Tag Archives: Master Class 2016

Year End Thoughts On My Master Class

I signed up for Elizabeth Barton’s master class at the end of 2015 on a whim after I saw she had a last minute cancellation. I had taken her working in series online class so I was familiar with her style. Would I do it again? Yes.

The class was valuable to me though I don’t agree with everything said about my work. A lot I did agree with. I made nine pieces I most likely wouldn’t have made without the class and several sketches that have promise for future work. I learned a lot from Elizabeth’s critiques of my class mates’ work. She can really put her finger on the soft spots and make specific suggestions for improvements. Each class member had a different style and I was so glad no attempts were made to change those styles. I’ve observed in some workshops that students will emulate the teacher’s work. Elizabeth never showed us hers.

Why did I decide to invest in the class?

A little background. I began my art quilt journey in 2011 and was pretty much self-guided. I did give myself a workshop with Rosalie Dace as a retirement gift, and jumped off a cliff into original design. Here’s the never quilted piece I made. I did alter it a bit and sew it together once I got home, but I got stuck on how to FMQ a 36 by 48 inch piece. It resides in my big black trunk waiting for my FMQ skills to improve.

img_0728Probably I would have done better to take that class in 2013, when I knew more about what I wanted to do.

Around 2015 I joined an art quilt critique group, and realized how helpful the knowledgeable input of others could be. That group has since become more focused on art quilt beginners, who are at a different stage than me. Others have looked at my work and made helpful suggestions, but I’ve had no regular review of my work in progress.

So, back to the master class. Mentally I was ready for knowledgeable review of my work. I wasn’t going to dissolve into tears if someone pointed out a flaw and I needed a more disciplined approach to improving my work. What I hadn’t realized was the time it would take to develop ideas in a disciplined way. Typically I work on two or three projects at the same time, and flit among them depending on my inspiration and whim. Some are finished quickly, while others lurk behind the door to my sewing room (on the piece of flannel there) for months.

I also didn’t realize how different it is to have someone review my work from its inception in a sketch. I learned that a keen eye at this stage can save a lot of trouble later on. Elizabeth kindly pointed out black holes in the middle of my sketches, blah ideas, tweaks that could make the piece sparkle, and how boys would see boobs in my half circles.

Elizabeth asked us to answer some questions about our experience. Here are excerpts from my evaluation:

This year I’ve been forced to do what I knew I needed to do, but kept avoiding – develop ideas in sketch form first. I love physically playing with fabrics, so composing on the fly was addictive. The problem was that identifying design weaknesses came much later in the development process, so making changes was harder.

I came into the class with a fair ability to sort values and identify where value changes were needed. I also had few problems with nonrepresentational use of color. Much of this was based on intuition. The class has helped me be able to say, that’s right/not right, BECAUSE…  I’ve gained a more disciplined approach to my work, though I’ll still continue to have my play times.

Before this class my work was either abstract or fairly representational, with no middle ground. When I worked from a photo I did some rearrangement of elements, but didn’t really leave the photo behind. During the class I worked to extrapolate elements from photos, without creating a recognizable rendering of the photo.

I feel my two major weaknesses are difficulties with proportion and balance in compositions and not thinking things through.  Proportion is often critical in abstract works as the viewer has little identifiable subject matter to focus on so the relationships among the shapes are important. Proportions aren’t camouflaged by other pictorial elements.

I tend to go with one of the first few design possibilities rather than try other approaches in my excitement over what I think is the perfect design. Later, sometimes after I’ve made the piece, I realize I should have done things differently.

Lessons learned: slow down, but keep going.

While we gave Elizabeth evaluations of our progress, she didn’t give each of us an overall evaluation. The closest she got for me was, “Great work JMM!!!  it’s been a pleasure….” at the end of her last set of comments. Well, that was nice, and certainly epitomizes Elizabeth’s use of punctuation.

My resolve is to continue a more disciplined approach to my work, and develop sketches of some kind (pencil, collage, etc.) to work out my design beforehand. It’s funny that I would draft layouts and colors for my traditional quilts but felt such planning would impede my art quilts. I think there’s a strong bias toward improv inspiration in art quilting, that working directly with your fabric on the design wall is the way to proceed. It’s certainly one way to proceed, but may not be the most effective.

As always, the advice is out there; but you have to be in a receptive frame of mind to embrace it. It took me five years, but now I’m ready.



Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Completed Projects

Master Class Gallery

Since most of the quilts I made in 2016 were developed for my online master class with Elizabeth Barton, I’ll just run through those as my year end review. Each month we were given a theme. We were to develop sketches for three possible pieces, block out the chosen one in fabric, and complete that piece. Elizabeth commented at each step, but we were free to use as many or as few of her suggestions as we wanted.


Big Leaf 10.5" sq.

Big Leaf 10.5″ sq.


Flaming Out

Flaming Out 15.5″ x 19.5″

Heading Home

Heading Home 22.5″ x 23.5″


The Language of Pink Elephants

The Language of Pink Elephants 30.5″ x 42.5″


Tidal Marsh in Spring

Tidal Marsh in Spring 13.5″ x 31″


Unfolding 25" sq.

Unfolding 25″ sq.



Connect The Dots 19.5″ x 34″


It's All About Me

It’s All About Me 21.5″ square

Lost and Found Edges

Emeralds Islets 20" x 28" approx.

Emerald Islets 20″ x 28″ approx.


Distilled 30" sq.

Distilled 30″ sq.

I didn’t complete anything for our dominant color assignment, and haven’t finished the real piece for lost and found edges. One month we were to critique a quilt, so we made nothing of our own. Finally, December was a finish it up month, though we could either remake an earlier piece to improve on it or work to overcome a weakness in a new piece.

As with any class, you get out of it what you put into it. I’m still thinking over what I gained from this class, and will write about it when my thoughts have gelled more. I will say that the basic advice Elizabeth had for me was “keep going.”


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Thankfully, November’s Project Is Done

After some fits with sewing every seam in wrong (I certainly should know better), ripping out, and resewing; I finished piecing, quilting, and facing “Distilled,” my November master class project. The quilting design is from the fencing shown in the original photo, with more lines on the vertical than the horizontal, and the horizontal lines sewn with heavier thread.


Despite votes to keep the swoops in the original sketch, I eliminated them. While eye catching, they made the piece look like a warning sign for hazardous material. Here’s an idea of what the swoops would have looked like.


I did use the black/white ombre fabric, and painted it to make it duck egg blue after I decided the jaggedy fabric was too jarring.


I call it “Distilled” because 1) it’s taken from a photo of a distillery, and 2) it attempts to distill elements of the source photo without any attempt at replicating it.:

Here are Elizabeth’s comments on it:

this came out very well….I really like your abstraction of the photograph which still retains  the angles and the “window” sense…  and the little pops of bright color…
the simplicity of the quilting beautifully matches the  aesthetic and content of  the idea which is very pleasing.  A very well composed and unified piece that still has a little tweak of uncertainly with the odd bending of that one angle!! good one!!



Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Sunshine for Gray Days

November in northeast Ohio finally got the memo about gray skies and cold temps, so I was happy to work with yellow and other cheerful colors as I finished up “Unfolding.” It was the transparency  assignment for my master class, made with painted silk organza.


I sewed down the tear drop shaped organza pieces with a machine blanket stitch, and quilted large leaves on top of those shapes with rayon and cotton thread. The edges are faced and the completed piece measures about 25 inches square. The pale yellow background doesn’t photograph well under gray skies, but the version under artificial light came out way off.

I’ll return to my November assignment soon, but thought we could all use some sunshine.



Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

November Master Class Project In Fabric

I decided on the easy choice for this month’s project – the symmetrical windows design based on the Skye photo. Sometimes I just get tired of figuring out tricky construction, you know.

My palette of almost all solids came from the misty coloration of the photo, with lots of blue-grays. I ditched the swoops that Elizabeth so disliked and put the pop of red in the windows. Sorry, those of you who liked them. The window panes are fused, in keeping with my “take the easy way” approach.

For additional zing I chose two teal fabrics for the center stripes. One is saturated while the other is a shade. The only dithering I did concerned the ladder like pieces near the centers. I decided not to piece these, just too much work, but chose some fabrics to give a similar feel. At first I went with the Kaffe Fassett jaggedy fabric, but then tried out a gray ombre print of little squares. I didn’t know which I liked better, so I sent both in.

I chose my rotated four patch design based on the distillery photo. I was going for a flat, graphic effect. The construction will be mostly pieced, with a bit of fusing for the window panes. I eliminated the curved swoops of my original design. The red I had planned for the curves ended up in some of the panes, along with a touch of yellow. My color palette came from the overcast mood of the photo, with a pop of color from the umbrellas.

There are minor differences among the patches in terms of spacing and color arrangements which I want to keep. Some uneven bits need to be cleaned up. The black lines will finish thinner than they now appear. I expect the piece to finish at about 30 inches square.

There are two blocked out photos attached. The first uses a jagged line strip in blues near the center. The second replaces that with an ombre black/white small square print fabric. I had done the first, but decided to try an alternative. Let me know what you think.


Definitely like the blue…it pulls together all the other blues and makes that the soft misty dominant color – it’s hard to tell if the pattern on that fabric would be distracting…so I think you’ll have to judge that in real life…but definitely something blue…
Otherwise I think it looks really interesting….you do push and pull the viewer quite a bit but not in a way that oversteps the bounds of it all working together.
so apart from perhaps a little more thinking on what blue fabric to use (you don’t want that to be the accented area), I think it will work.
another possibility would be to overdye the ombre fabric which does give a nice effect – I agree!!  – with blue – that duck egg shade that you have in the other areas…now that might be the best of both ideas!

Readers, which fabric do you think works best?


Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Last Master Class Project

This month’s master class assignment was to make a quilt using one of three photos supplied by Elizabeth as inspiration. Here are the two I used for my sketches. They are truly snapshots with no attempt at composition.





Here’s what I sent in: Sketch 1 incorporates elements from the Skye photo in a somewhat symmetrical 4 patch design. The curved lines near the center are meant to echo the umbrellas in the source photo. I see this as a pieced design, possibly in mostly solids.

Sketches 2 and 2a are the same except that one is bookended while the other repeats the first design. They are based on the Christo photo. I cropped that photo and then traced the trees in broad strokes. I see putting oranges in the background, which could be a challenge as that color tends to leap forward.

Sketch 3 is also from the Christo photo. I cropped that photo to feature one of the large trees, traced it, stylized it, and then flipped it to create an arch. It comes across to me as art nouveau.

All my designs are symmetrical, possibly because I’ve been browsing a book on Notan.

Elizabeth’s response: I like the straight line part of the design very much…but the circle in the middle bother me…my eyes keep going to it wondering why it’s there  – what does it mean?  it’s always difficult to have some totally not related to anything else….take a look at the sketch without that element and see what you think.  It would be an applique after the fact anyway…so you could build the bottom portion and then audition the swoops – but I think I’d advocate leaving them out.

The view through the trees is fun!    l like the idea..and the depth you can get but I’m not sure about the symmetry or about the severe cropping at the top  – in a way the repeated pattern (whether all facing to the left, or all facing out) looks more like a wallpaper frieze than a design in and of its own self.  so it doesn’t really feel complete.  the little tree shapes are nice…but we want more than just feeling that they are circling around us…have a  think on’t!!

You’re right this does have very art nouveau feel to it  – unless you really like the total symmetry, I think I’d just crop a bit off one side or the other to shift that central element slightly off center.
I think it will work really well…I wouldn’t push the symmetry by using the same colors though, or even the same values…I think it would be more interesting to let the viewer gradually discover the symmetry for themselves.

I think with a few small adjustments you’ve got two got possibilities with sketches 1 and 3.

November is our last new assignment. December will be devoted to finishing up our projects. Stayed tuned to see which design I chose.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process, Project Ideas

Connect The Dots

My rhythm piece for Elizabeth’s master class has evolved painfully. Despite its plainness, I spent a lot of time to try out several half baked ideas and come up with this.

JMMJuly blocked rhythm resized

My Statement:

This month’s effort is more done with fabric markers and fabric stickers than cut fabric. I wrote the Morse code of “A line is a dot that went for a walk” three times on the zigzag fabric, following the zigs and zags at the breaks between words. It was too long (and I didn’t have enough fabric) to do this as a straight line. I used orange, rosy red and purple markers. My original plan to do this as satin stitch was scrapped once I saw how puckered up my sample was even with backing and how my machine couldn’t make the stitch as wide as I wanted.

Then, I filled in with circles cut out of Zen Chic fabric and fused to Wonder Under. The top group of circles follows a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 grouping to suggest how a bunch of dots become a line. The bottom group uses the different circle sizes to suggest the spoken rhythm – a LINE is a DOT that went for a WALK a LINE is a DOT.

I plan to do linear quilting in the non circle areas, echoing the zigzags. Any suggestions for more/different quilting is appreciated. At present the only permanent part of my piece is the Morse code.

Elizabeth’s response:
I think it’s a great idea and it looks good.  what’s so nice about it is the very clear structure…that looks simple until you get closer and then you realise all the complexity of it.   I’d love to see the idea too on a plain background….the Zen Zags are very strong…so I do hope you repeat it some time…
you could do the code in big white stitches on black – say linen – which is a pretty open weave and not too difficult to needle – similar to Dorothy Caldwell’s  xantha (might have the incorrect word here but it’s something like it!) stitching.
The sparkly fabric of the green dots works well too and I do like the way you’ve lightened the tops to give a sense of volume…that works very well…it all adds up to the meaning but it all goes together very well too.   I can’t see any changes necessary!  And yes, keep the quilting very simple, you really don’t want to distract from what’s already there.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process