Friday, August 19, 2016

Composition and Design

Charlene wrote: Will you be talking later about the design step? Any tips about composition?
  1. I replied: Yes, I will be discussing composition, but what do you mean about the design step exactly?
  2. Charlene wrote: I say 'design step' as another way of saying composing the final piece. Once you have all the parts made, next you put them together, designing or composing the whole. I'm really looking forward to that discussion.
  3. I said to myself: Gulp. This is where the lesson plan all falls apart. But here goes. In my experience there are two ways of designing, with a plan and without a plan, also called improvised. I went to Wikipedia and searched for Composition, hoping for a way out of having to declare HOW TO DESIGN A COMPOSITION.
  5. That pretty much said all the things you need to know, but I wouldn't dare tell you that this is THE WAY to design. Art just isn't like that. 
  6. For our class, I am hoping to give you the elements and techniques that  allow you to come up with designs or compositions of your own without having to fret over the so-called rules. I NEVER think about the rules. It takes all the fun out of discovering something that you have never seen before.
  7. In artwork, a design may be something that has a planned layout or composition, say a grid, or vertical panels, or concentric squares, or cruciform, landscape or portrait etc. There may be a motif which is the focal point of the design, or it may have a subject matter, such as a house, a tree, a horse, a circle, or star. All the elements within that design may be supportive of that subject matter, but already I am wandering off into rules and specific definitions. I hate that!
  8. When it comes to doing something with the parts you have made, this is where you play (or improvise) with them and arrange them in a manner that is pleasing to you. TO YOU. It is important that you feed your brain with images that appeal to you and determine what it is about that piece that is its strength. I call this research.
  9.  Pinterest has millions of ideas and I suggest you take advantage of what can be found there, and not just in quilts, but in all sorts of design imagery. I collect designs on a pinboard called Surface Design. I am constantly inspired and feed my muse with the clever things I find and pin there. I also pin ideas on my Fabulous Fusing pinboard. You might see some of your own work that I pinned there from our Show YOUR homework page.
  10.  So for today's lesson Join or go to and make a Design board for yourself. Once you have collected some thrilling-to-you-images, share the links to your boards in the comments.
  11. ++++++
  12. OK, you want an assignment. I get it. So let's practice what we learned and this time you will make something of your own design. Make something small. In this case we are going to cut the batting first and that will give you an idea of what size shapes to put on it. OR you could draw out a rectangle or square on the release paper and use that as a guide.

When we fuse a small work it helps to start with an idea of the finished size. Then the pieces we use will be to scale.

Or use the release paper from the Wonder-Under, and draw the finished size on the paper with a pencil. We will assemble the top on the paper, and after it is completed it will then be fused onto the batting.
The reason we have drawn the size on the paper is to help place the pieces within the space. This is especially helpful when cutting the background pieces.

Large pieces of fabric are often daunting to cut, so I suggest cutting off a three inch piece from each color. You may still have to cut into the large pieces but you will have some small pieces to cut into details.
I am using chunks of leftovers and some are already missing large parts, but no matter, I just put another piece in the missing space and it looks like I layered it over a full piece.
But the deceptive truth is that everything that is on top is covering an empty space.

The turquoise piece on the left shows that missing part. I used the sliver of soap to outline the part covered with the orange piece, and then I trimmed away the turquoise piece. It fits under the orange now with only a small bit connecting the two.
I am not suggesting any of the dimensions of these pieces, as you will be making those choices yourself. Just keep it simple and it will all work out just fine. Really.

I keep adding more chunks of fabric, building up the composition.
Nothing is fused down YET. I am still arranging and judging how it looks. This is where the 'designing' comes in. I am just looking for a pleasing arrangement, with colors that look good together.

There will be some trimming and neatening of edges before I do the fusing.

Nothing has been measured or is perfectly square.
Let go of perfection for this project.

The composition is nearing completion, and I am adding the larger chunks to fill in the background spaces. It really helps me to know where the outer edges are, so I can work in the fabric were it fits. Some gaps occured and that provided 'design choices' such as that horizontal turquoise piece on the right.

I have begun adding thin lines on top and underneath the pieces to ground the composition. I really dislike floating objects. The shapes need to relate to each other and the outside edges as well.

At this point I have LIGHTLY fused all the pieces to each other, and onto the paper. I use a tweezer to lift some edges to insert the thin line pieces under the top layer.
The finished top, fused onto the batting and trimmed to size.
I've added a few more lines, some dots and triangles and stopped myself from overdoing it. I will rely on the machine quilting to add the right finish.

IF I were going to do any hand stitching, now is the time to do it. I would stitch through the top and batting with either embroidery floss or perle cotton size 8 or 12. Then later after the backing is sewn on, the machine quilting will be done.

Keep in mind that trimming each piece of fabric  before the final fusing helps keep the look of the design neat and clean.
After the composition is complete, follow through with the finishing technique of your choice.

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  3. At some point I have to stop "pinning" and start fusing. Here's the start of my "fusing inspiration" board:

  4. I think I have more of a construction question, but it leans towards design. I'm quite taken with the "overlay illusion" you use. As in across the moon in some of the October series. How do you have to overlay effect include both the background AND into the moon, and get all of the curved lines to be continuous across both planes? Did that make any sense? Can you show me a step by step? Thanks!!

  5. Thanks, Melody, for so quickly answering my question about the design step. Your answer relieves a lot of my anxiety about design. I've been trying to figure out a composition plan for a series, and couldn't get enthusiastic about any I considered (cruciform, etc.). Now I'll happily drop all that and improvise to my heart's delight!

  6. Annie, I will address your question in this week's lesson, on Friday. And Charlene, you've got it now!

  7. Hi Melody,

    I'm afraid I haven't started your class yet. When I went to the dyers site that you recommended, he was sold out of the fabrics for your class. I just sent him an email, so hopefully I'll hear from him soon. I still want to participate, even though I'm completely behind. Everyone's work looks great! Here is a link to my pinterest board, though it was started awhile ago, and includes traditional quilts as well as art quilts: You'll see a bunch that you made, cause I love your work!!

    I moved a year ago, and am not as organized and speedy as you. My sewing room is rather chaotic as we plan on partially refinishing it - new flooring and a ceiling - so most of my stuff is in boxes. Anyway...thanks for putting this class together and sharing your knowledge.

  8. I've noticed that every piece I like, every piece that works, has fabric that changes color. I noticed that in your pieces years ago. And I was broken hearted that neither my dyeing efforts nor my purchases had much of that color variation going on.

  9. It's been a crazy week for me so I may not get my homework done by Friday...but I'm sure having fun. So many of the the tips and tricks you have shared work so well and are making so much sense. After a lot of fiddling I now fully understand the whole "floating object" really does make a difference design wise. And the process of cutting away all the "under" fabric is so helpful. Every piece of fused fabric is precious so why hide it. I do need to let go of perfection and stop fiddling and just finish my little piece....and I will. But in the mean time I wanted to thank you again. I am learning so much!



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