Monday, January 12, 2015

Construction Zone 101

The procedures I follow when assembling my designs have me behaving like a construction site supervisor. It amuses me to imagine wearing a hard hat while working on my pictorials. There is an informal organization plan I rely upon to oversee the building of a wall hanging, large or small. I rarely diverge from this scheme and offer a view in this posting and the next ones.

Planning Phase. Long ago I established a routine when dealing with creative musings, which may have been sparked by reading, by something seen on a walk, or by brainstorming a flash of an idea popping into mind. I spend a lot of time stewing, planning, wrestling and turning ideas around, examining them from all angles. My reality is if I do not “see” a fairly clear picture in my mind for a design, it will be a struggle to capture it on paper, and eventually be discarded.

A sketchbook tends to be my starting point and I spend time making many small rudimentary sketches trying to anchor a spark before it is lost. For Watchful, this began with seeing a dog sitting on top of a pick-up truck in a parking lot. I did not have my camera, but I whipped out my sketchbook I carry with me everywhere. 

A rough drawing to capture the essence of concern
Master Pattern: The advantage of doing sketches followed by refined drawings is, I become more familiar with the design concept, am able to start planning the compositional layout and begin resolving potential problems I may confront long before I commit fabric and time. Paper is cheap. Textiles are not. The next step will be drawing a refined, full-size master pattern that becomes the road map (site plan), which is never cut up during construction. Again, I am becoming more intimate with the design and its challenges. A critical review of the master plan will take place before picking up the scissors to begin the work. Of course, adjustments and changes do occur during the process of stitching and completing the work. 

A full size master drawing is created.

Work Routine. I use to stitch everything by hand, but concluded I will not live long enough to finish all my ideas. Consequently, my preference is machine appliqué with turned under edges, machine embroidery and quilting. After selecting fabric, I cut out swatches to make a “swatch board” with notes to remind me of decisions made, thus, reducing the need to revisit decisions each time I return to my studio. Next, I will begin by tracing, marking and cutting freezer paper templates starting with the main character and begin stitching together the body parts. In this example, it is a wolf.

This illustrates the swatch board in the upper right corner, a tracing of a wolf, its freezer paper replica from which templates are cut. On the far left is a collection of fabric choices for the wolf's fur. 

Contrary to traditional appliqué, the backgrounds and support layers are the last choices I make. I work my designs from the top down to the backdrop layers to avoid being doomed by poor choices that may not work well in the long run. I do not want to rip out and redo. As a result, I will have body parts, or other segments, strewn about my studio awaiting further development. When enough segments have been assembled and are ready to be pulled together, I am able to fit the units with its adjacent details like putting a picture puzzle together. 

This dog hung around until the front porch was stitched together. He eventually claimed his spot where he could watch everything. The amazing thing is, his eyes will follow the viewer passing by this pictorial. See the full photo of Watchful at the bottom.

 Another example to show how body parts and other elements are constructed separately from the eventual full design is in this photo:

Two horses are arranged running beside the large one, and a fourth is trying to catch up. The group "galloped" for weeks on a design wall in my studio until the background terrain could be assembled for Windspirit.


sonja said...

i love your horses and their magical movement captured in fabric,Amazing.
And congrats on you upcoming venue with Alex and Tim!!

quiltedfabricart said...

Thank you sharing your process. I sometimes do the freezer paper turned under appliqué and have trouble with the pieces falling off the design wall. I'm afraid to take the paper off until I actually put it down on the background for fear I will get lost. Does you design wall have anything special on it or do you use pins to hold each piece. I've done that but it's a real pain. Are all the pieces loose on the design wall?
I love your work!