Reading About Design

Inspired to Design: Seven Steps to Successful Art QuiltsaInspired to Design: Seven Steps to Successful Art Quiltsa by Elizabeth Barton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book knowing I make a different type of quilt than Barton does; I was hoping for transferrable principles. And there were some. And they were good.

I especially enjoyed the first chapter, “Generating Designs.” She presented ways of manipulating a sketch that were new to me. And yet I think there is something more needed (besides photographs and sketches) before naming the main idea of a quilt. There is a world of difference between following how one artist gets to a main idea and getting one’s own main idea. I had read where Barton recommended 24 sketches before proceeding. Not in this book. Though she does recommend several and time to let an idea gel and time to look at the colors and fabrics on the design wall before stitching. And I felt all my “just looking” time validated.

The concept of underlying structure was useful to me. It is automatic in a traditional quilt, but has to be created when going asymmetrical. Her discussion of various grids was also helpful.

Color and value were familiar to me already, but I learned more, things like checking whether lights and darks make coherent patterns and using color to help the viewer’s eye cover the whole quilt. She writes of choosing a dominant color for a quilt as one means toward unity. In traditional quilts I’d seen the need for one color in background or in a focus fabric, but her presentation expanded that concept for me.

I have always been puzzled by the need for both unity and variety; I loved her comment: repeat till you are bored, then make a change. Also helpful was the idea to vary a shape (that was being repeated) just a little bit. Ah, the variety doesn’t have to be total.

Barton illustrates her discussion with her own quilts and with URLs for works of other quilters and other painters. I tried to define for myself from an illustration what I thought she would say before reading her captions. For example, when she was talking about focus, I tried to apply what she had said, but I found a different focus. Maybe there needs to be more discussion. Or maybe I need to reread. I was in awe of the number of her own quilts she had to draw from. Besides helpful information, there is a lot of eye candy.

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Filed under books, design

4 responses to “Reading About Design

  1. Cher

    good review! I will have to put it on my reading list and see what I think as well.

  2. Thanks. It sounds an interesting book. Maybe each artist will always find a different “focus”, because we all bring our own view and insight to any situation. This is where it would be nice to have a real life friend to walk through, for instance, a show and each of you discuss such book points together.

  3. I’ve been following Nina-Marie’s posts about her design/dyeing class with Elizabeth Barton, which have really piqued my interest in her work and process. I’m reading Joen Wolfrom’s book on color right now and it’s very good, but I need some more work on design. I may check this one out!

  4. Sounds interesting. I’ve not seen this book, I hope our library has it. I have got to stop buying so many books before I know if I really *need* them!! Thanks for the review!

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