Friday, May 13, 2016

Jazz Impressions: Rhythm & Blues

It's a miracle:  I managed to finish and submit my second Jazz Impressions fiber art entry!  

This project began as a color study assignment that required me to use seven values of one color, two analogous colors and one complementary color.  After several failed fabric pulls, I mustered the courage to break into a bundle of beautiful hand dyed solids that I've been treasuring since October 2013!!  A few Cherrywood hand dyed solids and one Michael  Miller Cotton Couture were added to the mix for a cool color combination.
Fabric Pull Blues
I sketched out a modern design that began with 9 large blocks and would later include accents of the complementary color:  orange.  After rearranging and shuffling the squares over and over, I couldn't find a layout that appealed to me.  Luckily I finally found the perfect solution to my design dilemma:  Expand to include 16 blocks!    
Background Blues
This size shift allowed lots more options for shuffling the blocks and ultimately achieving better balance among all the values and colors.

Now that my background squares were laid out, it was time to add some orange accents.  Originally I envisioned a different sized orange square placed off center within each block.  However, once I started to cut out squares and auditioning placement on top of the background squares, I started to ask my favorite question:  What If...?
  • What if I placed a four patch of squares instead of just one?
  • What if I pieced in a 9-patch?
  • What if I pieced in a smaller 9-patch using 1" squares?
  • What if I laid out all those 1" squares to create a dotted line?

Exciting Things Happen When You Ask "What If...?"
To help audition scale, placement and variety, the squares of orange fabric were simply draped on top of each of the blue squares.  This allowed me to play, play and play some more with the overall design.  After taking a few pictures for later reference, I began to piece together my orange squares using leftover scraps from the background fabrics.  Then I improvisationally pieced these orange units into their background squares.  I simply cut up the original squares and was able to insert my new units, losing very little width or height in the process.  Once all the blocks were assembled, I trimmed them into a uniform size and assembled them all into a quilt top.
Improvisational Layout and Pieced Construction
I loved the smooth, clean lines and was torn as to how to best to quilt it.  For my class assignment, I simply submitted a photo of my quilt top which was well received by the instructor.  However, quilting would be required before submitting photos for my Jazz Impressions entry.  Oh, and did I mention that my sewing machine died just as I finished piecing my quilt top and there was just 1 week until the entry deadline!?!  I was really nervous about quilting on the loaner and procrastinated for fear that I would mess it all up.
Inspiration Songs by Louis Armstrong (Clockwise starting with top left block):  La Vie En Rose, When the Saints Go Marching In, When You're Smiling and A Kiss to Build a Dream On
I was just about to throw in the towel, when inspiration was found in "Louis Armstrong's Greatest Hits" on You Tube.  I listened to all 21 songs that night and was struck by the range of rhythm from song to song.  I thought it would be fun to incorporate these rhythm changes into my quilting.  I started with my personal favorite "What a Wonderful World" and selected a simple loop de loop meander to stitch to the rhythm of the music, adding a loop here and there to match.

Moving across each row, I assigned each block a different Louis Armstrong song.  I began by listening to the entire song to identify the rhythm of the music and start auditioning different free motion motifs by running my finger over the fabric and/or sketching on paper, keeping pace and flow with the music.  Once I was ready to start stitching, I would play the song and repeat it, over and over, until the entire block was stitched.  On multiple occasions, the next song started to play before I was done with my block.  I found this sudden change in the rhythm created total discord for me and really interfered with the flow of my stitching.  Once I pressed replay back to the inspiration song, the stitches began to flow once again with the notes of the corresponding music!  
More Blocks Inspired by Louis Armstrong's Music (Clockwise starting with top left):  Mack the Knife, West End Blues, Blueberry Hill and We Have All The Time in the World.
This process of pairing a song to a different motif was totally mesmerizing and a very enjoyable experience.  In fact, I quilted 12 of the 16 blocks in just one afternoon/evening!
"Rhythm and Blues", finishes 30" x 30"
Are you curious about the remaining songs that inspired all this wonderful quilted texture?!?  Well,
let's hope that my piece is accepted into the exhibit, so you can check it out in person at the Jazz Impressions Exhibit, which will be displayed from July 8th through August 16th at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles.  So mark your calendars now so you can 1.  Check out this wonderful display of fiber art, 2.  Celebrate Jazz as part of the San Jose Jazz Festival and 3.  Find a white glove volunteer or staff member to show you the back of my quilt where I listed all 16 songs and their corresponding blocks on a second quilt label!

Here are both of my Jazz Impressions, with my Orange You Glad I Got the Blues? quilt entry on the left.  They really complement each other rather nicely, don't you think!?!
Jazz Duo

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