Thursday, 13 November 2014

Developing originality - some musings

Since my last post I have been wrestling with the problem of originality as I try to work out how to make map quilts that are not simply clones of other people's.  Like many of us I have always been 'addicted' to maps and will spend hour reading them.  (My husband, in contrast, is an avid reader of dictionaries.)  I also have a great interest in local history so I decided that I would try making maps of this area from old maps.  I already had a couple of this village but I also bought some local old maps from Alan Godfrey Maps  Unfortunately our house is situated just off the top left hand corner of the Penzance map!

I Googled 'map art quilts' and saw that this is quite a popular genre.  As I know I am in danger of simply cloning Alicia Merrett's technique I  bought a copy of this book by Valerie S Goodwin.

She uses collage rather than piecing but I have decided to stick with piecing for now.  So I attempted to make a top of a small part of our village.  It was only then that I realised making 'real' villages is not easy so I have ended up with something that is rather imaginary.

Now that the top is assembled I can see what is wrong with it!  I wanted to use fabric I already had but there is not enough contrast in the values.  I also thought that I would use the 'real' colours of Cornwall which meant lots of browns and greys because the houses are mostly built of granite.  As the moors around the village have a distinctly 'brownish' tinge to them, especially at this time of the year, I though I could get away with various pieces in my stash.  I soon realised that one reason why Alicia's quilts 'work' is because of the contrast between the buildings and the landscape.  And I won't mention the fact that my roads are straight up and down!  However, I have not given up yet as I still have to quilt the piece.  I have decided it is a good idea to make several small pieces and treat them as a learning exercise,  Then I came to a halt because I broke my free machine quilting stitching plate and have had to send away for spare parts.

However, I have had plenty of opportunity to think about all of this because of two recent blog posts.  First Elizabeth Barton who wrote a very good piece on 4 November which she titled: Original? Or Derivative?  Art and Quilts, Cogitations Thereon.  This post is well worth looking at even if you do not regularly read her blog.  She talks about how you can identify a piece of work as original and says that 'originality comes from going beyond the predictable'.  This obviously applies to both ideas and techniques.  I totally agree with her advice to not work to a formula and to 'come up with fifty ideas that the Big Name never even thought of'.  I think my idea of doing 'old maps' probably works but I still have a long way to go to work out how to translate this into techniques.  As I write this it occurs to me that I should pay more attention to the symbols that are used on old maps and how they can be represented in fabric and thread.

The second useful blog post is Alicia's own.  She has contributed to the Round the World Blog Hop and described how she makes her map quilts.  I particularly liked the section on how her process works as her 'map fragments' are what I think I am doing by working very small.

So that is as far as I have got.  Since I ended up with plenty of leftover house strips I realise I should start on a third piece using them and combining them with some of the many blues I have in order to make a 'fishing village'.  I have lots of hand-dyed blue fabrics because for the last ten years or so most of my work has been inspired by the coast and the sea in this area.  Quite a lot of this fabric is not cotton: I have linen, cheesecloth, indigo dyed fabric etc.  So there you are, I should be led by the fabric and see where that takes me.  I suspect a lot of us run into problems over originality and, as I have said many times before, I am pretty cut off from art quilters down here and have realised I should blog more often and get people to comment as that is another way of bouncing ideas off other people.

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