The Evolution of “Sticks”


In my last blog post, I mentioned a workshop I took in March from Nancy Crow titled “Lines, Curves, Shapes, Figure Ground.” I noted problems with my design made up of curved shapes and lines.

I came home slightly frustrated, but I didn’t give up! I sketched out some new ideas, including some with straight lines because I thought the curves were restricting the purpose of the exercise. I started with a straight-line design based on my original curved one, but it didn’t work.

So I decided to start anew and came up with a design I like. It reminds me of “The Portland Panels” Klaus Moje did for the 2008 exhibition at the Portland Art Museum in fused glass, another example of the influence glass art has on my work.

I put the design on my studio wall using black strips on a white background – 2 feet by 2¼ feet – but it was not as exciting as I had hoped. I changed the orientation, turned it upside down, moved some strips. It was better, but still not ideal.

Then I made a larger version, thinking the size was restricting me. I cut wider strips, which worked better. The black crossings of the diagonal strips made some interesting new triangular shapes.

Sticks - Initial Design

I sewed it together – black and white, piece by piece, trying to make it as close to the pinned-up design as possible. There were some obvious errors. One black line didn’t continue straight through a small white triangle; another black line didn’t match up at the crossings. Although I’d intended the lines to be relatively straight (I don’t use a ruler), some were obviously curved.

Sticks - Initial Design - Sewn

Because the high contrast of black on white did not meet one of the requirements of our figure ground exercise – i.e. to bring tertiary lines into the design – I layered some cream-colored strips on top to create new configurations. It looked even more like Moje’s “Portland Panels.”

Sticks - Design with Tertiary Lines

I then interpreted it in color using a pattern-dyed piece of fabric for the background and solid-colored strips on top in complementary colors. At first my strips were too close to the same value, so I made them lighter for the “black” lines and of similar value for the tertiary lines. Then I sewed it together piece by piece, tediously matching intersections as closely as possible. It wasn’t easy, because I didn’t have any extra background fabric. The whole piece came out quite skewed. It was also quite structured – but I pushed on.

Sticks - #1

I pieced the design again used another pattern-dyed piece for the background. I cut the strips more freely and inserted them into the length (or width) of the background, cutting through previously sewn strips to make the intersections. It was easier to construct, and, amazingly, the strips matched up even better than doing it piece by piece. I also eliminated some strips so that I didn’t break up the patterned background. This was much more fun!

Sticks - #2

Now I’m thinking of other variations – strips appliquéd on top; strips made up of smaller, collaged pieces or strip pieced like Moje’s work; no strips and slashing and sewing the background together instead; moving color across the piece; making a piece out of only the strips with no background. It’s beginning to look like a series!

So a couple of nights ago, I dreamed about the series and came up with a title: “Sticks.” Possibilities and images are filling my head – Pick-Up Sticks; FiddleSticks; Sticks and Stones; A Sticky Situation; Stick Around; Pile of Sticks; A Stick-ler for … ; Stick Up; Stick to Me Like Glue; Stick It to ‘Em; Broken Sticks; Stick Figures; Walking Sticks; DrumSticks; ChopSticks – to name a few.

I’ll keep you updated on the “Stick” series in future blog posts. In the meantime, keep dreaming and designing – and having fun!


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