Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random connections

I was looking through my recent pictures for something just now, and ran across this quilt top someone made in my recent workshop in Minnesota, and this picture from my neighborhood the day before I left for that trip. I had little to do with the quilt, made by Mary Nordeng of Rochester, other than forcing the process of making the blocks. Mary made and arranged the blocks, the end result is something I like a lot, especially because it has a great deal of the random. But the layout, sort of a landscape with a sort of a tree or sort of a clump of trees or something, reminds me of the picture below. I could have composed one that would look even more like it, but the reason I liked this one is that I already had it on my computer. I was walking home through the woods one day and liked the silhouettes of the trees.

Anyway, where I am going with this is that the whole point of this workshop, like many of my workshops, is to allow a certain amount of randomness into the quiltmaking process. I like that. I feel soothed and happy when I find inexplicable things on old quilts. I find it hard to concentrate on the formal and symmetrical. So in my own quilts, naturally, that is where I have evolved. Looking at a book with pictures of my quilts from the 1980's I can see how I started out with strictly formal designs that looked sort of like minimal paintings. As I went along, as I became more confident, I became less and less interested in knowing how a quilt was going to turn out. I wanted to set up a process that would allow me to discover a new quilt as I sewed.

We all like different things. I realize that most quiltmakers want to have a fairly complete picture in their minds of the finished product when they start. It's a big job and there is no reason not to have that. But as I say, for me it has become important to work with the fabric, not with pictures of the fabric ahead of time. I will find pattern somewhere as I go, just like the pictures above showed me a pattern.