In the spring of 2009, I applied for a Rasmuson Project Award. The Ramuson Foundation is an amazing organization in Alaska that works to improve the quality of life for all Alaskans. One of the things they do is fund artists. I told Walt I was going to apply, and if I got the award I would be leaving for three weeks to study with the art quilt guru Nancy Crow. No one in family was very happy about this except for me. I had not gone on a trip without the boys in eleven years.
In May, I found out that I had been funded! Walter looked at me with disbelief. The reality of three weeks without mom was beginning to sink in.
Before I begin to describe my journey as one of Nancy Crow’s students, I should say up front, it was a life changing experience for the BETTER. Both the funding from the Rasmuson Foundation and the three weeks of study with Nancy Crow enabled me to take leaps in my work that I never even imagined prior to that experience. Nancy Crow is a living treasure.
Most of Nancy Crow’s students bring car loads of fabric to use for their palette. Living in Alaska, meant I was going to have to be very strategic about my packing. I backed two large suitcases with 49.9 pounds of fabric in each of them. I packed a carry-on with the clothes I would wear for three weeks straight.
On Saturday evening October 3, 2009, I boarded a plane to fly all night and into the next day to finally arrive in Columbus, Ohio the next afternoon.
On Monday morning class began. In preparing to take these three weeks of course work, I had asked Nancy if I might start with an intermediate class. She promptly and without hesitation told me no. I might be an advanced quiltmaker in the real world, but in her world I was a beginner. And she was absolutely right. Many of my fellow students had started with an intermediate class, and then decided they needed to go back to the beginning and start over. Each class builds upon the next class, and I was very lucky to start at the beginning. My first class with Nancy was called The Best of Strip Piecing I & II.
As with many of Nancy’s classes, we started out working in black and white. Then and now, I find this difficult to do. I understand the relevance of eliminating color as a way of getting to the heart of a composition, but it is not how my mind works. Color is not optional for me–without it I feel as if I am stumbling around. Having said that, once we get beyond the black and white composition, and move into neutrals I am quite happy. Neutrals are a limited palette, but unbelieveably larger than just black and white.
From there we went on to create fabric using a variety of recipes. The goal being to begin to comprehend the nature of line and shape as it relates to color. When the combination works the fabric glows. When it doesn’t, it is absolutely depressing. Here is a collection of my early attempts at getting the right combination of colors. In the beginning there was a lot of failure. In the middle of this process, I would get some right, but not know how I did it. By the end of the week, I was getting better and better at seeing how colors are dynamic, and that I can control the results a lot of the time. Once I had success, I just wanted to keep making fabric after fabric. There was a final assignment looming, but I didn’t want to stop sewing my fabrics together.
Our final assignment was to use these fabrics to create an exciting composition. I worked diligently towards this goal.
When Nancy saw my work, she made me take it down! To this day, I love what I was creating, and I wanted to finish it. I do understand that I was going for an easy solution, and that Nancy was pushing me to be more adventuresome. Still, I loved the piece.
Here is where the revised composition ended. Neither have ever been finished. I am thinking I want to pull this UFO out of its bag and make it work. Maybe I should finish both of them. I’d love to know what you think.