Thoughts on Purple and Some Big Magic
I’ve been working on a new quilt design to add to the Windy Wonders trunk show. That program is booked for Omaha Quilters’ Guild next week and I want to give them lots of eye candy. I thought a few more quilts would be nice, and since my sketchbook is overflowing, it wasn’t hard to do.
I grew up near a little town called Battle Creek here in Nebraska. Our colors were purple and gold so I spent many days in those colors.
I sold my letter jacket at a flea market last year for about a dollar. It went to a good home! It wasn’t a great leap for me to make a scrap quilt in these colors.
When I pull fabrics for a scrap quilt, I go for variety.
I want variety in the colors. I want variety in the visual texture, the style of print, and the size and density of the motifs. Today we’re only going to talk about the color. The color purple. 🙂
But wait. Isn’t purple purple? I’m glad you asked!
Purple is a great color to use as an example because no, purple is not just purple. I have found that purples fall into two categories: They lean toward blue, or they lean toward red.
This is my purple drawer. I only have one drawer of purple because it’s not my favorite color. Nevertheless, 34 years of quiltmaking have given me a decent stash of the violets.
When you look at the drawer, the colors in there don’t even seem like a family. They’re all over the place. But if you sort them into blue purples and red purples, they start to be more cohesive.
Above are some of the blue purples I pulled from the drawer. Now they have more in common. And below are some of the red purples I decided to use.
When they’re side-by-side you can see the difference clearly.
A color wheel teacher would probably say “blue-violet” for the left set and “red-violet” for the set on the right.
So how do you make them work together?
This is where the fun begins!
The trick to making them work together is to find fabrics that have both blue-violet and red-violet in the print.
These fabrics serve as a bridge between the groups.
Here are a few more fabrics I decided to audition.
Notice that I have darks, mediums and lights. That’s another way of saying that I have a variety of values. Value is just the lightness or darkness of a fabric compared to its neighbors.
The idea is that in the beginning, you pull everything that might work, and you pull some “bridge” fabrics. Then as you make blocks and continue your auditions, you eliminate what does not work.
I’ve learned not to eliminate something too soon just because I think it’s ugly or “doesn’t go.” Those are sometimes the zingers that give the quilt zip, life, gusto, whatever you want to call it.
I also pulled yellow-greens for the backgrounds. Again I wanted variety. I used some that leaned toward golden and some that were more greenish. And then I started making Baby Windmills.
Part of the process is putting them on the design wall to see if they’re friendly with each other.
I try different combinations of backgrounds and windmills. I group the blocks in different ways.
Sometimes taking something away yields a new idea.
I turn the blocks on point.
I keep playing with arrangements. I was pretty sure I wanted something on point because most of my designs so far have been set straight. But these Windmills can really move if you rotate them a quarter-turn!
Each thing you try can spark an idea for something different.
If you let your mind wander and play, interesting things start to happen.
I read a book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She thinks ideas are all over the universe, just looking for someone to bring them to life. What’s the harm in believing that? I go a step further:
I believe I’m the best person to make an idea into something amazing.
If that sounds conceited, I’ll let you in on a secret: Most artists struggle daily with feeling like their work is awful, horrible, terrible, no good and very bad. I’m no exception.
It’s part of the curse of being creative. An inner voice constantly berates you, and you have to turn it off. Then you must learn to believe in yourself and your work, and beyond that, when you go into business, you must be brave enough to actually promote yourself.
The connection between the purple and gold quilt and the pursuit of ideas is that a design doesn’t just happen. It takes trial and error, auditioning, revising, rethinking, asking questions, struggling, failing, starting over, bucking up, trying again. And then if you’re lucky and you make some good decisions, something really wonderful happens and you get a design that works.
You get some Big Magic.
I’ve learned a lot from this quilt so a few more posts are coming before I show you the finished top.