Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Putting Together Three Cohesive Pieces


In the last three weeks I have been working rather non-stop to put together three pieces that could be viewed as cohesive. The SAQA MA/RI region is putting on an exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell MA this August to showcase local fiber art. They have called it "Three Cohesive Pieces." Each SAQA artist was allowed to enter two sets of three for consideration. Work had to be dated from the last five years and the most important aspect for the judges consideration is how the pieces work together. They must convey a unique but united voice. Theme, color, technique; all must have a uniting thread.

As this is my region and I am trying to build a resume as well as a body of current work, I felt that I had to at least try for this show. My problem came in looking through the dating of my existing work. Most all of it was dated 2009 or earlier. There are many quilts started in 2010 but they are unfinished, most of them large and detailed making them impossible to finish off in time. So I looked at what I had and chose the piece below as my starting point. Reasonably small and more than half completed I finished it off first. 

29" X 25"
Completed June, 2013
Commercial fabrics, silk, beads, fused and machine stitched

ENCHANTED was drawn from my many photos taken in New Mexico. While always living on the east coast, I developed a love of the desert southwest as a child on our many trips cross country to see my maternal grandmother. My trips in 2004 and recently in April of 2013 gave me a wealth of wonderful experiences and photographs. 

So the theme for my three pieces had to be New Mexico and the desert southwest. I had to create two new pieces that while having an identity of their own, tied in well with my first piece. The prickly pear in ENCHANTED was actually a drawing of a prickly pear that I have growing on my patio in a large pot. They will make it through the winters OK but I have discovered that too much rain is not a good thing for a cactus. After five years my plant looks a bit worse for the wear. But I love cactus, especially the dichotomy of the delicate flowers and the deadly spines. There are many kinds of prickly pear and the flowers range in color from yellow to orange to pink. My second piece was born from my love of this cactus.

20 1/2" x 23 1/2"
Completed June, 2013
Commercial fabrics, silk, beads, fused and machine stitched

One of the things I did to keep my pieces cohesive was to use silk shantung or dupioni for my backgrounds. I chose vibrant colors and in this case the orange of the sand is similar to the rust sand in the first piece. 

The greens of the plants in the first two pieces were similar and both were accented by violet. Although each has a unique bead to simulate spines, both are beaded to accent the spines. The treatment of my border was another way that I wished to pull them together. The first, ENCHANTMENT, was given a bold commercial print with black as accent. I struggled with LOOK, BUT DON'T TOUCH because I had a great silk fabric which had embroidered dots all over it to simulate the pattern of cactus spines. I wanted to use it as the border but it just didn't tie in well enough. So I used the stripe as a bold punch of black, white and color around the cactus.

Well, two is company and three's a crowd. I moved ahead to my third piece but after much work, with the deadline approaching, I took a turn. My daughter, Andie and I sat one day pointing out what was working and what wasn't. We came to the conclusion that ENCHANTED and LOOK, BUT DON'T TOUCH worked well together and that ENCHANTED and MONUMENTAL worked well together, but each of the pairings pushed the third out of the picture. I needed three, not two. So I set MONUMENTAL aside and started a whole new piece three days before the deadline. Crazy! Yes a bit.

31 1/2" X 24"
Completed June, 2013
Commercial fabrics, silk, beads, fused and machine stitched

I needed something simple, colorful, and dramatic so I went to another of my photos taken in 2004 in May at Chaco Canyon. My stitching in the sky ties in with the stitching in ENCHANTMENT. The stitching of the ground tied with the stitching in LOOK, BUT DON'T TOUCH. 

One of the things that needed to happen in the third piece was that the colors, while showing ties to the others, needed to have a sense of individuality. MONUMENTAL had a turquoise sky and earth colors similar to ENCHANTED and this is what pushed the second piece out of the picture. SPRING IN CHACO CANYON holds it's own with color but the greens and the earth colors tie it in. It was hard coming up with a third bold border. My stash is full with batiks but not so many bold statement stripes or geometrics. I wavered a bit on this choice of border but ultimately I think the simplicity of the piece does support a bold border.

So there it is. I have no idea if my decisions will be cohesive enough for the judges of the exhibit. I gave it my best shot. And in the balance I now have three wonderful pieces that I did not have three weeks ago. The decisions to accept or decline will be made by June 26.

I will be finishing MONUMENTAL in the next weeks because it is a truly spectacular piece. Who knows, I may add to my stash of desert themed quilts and do a few more. I truly loved working on these pieces because they tapped into my passion for New Mexico. In my next post I will take you on my journey with MONUMENTAL. 


  1. You have been hard at work! Good luck with your trio. They look wonderful, and definitely cohesive!

  2. Thank you, Martha, at the very least I now have three new pieces.