At play in the garden of stitch

Three weeks, three pieces, three inspirations. My weeks have been full of obligations and distractions so I haven’t been able to concentrate on much of anything in my studio. The distractions were also inspirations. So my art shows it.

Those who follow my work will know that I tend to avoid patterned fabrics. Since my focus is on the stitching I like a background that is open and structured. This piece is exemplary of that technique.

Whispered nothings, Paula Kovarik.

These detailed stitch drawings bring story to shape. In this case the story is about the media and how we get our news. The texture that develops can add another layer of drama.

Detail stitching both by hand and machine betray my tendency to believe that more is, in fact, more.

But what now? After a workshop with Pamela Allen I did some hand stitching. This time patterned fabrics were part of the composition — foreign territory for me. I am not a patient hand stitcher so I started machine stitching after awhile.

Patterned fabrics add a sense of mystery to this composition. Stitching adds texture.

This one will stay on the board for awhile until I have the patience to stitch on it some more.

And then I spent a few days with Maria Shell building a community quilt with some folks in Memphis. Her fabrics added a sense of joy and energy to our community quilt that challenged my vision of how things go together. I mined the garbage can to come up with some scraps that I could experiment with on my own.

The scraps are ironed onto a navy blue background.

Added some stitching

And some more stitching.

Then some more stitching. I want to call this “We don’t know what’s down there” because it reminds me of a National Geographic special on the ocean that I watched last week.

I’ve been so happy to have the time to work on these experiments. And happier still to have the opportunity to learn from other artists. Thanks to Michael Brennand-Wood, Pamela Allen and Maria Shell I have a new box of toys to play with.

Still looking

These tiles had one thing in common. Black thread on a neutral background.

I'm still thinking about how patterns emerge. And how our brains look for unifying elements to make sense of chaos. Quilts use repeat modules to create a whole from fragments. So, if I brought disparate elements together could I create a whole? Here's a few base thoughts:

  1. Regularity unifies.
  2. Grids are glue.
  3. Lines travel and connect.
  4. Connection = comprehension

So I took a few of the sample thread studies I have laying around and cut them into 2" squares. Assembling them randomly on a background substrate created a tile-like pattern that I emphasized with a grid that holds them together.

Then I started looking for connections. These small tiles really have little in common— just some black thread on neutral fabric. My eyes seemed to bounce around the assemblage, hip hopping to find similarities. So I added a line mimicking the hip-hop journey my eyes were taking. 

Adding denser fill stitching at the intersections of the connecting line and patterned tile added a sense of rhythm to the piece.

Adding hand-stitched details adds action and brings the tiles together in small areas.

Then I turned the piece to the back to see what was happening with my random connections.

The picture on the left is the front of the assemblage. The one on the right shows the stitching I added to the piece. I love the raw quality of those marks. And, I had no idea that I had formed a face in profile when I was working from the front.

Here's another comparison. The left side is dense with stitching and linework that is beginning to represent my idea of complexity and chaos. The back shows a simpler yet texturally consistent stitching that appeals to me. There's a sense of space on that side that brings more focus on the character of the lines.

I'm not sure how much farther I want to take this piece. I love the complexity that is beginning to show up with the layered stitching. And I like the back of the piece. I'll have to study it a while.