I am in an art quilt group! Here is the story of how that happened as well as my initial response to our first prompt.

I have always been envious of art quilt groups. They look like such a great way to connect with other artists. Here is a selection of art quilt groups who have made great work together.

Dinner at Eight
Twelve by Twelve

A couple of years ago, Karol Kusmaul cheerfully volunteered and executed a wonderful Lightning Talk for the SAQA conference in Philadelphia. You can read about Karol’s talk here.

Karol was good fun to work with. So, when Karol asked me if I wanted to be a part of an art quilt group, I said YES. I want to do that.  There are eleven of us from all over the world.

Cloth in Common Members

Over the past few months, we have gathered together via email and Facebook to create the perimeters of our group. We are called Cloth in Common

Our work can be one of three sizes—
20” by 14” (51 cm by 35.5 cm)
20” by 30” (51 cm by 76 cm)
30” by 40” (76 cm by 101.5 cm)

We have agreed to take turns creating prompts from unusual inspirations. We will have two months to complete our individual quilts. Each week during that two month period, a different artist will write a blog about her response to the prompt.

Karol started us off by prompting us to “make an art piece about sound of some sort”.

Today, I posted my first blog post for our group. 

I am reposting that blog here, but I strongly encourage you to hop on over to the Cloth in Common website and subscribe to the blog. That way you can follow along each week. We also encourage you to make your own art in response to the prompt. If you want to share your original work, please contact Karol at

Here are my thoughts on the first prompt.

How do you see sound?

Each of our senses gives us specific information. Our eyes show us if we are looking at the trees or the forest.


Our taste buds make sure we know if we are drinking tequila or tea.

Our skin lets us know we have just put on a wool sweater instead of a fleece one.


Our noses—without any other information— smells the difference between a urinal and a spa.

rmuttfountain_with_border_ivOur ears hear the difference between the sounds of a loved one or a PSA.

retro tvSimultaneously, each sense also works in the service of the others. Everyone knows that the nose does some work in smelling that Jose Cuervo, and the skin is a bodysuit of information beyond merely recognizing cloth.

Right now, I am hearing the sound of an airplane engine below me. I can also feel its vibration on my skin. I am feeling sound.


When we watch a movie without sound, we look for other clues to tell the narrative. A visually slammed door can do the same work as heard slammed door. We all know what a kiss sounds like even with the volume turned way down.


Pattern and repetition are core components of music—the art form most closely related to sound.

When you SEE a sound wave, there is not only pattern and repetition, but also the color of the sound.


Pattern, repetition, and color are the central tenets of my work. In fact, I frequently reference sound and music. Here are a few of those quilts.

Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations

Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs

Maria Shell Wall of Sound

Wall of Sound

Do a Little Dance by Maria Shell

Do a Little Dance

Dance Party Cropped and Turned

Dance Party at Tamara’s House

Can art mimic the pattern, repetition, and color of sound? As I was asking myself this question, I was moving through the Denver Art Museum  and landed in front of this piece created by Navajo artist Mamie P. Begay. She likes to vibrate too.


As I mentioned before, in addition to creating work in response to a prompt, we are also challenged to work within one of three sizes.

I will be piecing my work to fill a 30’’ x 40’’ space. To help me focus on this, I marked the territory on my design wall.


I’ve started stitching sound.


How would you interpret sound in your work?

I hope you will join us on this adventure! You can subscribe and read all the previous posts by following this link

This entry was published on August 29, 2017 at 1:53 PM. It’s filed under Cloth in Common, News And Events, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

16 thoughts on “CLOTH IN COMMON—The Beginning

  1. Sue Tague on said:

    Maria..will we see the results of the prompts even if we are not members?

  2. Im excited to see what y’all make. I’m going to follow along too!

  3. Such a beautiful project! I’m excited!

    • Thank you Leslie! I do believe we will be following your lead. Dinner at Eight with you at the helm has done such an amazing job over the years of celebrating the art of its members.

  4. Georgia French on said:

    GREAT post, Maria!

    Sent from my iPad


  5. Kornegay Madeline Jones on said:

    Great energy and wonderful commentary on sound!!! Loved the lesson.
    Thanks Marcia, I will be following you also.

  6. What a fun post! Looking forward to seeing where the prompt takes you.

    • Marla, I would love to see what you would do with it too! At first, I felt controlled by the prompt, now I feel like I have too many ideas. It is great to sit with the prompt for two months. Lots can happen.

  7. Ooh, that sounds like a really interesting project. I like the idea of visual vibrations. There’s an interesting exhibit at the Exploratorium, the local science museum: a shaped flat metal plate with sand on it. By running a violin bow along certain parts of the edge, if you do it just right, you can make the plate produce a sound, vibrate, and the sand visually aligns into patterns. They’re different depending on what sound it’s producing. That’s what your words reminded me of.

    Looking forward to seeing what you all produce!

  8. Very interesting post, Maria. You and your group will have lots of fun this year. I look forward to reading about it regularly.

    • Ann, I am looking forward to it too! I think the hardest thing for me is going to be the size. Piecers just piece until they are done. I have a very hard time piecing to a certain size, so we will see.

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