Summer is still hanging on to this part of North Carolina for all its worth. The calendar may very well say September 10, but outside it still feels as if it’s July. Air conditioners are still chugging away for all they’re worth and my standard dress code is capris, t-shirt, and sandals. For most of us, the fact that the first frost is only weeks away is still a mirage in a vast wasteland of suntan lotion, beach chairs, and double layers of deodorant applied liberally to keep the underarms of our shirts decent.
Last Sunday, because it’s still 90 degrees where I live, I had the opportunity to visit the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University. Bill wanted to take pictures for his portfolio and I tagged along because well, I was in a rut.
It may be because that I see so much fabric (since I work in a quilt shop and have an enviable stash), I feel like I’m picking out the same colors all the time for my quilts. And in several ways, that is possible. Often a lot of the fabrics that are sold in shops and on line are directly influenced by the Pantone colors of the year. This year two were chosen, a blue (Serenity) and a pink (Rose Quartz). Personally, I took one look at them and immediately time-traveled back to the ‘80’s when everything was Williamsburg Blue and Old Rose. I still have these colors in my oldest stash.
In 2015, the color was Marsala Wine – which I affectionately redubbed “Cow Pattie Brown.” The year before it was a gorgeous purple. Needless to say, after these colors are announced, fabric storefronts and on-line shops get several bolts of this color and the variations … which we buy…and we make quilts out of. Then there are the seasonally influenced oranges, browns, and reds, followed by a variety of holiday hues, then followed by the next wave of Pantone induced dyes.
Add to this any colors that are collecting a “following”, such as the Aunt Grace (1930’s), Reproduction Prints (Civil and Revolutionary War), French General…you get the picture. Quilt and fabric shops are full of all of these because they sell and sell well. And they come with lots of “family members” (i.e. blender bolts), so all of that makes quilt making a bit of a breeze as far as picking out colors.
And woefully boring.
If it weren’t for the jarring excitement of batiks (“Oh Wow! That fabric has orangeandpurpleandblueandyellowandgreen!), I’m afraid that all of my quilts would end up like the clothes you wore in the ‘70’s – you know what I’m talking about…the outfits you look back on in your yearbook and physically cringe because yes, you actually wore that. And yes, it did look that bad. But then again, all 50 of your class members looked equally as bad.
We are losing our imagination as quilters.
So, feeling like this, I tagged along to the gardens to take pictures of flowers and trees because sometimes looking through the lens of a camera and then seeing the pictures is just what I need to jump-start a project and re-define my color choices.
The gardens were still in bloom despite the heat. The first thing I was struck with was how many shades of green there were.
At one time, this color held the least amount of shelf space in my quilt studio, because frankly, it’s not my favorite color. Please don’t ask how much room the purple fabric takes up. After learning to applique, I realized that I was going to have to up the ante on my greens, because I was making tons of leaves and stems. So every time I went fabric shopping, I would come home with at least one fat quarter of a green. Now several years have passed and the greens take up an entire shelf and a half.
But you know what? Nine times out of ten, I still don’t have the shade of green I need on the shelf. And now I know why. Mother Nature had the same problem. Look. At. All. The. Greens.
And look at the colors that are used with the greens. There are yellows and blacks and fuchsias and purples. It’s my observation that if Mother Nature has no problem mixing it up like this, neither should we.
For me, this is why it’s so important to get out of the studio every few days and look at some other visual art form or take a walk somewhere. It not only expands your color visualization, but it frees the mind to think outside the next kit, or next fabric line, or what’s being shown on Pinterest or quilt magazines. This helps your next quilt have a different variety of color choice and not look like the same three hundred other quilts that have been made from the same pattern and pretty much the same fabric line.
And this is important because in order for your quilt to be different (in a good way), you need it to “pop” visually in three places: From across the room, from the middle of the room, and right up in front of the quilt. The area that is going to pop in all three of these places is the color and its placement.
This is an area I want to explore a little more in the coming weeks. So this week if you’re able (and I’m not talking to you, Eileen), get out and take a walk. Take a hike. Go in out in your yard and use that fancy-shmancy phone of your to take some pictures. It really doesn’t matter what you take pictures of: weeds, birds, butterflies…whatever is out there, take some pictures.
Then look at the pictures. I don’t mean glance through them in a rush on your way to send your next text message or Facebook post. I mean really, really look at them. Look at all the shades and hues and colors that have been put there by Mother Nature and begin to think about how you can use these in your next quilt.
That’s your homework for the week.
Love and Stitches,
Sherri and Sam