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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wonderful Quilting! Brooke Atherton

I think I have been thinking about the quilting part of our art for a long time, and since I had such a struggle with Pudge's quilt (and my machine!) it is even more in my brain. Quite often, once we complete a top, we say "Oh Boy! I'm done, except for the quilting." Except? Quilting is half of the project. What you do and how you do it can make or break a quilt.

I've been musing over this and thinking that the best route to good quilting is to practice, practice, practice. Once you're done doing that, then practice some more. Making muslin sandwiches and samples of your quilts to test out the thread and pattern is great. I know some people use photo editing programs, Electric Quilt software, or manipulate the image in other ways (or even just printing a copy out) and drawing a potential pattern over the top.

These thoughts have been pushing me to look more at quilts for their quilting. In fact, when Chris Landis and I went to the Dairy Barn and looked at those antique Amish quilts, we were both looking at the quilting. How did the patterns enhance or detract from the quilt? How did they solve problems like turning a corner, or fitting into an element? It is no different working with traditional quilts in this regard than it is to work with contemporary or art quilts.

These two pieces are wonderful ones by Brooke Atherton of Billings, Montana. I was drawn to these pieces because of their simplicity of pattern, rich yet restrained palette and fantastic quilting. The texture called to me from across the aisle. It is primarily through the quilting that these pieces derive their texture and guide the eye. The first piece on this post is called "On Drawing II: A Little Stitching Madness and On Drawing III: A Little Stitching Madness. These two pieces, which I saw at the National Quilters Association Show in Columbus in June are part of a suite of four technique studies.

I can't say it any better than Brooke did in an email to me, so here's what she has to say about these pieces:

"I love to do lots of hand stitching, but ended up with two surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome, and decided it was time to get to know my sewing machine better, and see how I could luse it more for expressive drawing rather than just assembly.

My formal art background includes drawing, printmaking, and photography. I feel comfortable starting with a blank sheet of white paper in front of me, so I set up the fabric equivalent and started there, adding elements, building up the surface and working it back.

I use grids a lot, so that's part of the initial set up, too; these things set up the initial form, and then usually I have a story or theme to present. In these four pieces, though, it's all about texture, and playing with the machine to make marks that looked familiar to me--that looked like what I did with a pencil or with hand-stitches.

The goal was to learn to let the machine do most of the work, with just enough hand work to give it the look I wanted it to have. The big thing I learned is that well-built machines are a lot tougher than I thought--and if you buy your Bernina at an estate sale, you're much more willing to push it farther than if you buy it new!

I love the scribbling technique I've been using the last couple of years--it started with these four studies, and is a lot more controlled now. I use a lot of burned fiber in my work, too--htere's some burned silk organza here in the layering. I did most of the burning after it was stitched down, using straight pints to separate the layers, and holding them close to a candle. I know there are easier and safer methods, but I prefer the directness of this ...technique. I use open flames for reasons that are buried in my personal history...good and bad memories mixed."

Look closely, and you can see where Brooke added hand-stitching and what she's talking about with the "scribbling." The stitches sort of look like letters, or a child's scribbling, and the grids are clearly here, adding formality, a wonderful interplay with the stitches.

The next several posts, I intend to be about quilting, so bear with me.

I also want to acknowledge the wonderful people who have been helping. I was trying to find Brooke, and I put out a call on the Quiltart message list. Gerrie Congdon came through and connected me with Brooke, and I'm very glad she did! Brooke then supplied me with the detail and two of her photos. Thanks to both of you!

4 comments:

Gerrie said...

You are welcome! I am glad that you featured Brooke's work. We don't see her work enough!!

Michigoose said...

Isn't that the truth! She was very kind in her emails and gave me a lot of information, even though she was preparing for Quilt National. Definitely a class act! Thanks again Gerrie. Lisa

Lyn Wolf Jackson said...

As with most heart felt art work, seeing Brooke's pieces in the flesh is an experience. Her work glows. I have been fortunate to see the four pieces in this set before someone purchased part of them. They are beyond marvelous!

Vivien Zepf said...

Thanks for introducing me to Brooke and her work. A class act, indeed.