quilt it. It did not jump out at me though, just like it is, it looks fine to me.

    • This has changed since I took the picture – I did simplify it and lighten the color palette in the non-letter areas so the letters have less competition. Of course that’s exactly counter to what you liked about the letters! The extra K is gone and I’ve used that yellow square as the background of the A. There are still bits of shirts and selvedge fabric. I decided to make this interactive, and will be asking for ideas on how to make do. I hope to make them part of the piece, possibly around the edges. Right now I’m thinking of writing them out on strips of fabric I already have.

  4. I’m aways thinking about ways to incorporate words in the things I make. I never do it, just think about it . . .

    • Ah, the easiest way to make quilts – in one’s mind. I assure you word quilts are easier said than done. Some of my classmates have evolved intriguing patterns of a single letter.

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