April 28, 2016

Favorite Quotes #12 - Essence and Limitation

"Objectivity is of the very essence of photography, its contribution and at the same time its

I found this quote in the description of the current retrospective of photographer Paul Strand's work at the V&A Museum in London, and love the connection he drew between essence and limitation.

I consider this to be a very magical photo.  I took it for the marvelous sunset sky.  Only later did I see that in that little triangle of light between the bushes at the center there is a man sitting on a park bench, also enjoying the view.  The objectivity of the camera lens created its own essence!

For me, I really enjoy the challenge of working within limits.  I know some artists don't do commission work because of the size or design limits that customers can require.  Not me.  And I always love a great collection of challenge quilts or a show requiring a clear theme - the amazing variation within limits is a real testament to creativity.

I love limits so much, that I've set myself a challenge and have been working on the series for several years now.  The series is called "Something From Nothing".  The series was inspired by a pile of decorator fabrics I inherited from a designer clearing out her studio. The bottom line of the challenge is that I can only use fabrics and supplies that I got for "nothing" or bought for pennies at estate sales.  I allow myself, if absolutely necessary, to buy batting or backs, but I use batting scraps in many of the pieces.

Sometimes, these limits get a bit tricky!  But that's my goal: persevering as a way to discover something new.

I had a very hard time finding a fabric for the background at the top of this quilt.  I auditioned several, and quite honestly, never found one I totally like.  I really wanted something else with a botanical print, but settled for a pale blue sky.  Which may be a better thing in the long run, if I can convince myself of it one day.

The dark flowers on this quilt all came from the set of colorways of the same print.  But it turned out that most flowers were cut by the edges of the samples.  The solution you see was to use those partial flowers to make a faux border on a whole piece of the pastel print.  Truly, I never would have thought to do that without the limitation of having so few full flowers.  And I love it - I've always had a fascination with ways to create lines and edges without actually drawing them in.

This quilt was inspired by realizing that a handful of samples shared both color palettes and designs based on 2 1/4" squares.  There are 5 fabrics in this little 21" square quilt.

All three shapes in this quilt are from the one sample set.  Again, the limitation was having only a few full flowers.  The partial flowers became leaves, and the spaces between flowers became stars.

This quilt was totally inspired by color.  The question of what to do with a pile of brick red fabrics sort of answered itself!  In the process of researching actual brick patterns, I learned a bunch about the construction of brick walls.

I'm making this quilt for a show with a relatively small size limit.  Miraculously the width of the sample piece is just enough to give me the borders that I want.  About an inch to spare, if that!  Some of the diamond appliqués also use every bit of their sample.  I'm adding beads, and have exactly the number I need.  I'm enjoying the serendipity!

Besides this project being a design challenge, it also is a vote for the benefits of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" lifestyle.  It's astonishing how much in our world is discarded while still in good condition.  I buy most everything used these days, and have come to prefer resale shopping.  It's always an adventure, it's creative, it helps the planet, and it's more enjoyable than shopping under the fluorescent lights in impersonal big box stores.

You can read about and see the whole series here on the blog and on my website.

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