Crow Barn Week One

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.

Here Nancy is modeling a beautiful headdress from South Africa.

Here Nancy is modeling a beautiful headdress from South Africa.

Part of the fun with studying at the Crow Barn are the behind the scenes antics of staff family. Here Nancy's husband John has brought a giant mushroom into the classroom.

Part of the fun with studying at the Crow Barn are the behind the scenes antics of the staff and family. Here Nancy’s husband John has brought a giant mushroom into the classroom.

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.

My guys getting ready to fend for themselves for three weeks.

My guys getting ready to fend for themselves for three weeks.

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.

Here is the complete collection of fabrics I created in week on.

Here is the complete collection of fabrics I created in week on.

Here I am standing in front of my work. I am wearing one of my favorite t-shirts. I bought it from the Kansas City Arts Institute Book Store. It was silk screened by one of their students. It says I Sew So Often.

Here I am standing in front of my work. I am wearing one of my favorite t-shirts. I bought it from the Kansas City Arts Institute Book Store. It was silk screened by one of their students. It says I Sew So Often.

Here is the composition with all the background noise.

Here is the composition with all the background noise.

And here it is all by itself.

And here it is all by itself.

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 the revised version with all the background noise.

Here is the revised version with all the background noise.

And here it is all by itself.

And here it is all by itself.

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.

This entry was published on March 4, 2013 at 3:19 PM. It’s filed under The Crow Barn and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

15 thoughts on “Crow Barn Week One

  1. Pingback: Jimi Makes a Quilt | Maria Shell

  2. Pingback: Thank you Rasmuson Foundation | Maria Shell

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  5. Pingback: Crow Barn Week Three | Maria Shell

  6. cltrice on said:

    your choice of colors is very clear, crisp and sophisticated. I adore your color choices.

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  7. Thank you Carol for stopping by. I do love to work with color.

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  10. Make the one YOU love.

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  11. I think the way you bring structure and abstraction together is gorgeous. I enjoyed watching you work when we were both in one of Nancy’s classes – you were piecing fabrics into bold new designs to use in your composition – reminded me of a kaleidoscope!

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    • Thank you Sharon. I like how you describe my work. It helps me to see it with new eyes. Which class did we have together?

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      • Hi Maria! It was right after the opening of the last Quilt National. I knew you looked familiar but hadn’t met you yet and then suddenly realized you were one of the more advanced artists with a quilt in QN! “Oh, I heard your artist talk yesterday!” I said. I was so jazzed!

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  12. I’ve only recently discovered Nancy Crow’s work – as of last week. But I’m devouring everything I can from library books to blogs on the internet. I like your first composition and would love to hear more about why she pushed you away from that.

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    • I hope you will study with her! It is an amazing experience. Most often if Nancy thinks you are playing it safe and not pushing yourself harder enough she will challenge you go further in your work. I have written several posts about studying with Nancy. If you go to my About page and search for Crow Barn you will find them. Thank you for stopping by!

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