Crow Barn Week Five Part One

In the fall of 2009, I completed three week long classes at the Crow Barn. I have written about those weeks here, here, here, and here. In the spring of 2010, I returned for two more weeks of study.

The class was Sets and Variables III. I am not sure why in my mind I always call this class Linear Motifs. I have said this before–my current body of work is really a mash up of what I learned in Strip Piecing and Restructuring I,  II, III and Sets and Variables I, II, III. Add the traditional quilt block, stir, and that’s sort of where I am at.

Nancy has tried to teach me other things like complex figure ground composition, but my heart is devoted to pattern and repetition. I have come to realize that I do good figure ground work–it just isn’t complex. If you are interested in amazing COMPLEX figure ground work, I highly recommend you look at Judith Kirpich’s work,

Kirpich_Knots_No6_54x42and Connie Carrington’s work.

Paint1_Joy1 by Connie CarringtonSome day Denise Roberts will come out of her West Virginia studio and show the world her amazing figure ground work, but for now, we will just have to wait patiently.

In Sets and Variables III, we were to select a linear motif to work with. I will confess that I REALLY wanted to work with the nine patch. I know I am not the only one out there who finds this simple block inspiring. Here is a very early piece of mine from 2006 called Boxy 9-patch.

Boxy 9-Patch by Maria ShellI did not use the 9-patch for two reasons–Eleanor McCain had kind of cornered that market, and I really wondered if I had anything to say that would move the nine-patch beyond her beautiful work.

Color-Study-7-1 by Eleanor McCainAnd the week before, I had tussled with Nancy over using a quasi-disguised flying geese block as my motif.

Maria Shell Detail of Birch Woods GlimmerMaria Shell While I was thinking about whether or not I could disguise the 9-patch, I did go ahead and make few.

Maria Shell 9-Patch WorkFinally, I settled on this block. It is a seven patch. There are three patches on each side of a long rectangular patch.

Seven PatchThis motif/quilt block travels around my studio and is pretty much always up on one design wall or another–like a charm or trinket I suppose.

Seven Patch in Maria Shell's StudioThe first assignment was to make five quick sketches of our linear motifs. We could draw them out if we wanted.

Maria Shell Sketch BookEach sketch was to portray a distinct interpretation of our motif. I loved this assignment. Here they are together.

Maria Shell Linear MotifsAnd here they are individually.

I was feeling pretty good about things. If you have ever been in a Nancy Crow class, you know that if you are feeling good–things are about ready to awry. Am I right?

The next assignment was to make a large, abstract version of our motif using only two colors. Two color assignments get me every time. I just feel so limited, but I did it.

I stitched and stitched.

Maria ShellI liked what I was doing.

Maria ShellI thought it was good enough.

Maria ShellAnd I was going to finish it by the deadline.

Maria ShellI did not know this but Nancy had been watching me the entire time. Watching me just stitch myself right out on to a cliff.

Finally, she came over and said. “I’ve been waiting for you to figure this out, but since you have not, I am going to tell you. Those colors are terrible. You need to take it down and start over.”


My defense was–”I’m not very good with just two colors.” It’s kind of a lame excuse isn’t it? But at the time, well, when you are in that deep, you just don’t know what’s going to come out of your mouth.

She said she didn’t care. I could use as many colors as I wanted, I just needed to make something worth looking at.

Begin. Again.

Tomorrow, I will tell you what happened.

This entry was published on February 13, 2014 at 8:59 PM. It’s filed under Quilt Stories, The Crow Barn and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

12 thoughts on “Crow Barn Week Five Part One

  1. Oh, Great! I am heading off for these classes in about two weeks. I am not sure if I’m grateful for your insights, or terrified of the “those colors are terrible” syndrome!

  2. Thanks for the lovely shout out. I have found that most of the insights I have gained at Nancy’s have come after her class has ended and often from the piece I hate the most. I also know from personal experience she is hardest oh those she thinks have talent. You have no idea some of the talks we have had! But they left me a better artist. M

  3. Pingback: Crow Barn Week Five-Part Two | Maria Shell

  4. Kerri Green on said:

    Oh, Maria! I just had to laugh out loud and read some of your words to my husband, although he didn’t think it was as funny as I did. I believe to understand the full effects of a Nancy encounter you just have to experience it!

  5. Like Kerri, I laughed out loud! I appreciate your outing the very “Nancy” qualities of our favourite teacher, and fun that its turned into a forum for her students.

  6. Never took a class with her but do remember from her books that she often uses black and white along with her other colorful garments and quilts. I found that a good place to branch off from since they represent extremes of the spectrum so you can start to fill in the rest. Just my weird sense of what I’ve observed.

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