“Sticks” – 2 Successes, 1 Failure


I’ve missed chatting with you, but I’m not going to list excuses. We all have them,  and – I hope – you’re here to share what I’ve been doing in the studio. One side note – my husband and I spent the month of April in Australia visiting family and touring. Will the beauty – and friendliness – of this country influence my work? That is yet to be seen.

In the meantime there’s activity in my “Sticks” series. As I mentioned, this series originated from a Nancy Crow workshop in 2011. In the 2012 workshop I did Nancy’s new exercises but continued in the same series. The result is three new Sticks.

The quilt tops I do in workshops are never finished products – far from it! They are learning tools that sometimes – in this case, two out of three – become new works. Two of the exercises I brought home, took apart, inserted new colors and reconfigured before I was satisfied with them. Here are the results, as yet unnamed. Suggestions are welcome.

Sticks 6 What I did on this one was add some lines and lighten colors in the center, which was rather muddled.



 On this one the lines were originally black on the left (yellow) slide. I changed them so that it brought some of the colors from the right into the left side.


So what happened to the third sticks exercise? I chose to work with smaller shapes – or perhaps that was the assignment, I don’t recall. I also decided to work in a relatively neutral palate. Why do I challenge myself and, after much frustration, come out with zilch? Do you ever do that?

I cut hundreds of 3-inch squares in neutrals, slashed them diagonally, inserted a neutral strip in the middle and sewed them together. Here are the stacks: When I started putting them up on the wall, I started arranging the squares, which after piecing were irregular rectangles. I put them together as light, medium and dark in an all-over pattern resembling chopsticks. Aha! A name – Chop-ed Sticks.

Then I started to sew them together. Ack! The squares – cut and pieced improvisationally – looked good on the wall, but sewing them together was awful. The edges didn’t match; none of them were the same size. I know how to fix that in larger pieces, but these were so small it became frustrating. I decided the only way was to trim the blocks to a common size – 2 ½ inches wide by 3 inches tall.

When I put them up on the wall, they fit easily together, but something was definitely wrong. They were too structured! They weren’t “me!” I took them all down, put them in a bag and relegated them to the UFO basket. I didn’t have a pity party, Jeanette, but I did eat chocolate.

When we fail, it isn’t satisfying. But when we fail, we often learn a lesson about ourselves. I like to work with larger pieces of fabric. I don’t like to work in “blocks.” I like to work improvisationally. I don’t like to match my points and have everything even. Did I know this before? Of course! Every once in awhile I just have to prove it to myself … again. Here’s to more successes and fewer failures … for all of us!

12 thoughts on ““Sticks” – 2 Successes, 1 Failure

  1. Hear you loudly on preference for large pieces of fabric. Little “squares” or such drive me to distraction. Funny thing though – the pattern that resulted with your first “small piece” effort was truly interesting.

    Of the two large works, I prefer the second one. White lines on the first flipped my eyes out of the work. Keep on trying, but remember to have fun too!


  2. So good to hear from you, Melisse. I get what you mean about structure. Say on! But it is good to go back and learn new lessons or reinforce the ones we have learned but, perhaps, put on a back burner. In central Oregon a lot of us are working with Rosalee Dace. This has been a very good time of work. Moving along . . . .


    Have a blessed, creative day

    1. Good to hear from you, Carol, & to hear that you enjoy working with Rosalie Dace. She’s one of my favorite people & gave me a good “push” years ago when I was just starting art quilts. Are you coming to Port Townsend this fall? It would be great if you could join us. Melisse

  3. Hi, Melisse,

    Thanks for sharing your work, and your process. Too bad the small squares piece didn’t work out — very exciting in draft form. I like the color choices.

    Of the other two pieces, I’m drawn to the 2nd one — I especially like how you’ve used the colors so that some of the shapes become lines on the other side — definitely keeps my eye moving.

    I hope you remember me — February was my first time in Indianola and I came with Ellen Wong. I signed up for the second week of 2013 — hope to see you again!


  4. They are quite beautiful Melisse…good for you! We are fans of Ruoualt and I can “see” many possibilities that would be Ruoualt like using black sticks…stained glass like. Also we saw something at the entrance of the Pompidou while we spent a recent month in France…that might also inspire you. Different and yet…I’ll try to find a picture and send it to you.


    1. Grace, I went to the internet because I was not familiar with Ruoualt’s work – & should be. I also checked out the Pompidoa – quite a wonderful museum. I’d love to see your pictures. I’d also love to go to France – someday when our daughter & family are back from Australia, which is where we went this year. Thanks again for being a blog reader, Melisse

  5. All three are terrific even if no. 3 is not your thing. The addition of lighter colors provide great contrast making the colors glow. I see peaks or tepees in both.
    I like the concept of no. 3. Perhaps you can find someone who likes working small to collaborate. Similar to what Kathy Loomis did with Brown Planet. Or trade ufos?

    1. Ellen, I haven’t given up on no. 3 – it would be actually no. 8 in the Sticks series. I like the way it looked ragged & also agree with you about the colors. What I’d like to do is keep that color combination but also make it free. I’m working on it – only in my head right now. I’ve admired Kathy Loomis’ work for sometime & was delighted to meet her at the opening of Color Improvisations in Germany. Good to hear from you. Melisse

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