All posts by Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Playing for inspiration

Breaking a Creative Block

Last week I was working on a challenge quilt that was giving me trouble because I was way over thinking. I can almost hear some of you saying “Wow, that is not at all like you”. To which I reply, that there is no need for sarcasm.   So back to my point.  I started several times but rejected idea after idea for a variety of reasons – too complex, too simple, too uninspired (or uninspiring), too cliché (I know, what does that even mean?). My usual strategy of putting it aside and coming back to it wasn`t working but I was determined to finish the challenge by the quickly-looming deadline.

Applying learning

I finally decided that it was time to shake things up and try a different approach. The challenge assignment that I am completing is for an online course in Colour and Composition taught by Katie Pasquini Masopust.

As it happens, I took a workshop with Katie PM through the Mahone Bay Quilt Guild last spring. The workshop was called Watercolour to Quilt. Over two days, we experimented with a variety of watercolour techniques including blowing with straws, using bubbles, and painting small objects like sample cups as stamps. We then isolated a section of one of the watercolour pieces and used it as the basis for a quilt. It was lots of fun and also rather surprising. I do not count painting or drawing among my skills and was a little sceptical that I would be able to ‘paint’ a design but, in fact, all of the participants created unique and interesting quilt designs.

This seemed a good time for me to break out the paints and give it another go. Rather than randomly painting with all the colours of my limited palette, I decided that I would select a picture from my digital collection and use it to create a colour scheme. Rather than risk going down a rabbit hole of analysis for a picture selection, I created my own randomizer and chose a number to lead me to a folder in my pictures then looked at the number of pictures in the file and chose one for my colour scheme. Fortunately, I ended up with this picture as my inspiration.   I say fortunately because I love the colours here.

My initial colour inspiration
My initial colour inspiration

Playing for inspiration

I spent maybe an hour playing with paint then isolated a section of one of the pictures and used it as inspiration. In the end, I chose not to turn the design into an exact pattern but to use it more for a general guideline.

As I mentioned, I have a limited selection of watercolour paints.  I chose green and red and made tints of colour to try to come close to what was in the chosen picture.  When they dried, I identified the slightly modified results in my Joen Wolfrem colour tool (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY7qF9tOCeU) and identified them as blue green and blue red.  This happens to be a complementary colour scheme of two colours opposite each other on a colour wheel (in this case, a 24-segment colour wheel).

This is my resulting quilt.  It is not exactly the original colour scheme but the influence is there for sure.

Finished quilt.  The challenge was to include  lost-and-found lines and engaged edges
Finished quilt. The challenge was to include lost-and-found lines and engaged edges

Finding new ideas

If you haven’t tried some creative play, I highly recommend it.  This activity was a change for me and took me out of my head.  The experiment resulted in a quilt that was a very different style for me. I am very happy with the results.

Have you tried playing to break a creative block? What did you do? We’d love to read your stories and/or see your resulting creations so please share.

2×4 and Tech Challenges

 

The 2×4 Challenge

This week, I have been finishing a 2×4 Challenge through  Taylor Timber Mart in Musquodobit Harbour.   If you are a woodworker, you might be familiar with the 2×4 challenge idea, which is popular with guilds and online woodworking groups.   The challenge is to create a unique project from a single 2×4, usually construction-grade wood.  This is not the best wood to work with but its availability and low cost making this contest great for woodworkers of all levels.  Rules can vary.  For this contest, rules are simple– you pick up a free 8’ 2×4 and create anything you like as long as it is comprised of 90% wood from the supplied 2×4 and no more than 10% of any other elements (adhesive, fasteners, decorative features…), determined by weight.
Continue reading 2×4 and Tech Challenges

Patchwork Stories

My Patchwork Story

I have mixed feelings towards making patchwork quilts.  I enjoy the history and tradition of the art and it does appeal to my perfectionist tendencies.  Ironically, these are the same things that can contribute to my more ambivalent feelings toward this type of work.  Sometimes the number of traditional patterns generated makes it feel harder to do something new or unique.  This, of course, is not true as talented designers are constantly created new approaches and new variations. Continue reading Patchwork Stories

Tech Tuesday – Longarm Quilting

Introducing Songbird Quilter

The Eastern Shore has a great new service for quilters.  Wendy Pehrsson has opened Songbird Quilter in Lawrencetown. Songbird offers longarm instruction and rental services to help people finish their quilts without the expense of purchasing a longarm.   After a short orientation session, quilters can rent Wendy’s machine by the hour  to complete projects at a very reasonable rates.

Continue reading Tech Tuesday – Longarm Quilting

WIP – Improv Quilting

Improvisation and Quilting

I don’t know if it is a new trend or just something that I have recently become aware of in magazines and online articles but I have been seeing more discussions describing ‘improv quilting’ as a style.  It seems to me that that it is more accurately described as a process than a style.  To me, it makes more sense to think of it as a way to create, try new approaches – and mix things up a little.

Continue reading WIP – Improv Quilting

Sustainable Art

I have been thinking a lot about sustainability and responsibility in making art.   Since this is Earth Day weekend, it is a perfect time to reflect and write about these issues.  Being responsible in material purchase and use is important to both me and Stephen so we frequently discuss ways that we can better reduce, reuse, recycle, or repurpose.  That applies in our processes as well as our products.

Continue reading Sustainable Art

Tech Talk: Traditional Technology

This weekend when we were puttering in the shop, Stephen and I chatted about some ongoing projects.  It is a rare occasion that we are both in the woodshop at the same time because of the size and layout,  combined with the fact that about 1/3 of our area is currently being used for storage and work-in-progress.   In addition, when we are both in there creating, usually there are power tools that preclude much conversation.  Continue reading Tech Talk: Traditional Technology

Tech Talk: Machine Embroidery

The topic of today’s technology in art creation post is machine embroidery. Some people have pretty strong opinions about the look of machine embroidery and I didn’t use to be much of a fan myself.  However, when I decided to invest in a new machine and started researching options, I became more interested and I purchased a quilting / embroidery machine.  The embroidery offered opportunity to create patterns, customize gifts, and add simple designs for quilting on finished projects. Continue reading Tech Talk: Machine Embroidery

WIP: Studio (re)Organization     

This post was written by Mary Elizabeth O’Toole

Organizing a creative work space can be a challenge.  Keeping it organized even more so. Even when everything has its place, there are often times when not everything is in its place. At any given time there might be projects in different stages of completion, tools that were recently used Continue reading WIP: Studio (re)Organization