Red Sky at Morning

Nonseries Work

I recently returned from two adventures. Last month, my husband Rich and I, plus our older daughter Julie and her boyfriend George, spent nine lazy days in Hawaii on touristy Maui and delightfully laid back Molokai. The trip was pure leisure, and I had no plans to do any work. However, I found the tropical landscape – waving palm trees; mesmerizing ocean, with its breaching whales and curious sea turtles; and glittering beaches inspired me.

During my second adventure – a five-day workshop taught by Nancy Crow in Indianola, not far from Bremerton, WA – it was coincidental that my “off-the-top-of-my-head” design featured palm frond-like shapes and a circle, perhaps representing the sun. However, the work was not as successful as I hoped.

Whenever I’m in a class, I consider the works I produce to be studies, not masterpieces. But this time I had not “done my homework”: I hadn’t brought the range of fabrics – in this case, neutrals – necessary to open up my creativity. I also hadn’t sketched possible designs, so I came to the class with limited ideas. Consequently, I floundered and did not do my best work.

What I did do was add to my knowledge of figure ground, which was the focus of the class. Figure ground is our ability to see parts of a visual field as well-defined objects standing out against a less distinct background. The figure comes forward; the ground stays behind. I need not only to be more aware of figure ground in my own work but also to recognize it in the work of artists in other media. I also learned that it’s okay to fail – as long as I don’t do it too often.

I’ve studied with Nancy Crow since 1993 and in over 22 workshops, and she always inspires me and gives me the “shove” I need. I returned from this class with some goals: do more “sketches” in black, gray and white fabrics; translate the best of these sketches into actual quilts emphasizing figure ground; and return with five completed quilt tops, which is her assignment for next year’s workshop.

In the meantime, the Color Improvisations exhibit – which includes my two quilts, “Seeing the Light” and “Out on a Limb” – has completed a successful, but short, visit to Verona, Italy. I learned from Nancy Crow that Verona was added to the tour after the president of the Aurifil Threads Company saw the show in Stuttgart and arranged for its venue in his hometown.

I also have three quilts – “Healing I,” “Let There Be Light” and “The Waters of Heaven” – on their way to Brazil for exhibitions in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in June and early July. I’ll post details and a link to these exhibitions’ website later. “Sorok” and “Sorok dva” are on exhibit at the Lynnwood Convention Center in Lynnwood, WA, through July 31.

More locally, I will have three quilts – “Let the Sunshine In,” “Autumn Leaves” and “Green,” a three-dimensional vessel – in the Battle Ground Art Alliance exhibit in my hometown this weekend, March 19 and 20. I’ve also donated a quilt – “Red Sky at Morning – Sailor’s Warning” – for the raffle in conjunction with this show. The raffle proceeds go toward participation by the group in local art festivals, the purchase of art books for the Battle Ground Public Library, scholarships for students interested in the arts, and other projects of the nonprofit group. Tickets will be available during the show, so be sure to pick some up if you attend.

Now, back to work on those goals!

Red Sky at Morning – Sailors Warning

“Red Sky at Morning – Sailor’s Warning”
©2006 Melisse Laing
13″w x 12″h
Donated to Battle Ground Art Alliance raffle


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