Friday, December 18, 2009

Compositional Conversation Observations

Terry Jarrard-Dimond - Stage 1 & 15

First I want to thank the participants of this project:
Rebecca Howdeshell, Beth Carney, Shelley Baird, Gayle Vickery Pritchard , Judi Hurwitt, Leslie Bixel, Fulvia Luciano, Marcia DeCamp, Marina Kamenskaya, Paula Swett, Valerie Goodwin, Kathy Loomis, Leslie Riley, and Terry Jarrard-Dimond. You were all wonderful to work with.

At the end of this article all 15 Stages of the project are pictures.

Compositional Conversation was the result of my desire to communicate with friends I don't see very often and to interact with new friends I had met online. It was also developed as a way to raise my profile within the art quilt community along with the profiles of all the artists involved. The idea was simple. I started a composition which was passed along from artist to artist, each in turn working with the piece to move it to a conclusion.

The artists who were invited were a mixture of those I know personally and some I have only met briefly or know only online. I felt there was a nice mix of some with very well defined personal styles and a few who are still searching. Everyone had the opportunity to request placement in the lineup and some did ask to be placed early in the schedule while others were put near the end because I knew what good designers they are and I felt they might be better able to work with whatever had developed at that time. My biggest surprise was that almost everyone I ask actually accepted the invitation.

My thinking about the project and it's significance developed right along with the piece which is now officially entitled: Compositional Conversation. In the early stages I thought the project really was about using our skills to design a piece of work. Without realizing it, I mentally imposed my studio method on everyone and thought the piece would progress with each person adding one or two pieces. One of the options was to 'restart the composition' as long as the artist included something from the previous versions. I was surprised how many people choose to start with a new composition. About midway through the project I began to realize it was more of an exploration of how this specific group of artists worked in the privacy of their own studio's (how much this was impacted by the fact that their contribution would be published on the web I can not say). I do know that the comments and descriptions of their process was for me the most interesting part of each weeks' posting. While the visuals were fun, the description of the thinking and decision making was what excited me.

There are some things I might change about my original outline for this project but on the whole it worked well as a conversation. Some of the participants as well as some of the followers of the project have suggested we needed more rules or guidelines but I disagree. I really was not thinking of this as a true collaboration but, as I stated earlier, a conversation and I believe that is what we saw happen. One person made a contribution or change and the next person responded either by working with what they received or by digging in and starting something over. My personal feeling is that more rules push you toward a design exercise rather than artists using their skills as artist.
I did expect more written conversation but I have also come to appreciate the difficulty in doing this in written form in a public forum. There is much room for misinterpretation and personally one of my goals was to sponsor and participate in a project and still have good relationships with all those involved.

Just a note on the issue of the end result and changes from one artist to another. You may have noticed the link on the sidebar: This is a blog page I established solely for our project. Here you can visit and always see each stage as it was completed by each artist. Each version will continue to exist in the digital world even thought it has been changed in the physical world.

Thank you to all the readers who have shared this experience and who have commented either here, in private emails or on Facebook. Your contribution was much appreciated.

I now relinquish the floor to some of the other members of this group

Rebecca Howdeshell - Stage 2

Since I was the first to contribute to the Compositional Conversation project, it does seem like a lifetime ago that I had it hanging on my design wall, trying out paper patterns. However, I can still remember the excitement at receiving the composition and the myriad of decisions I faced before making my final choice. That time was neither scary nor frightening, it was exhilarating and exciting and I enjoyed every minute. That is what I enjoyed the most about the project, reading about the fear and apprehension as the composition was unfolded from the shipping box, followed by the steps each artist took as she made her decisions and then, TA DA, the final reveal. Each artist works so differently, and I looked forward to each Monday morning. Did I agree with how each artist approached the project? No. I'll admit to being disappointed sometimes. But it is all about the journey and the interaction and that, for me, was what I'll remember the most. Thank you, Terry, for the invitation to participate. You were gracious and kind and managed the project beautifully.

Shelley Brenner Baird - Stage 4

This project was a very thought provoking experience - even more so after my part was done. It definitely was a 3 - act play. Those of us in the earlier stages had to add basic structures, colors/textures and shapes because we had a very spare canvas. Deleting parts was not much of an issue at that point, and adding a lot of small pieces felt too selfish. I think that after each stage I had a mindset that we should have something that could be considered complete, not something that would be finished later (although it would be).

To me the second part had to do with a proliferation of shapes and experimentation - chopping, adding, subtracting, contracting and expanding.
Finally the last few stages were for expert puzzle makers and the resolution amazed me. This was great fun and I am up for trying it again or any other project with these folks!

Judi Huwitt - Stage 5

When the invitation to participate in CC first arrived in my mailbox, I was stunned, thrilled, honored and petrified, all in that order. I'll be honest - at the time, I didn't know anything about the work of most of the women who had agreed to participate, but even the most cursory browsing of their many accomplishments in the art and quilt-making worlds left me worrying that I couldn't possibly crate at their level. How could I contribute to such a vastly talented and obviously highly skilled pool of textile artists when I'm so new to the medium, myself? How could I elevate the work and honor the work of those who came before and after? I had a lot of sleepless nights. I need not have been so frightened, though=these turned out to be some of the warmest, most sincerely dedicated, friendly, talented and patient artists I've had the pleasure of spending time with. When I dove in from a paper artists' perspective and shook things up a little, they embraced the changes I'd made and the thinking behind it. I felt as if I hadn't let anyone down, and in fact, had achieved my goal...Turns out, I'd had a voice to add to the Conversation, after all. It was a proud moment for me when I placed the still-new work of art back into its box and shipped it off to the next artist. Thank you to everyone who has followed along on this journey with us and added your voices to the Conversation.

Leslie Bixel - Stage 6

One of my artistic goals since leaving the corporate world has been to establish an artistic community for myself that is safe and supportive of my work, and challenging to me as an artist. I have joined a monthly surface design studio and critique group. The Compositional Conversation group provided a different sort of artistic community. Since we were working on a single piece together, I assumed it would also be a more COLLABORATIVE experience than doing your own work in the occasional company of other artists. I was wrong about this last bit, and it has made me think long and hard about my own notions of collaboration, artistic and otherwise.

One of my first e-mails to this group was titled "Checking the Rule Book". So I guess I'm staying pretty true to type.

If I am to fault anything in the design of the Compositional Conversation project, it was that it was too open, too unstructured. Because there was no theme, no goal, other than to have a design conversation, I felt the opportunity to collaborate together on the piece was lost. Without a shared vision of where we were headed, the urge to respond to the compositional elements seemed in almost every case to be over-ruled by the desire to make one's mark. Nearly every artist succumbed to the siren call of "resolving" the piece, and thus made the work their own, rather than of the group, and often eliminated a good portion, even all, of the previous artists' sensibility and contribution.

Now, the human need to make one's mark is a powerful thing. But I do wonder if we would have had a different conversation with each of us assigned a design element (eg. line, shape, color, etc); or been asked to stay within a theme (eg. nature, war, community). Whatever. I'm just throwing out these ideas, because, through this experience I have learned that I am a person who enjoys conversations, but in the end I am much more excited by collaboration.

Marcia DeCamp
- Stage 8

I was very flattered to be asked to be a part of the project, and didn't hesitate to agree to join in.

Then I was nervous while waiting my turn, wondering what I would be able to contribute.
But when the project arrived at my studio, I had no problem just jumping in and had great fun trying out several ideas for adding to the project. I felt confident in the major changes that I made and was satisfied with the resulting composition that I sent on - sorta surprising myself!

It seemed that a lot of us chose not to build upon what we received, and chose instead to basically start over or take the project in a different direction. I'm not sure that's a bad thing, but it wasn't what I had imagined that the process would be like.

I think having the project spread out over 4 months gave more people a chance to participate and allowed time for hopefully more people to find your blog and find out more about the project. I wonder, though, if having fewer people work on the project over a shorter period of time would have generated more interaction between the artists. Once the project left my studio (and I wouldn't have any more direct input), it was hard for me to feel a vested interest or stay attached. to the project.

Gayle Pritchard
- Stage 9

To summarize: It was really fun to receive something to "converse" with, because it already had a starting point. Of course, I find my own starting point in my own work, but it is different to have something in front of you, created by others, yet demanding your response. My challenge in responding was to risk a completely honest, personal response. My trepidation was warranted, because very little of what I did remained in the end. I especially liked the "x" shapes I was inspired to include, but no one who followed seemed to like them. In fact, I was quite surprised to see my contributions described as whimsical or cutesy. I think perhaps, the others did not "get" what I was doing. I really enjoyed my own conversation with the traveling piece, and really liked what I created. It was very hard not to resolve the composition/conversation before sending it along. As I have repeatedly said on your blog about the project, it has been most enjoyable reading about the processes of other artists. We all remain isolated in our studios, and yet were able to interact visually, and through the blog. I have been fascinated to learn more about how other artists work, their thought processes on a shared experience, the similarities and differences to my own way. Reading the blog, and seeing the "in Progress" images was inspiring. Thanks for including me!

Paula Swett - Stage 10

I just loved the experience. I was #10 on the list of artists' to receive CC. As I awaited my turn to receive the baby, I found myself becoming nervous and filled with doubt. You certainly hand picked a group of very talented people and I began to wonder if I even knew how to compose in a way that would fit in with with the other work.

As soon as I opened the package I immediately jumped in with much excited energy and all self doubt went away. I think what I loved the most was learning more about my own compositional process and reading and seeing how others in this group compose. I find myself in the past few weeks referring back to my process for CC and integrating the voices of the others who so graciously shared this process.

I would definitely do this again as I learned so much and totally enjoyed the process. I loved the idea of everyone getting together to work on a composition. It has been a very valuable process for me. Thanks ever so much for your excellent coordination.

Kathy Loomis
- Stage 12

Terry asked us to write about our experience participating in this project. I think it was a fascinating experiment in bring together a lot of people who don't know one another ( I know four of the participants well, and one as an acquaintance). To ask such a group to collaborate effectively is a tall order, and I'm not sure how successful we were.

It appears each of us felt the urge to put a little of ourselves in there. Some of us contributed signature fabrics, others added what I think were "signature shapes," design elements that frequently appear in their own work. At the beginning this worked pretty well, but as the project went to more and more people I wondered if it was becoming like a sampler than collaboration. I have read of group efforts like the Hive Project and the upcoming Sightlines exhibit sponsored by SAQA, where participating artists make works of their own design that will eventually be combined in a single installation. Such projects seem to be a gamble - certain artists' pieces probably work better together than others'. I suspect the installation is tricky, as you try to put the ones that don't play together well on the far edges. In these cases, the collaboration seems more hoped-for than planned.

On a positive note, this made me think about what would be necessary to have a true collaboration, intended to produce real artistic merit, in a work that was not of the 'sampler' genre. I think you'd need to start with extensive discussion about the subject, the message, the artistic vision and the techniques.

Leslie Riley - Stage 13

Early on when I was asked by Terry to participate I agreed in order to honor my friendship with Terry and to fulfill a goal that I have had since entering into quilt making, to participate in a "round robin". I remember then thinking about the challenge of working with others to learn about their creative choices and trying to reconcile the voices of the participants to create a successful and cohesive product. As much as this experiment was to learn from each participant about their approach to work, it is also an opportunity to evaluate my humanity. By this I mean it challenged me to assess the comments and actions taken by each artist in a way that I want to foster in myself while I am working without harsh judgment. I asked myself basic questions that I often ask myself during my creative process, like did that action serve the piece, is it what I wanted, do I like it, why and what if? Based on the answers to these and other questions I make more choices until I approach a satisfied state. I assume that is true for other artists as well. The profression of CC is an example of me making a piece as an experiment to provide source material for other pieces. I make forms that work and some that do not. During this process I seldom make evaluations about it being good or bad, more often I ask does it work or not? I guess I am trying to say that I thought of each artist working as me and I never want to put myself down and evaluate myself in a way that did not foster my success as an artist. I look for the value in each contribution.

I loved seeing the temperament and the courage of each artist represented in their contribution. The clearer the voice of the contributor, the easier to see the contribution despite the many hands involved. I loved seeing that and the strength of their voice reminds me of formal issues that I would like to explore and be better at achieving in my work.

Thank you all for your role in the experiment and for being an wonderful creative example everyone.

I encourage the participants of this project to revise the project, implement some of the changes mentioned and host a second project to start next fall. If someone takes on the challenge I will certainly want to participate. Thank you All again and Happy Holidays! xxoo, Terry

Stages 1-15 So what do you think? We would love to hear your feedback.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Compositional Conversation: Stage 15 - Terry Jarrard-Dimond

Stage 15: Terry Jarrard-Dimond

This project has been a fun/wild ride with lots of surprises, twists and turns. I retrieved the piece from the PO Tuesday morning of this week and spent part of two days making my changes and additions. Here is my story.

Terry's Comments

From the very first I thought that when it came time for the project to be returned to me that I would make only a few minor changes or additions. I thought this because I knew so many of the artists working on the project and know the quality of their compositional skills but as you can see, that is not what happened. I felt all along that the most important part of this exercise was what happened with each individual in the studio as they worked on the piece and I still feel that way. While the work certainly is more complex than my own work, I had liked it when viewed on my computer screen, however, when I saw the piece in person, I knew I would have to change a few things.
  1. I wanted to eliminate the large red shape I introduced in stage 1. It took a while for me to figure out how to do that but I did succeed.
  2. I wanted to try and strengthen the color palette. The colors and values just did not seem cohesive.
  3. I felt compelled to remove the diagonal element on the left side of the composition. Diagonals are very strong elements and I found it was all I could see.

It didn't take long to realize that removing elements from the composition was akin to the potato chip ad that says, "Bet you can't eat just one," only now it said "Bet you can't stop with a few changes." It was like any formula, remove one part and the whole is changed. Despite this, I wanted the piece to retain some of the feeling of the previous version either through using actual shapes or through cutting some new shapes in other colors. It was difficult.

There is 'the famous' bag of removed elements which has traveled along with the work from person to person. I laid those elements out only to find that most of these were like what was on the wall only smaller. I might like a color but the remaining fabric was too small to work with. I might want to use a specific shape I found in the bag but it was the wrong color or value. As the problems became more obvious I considered reverting back to the work as I had received it but I knew this would be totally disrespectful to all the work and effort my group had put into solving this puzzle.

  1. I started by recutting some of the shapes I wanted to keep in colors/values I felt would work better.
  2. I added a few more colors.
  3. I selected a mix of the fabric with flat colors and some of the textured fabrics. I loved the textured fabrics that were introduced but it is a hard combination to resolve.

This is the piece as I received it.

Here you can see that I have removed some pieces from the top right,
the curved elements and the small piece of blue at the top.

Here I have replaced the yellow/green element on the top left with one the
same shape but with a strong yellow. I have also added the a deep
burgundy element in the center top.

Here I have removed the vertical 'chain' element and turned a couple of
elements 90 degrees.

Here I began the process of opening up the left side.

My final version.

My resolution is not perfect but as I said, I learned a lot from this project in many unexpected ways. I am planning to do one more article on this project with statements from the artists involved and we would love to hear from you and get your thoughts on this experiment. We appreciate your following along.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond
Mini Artist Profile

Art is an interesting talent to have. Everyone seems to admire your ability but this does not translate into fame and fortune for most of us. Despite this reality, I have both an undergraduate degree and an Master of Fine Arts degrees and wouldn't have it any other way. I taught at all levels after completion of my MFA including universities and schools for the gifted but my last 12 years before retiring, I worked in the textile industry designing for home interior products. I now spend my time in the studio and on this computer!

Terry in the studio.

For many years my work was mixed media sculpture utilizing wire, sheet aluminum, asphalt roofing, fabric and all sorts of other materials. During the time I was working as a designer I 'discovered' the traditional craft of quilt making and after making a few utilitarian quilts I knew I wanted to use the techniques to make more personal statements.

While I have been working with these process for about 10 years I only began to exhibit my work about 4 years ago. It has been exciting and fun to enter work, have work accepted and see this new body of work hang in excellent spaces. My biggest joy has been meeting and making friends along the way. I have begun doing some teaching and will be teaching a workshop entitled, "Ask: What If?: Building Creative Pathways to Creative Work" at the Crow TimberFrame Barn in the spring of 2011. Check it out. Should be fun and would love to have you join me.

Those of you who have been following my blog know that for the past year I have been doing a good deal of exploration relating to surface design techniques. Most of the work I have been exhibiting is however focused on shape, composition and piecing. Please visit me at : to view more of my work.

Here Comes Trouble - 2008 - 14" x 18"-
In collection of Bob and Sue Whorton

The Mysterious Stranger - 2002 - 88" x 84"

Joy and Sorrow -2008 - 59" x 38"
Selected for Art Quilt Elements 2010 - The Wayne Art Center -
Wayne, Pennsylvannia

To see more of my work, please visit:

Monday I will be presenting an Artist Profile of Sylvia Einstein and later in the week will present the final article on Compositional Conversation. As always, thank you for your interest in this blog and your comments are appreciated.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Compositional Conversation: Stage 14 - Marina Kamenskaya

Welcome to Stage 14 of Compositional Conversation. Our artist for this stage is Marina Kamenskaya. Marina is someone I have had the pleasure of working alongside during classes at the Crow Timberframe Barn. She has a beautifully developed style and an equally strong personal vision so let's see what she did with the Compositional Cconversation and what she has to say.

Comments by Marina Kamenskaya

It was not easy to follow the project. As it kept developing, I was getting more and more nervous. It seemed impossible to be able to continue the work someone else began because it was so different from what I do. I am sure everybody felt something similar. What helped me was to remind myself that my task was not to produce my own work of art, but to evaluate the composition that I would receive and try to make it more harmonious.

I loved the strong, powerful shape that Terry had started and I was disappointed when it started getting lost behind all the other elements; or if not getting lost, then becoming "whimsical" and losing its power.

Then came stage 12 and Kathy's dramatic cleansing act, which enabled the next no less dramatic change which Leslie introduced.

Stage 13 by Leslie Riley turned 180 degrees.

When I received the work from Leslie, I thought it was almost perfect. There was movement, coherence, and rhythm. So I panicked again; at first it looked like I could do nothing without spoiling the composition.

Leslie's notes and pictures came after I had already received the actual work. That's when it turned out that I had placed it the wrong end up. And still I left it my way; the placement of the initial red shape and the way the two criss-crossing shapes divided the space looked better to me with this side up.

After I realized that inadvertently I had already started making changes, it was easier to look at the composition without being too intimidated.

I felt like introducing more grey at the top edge (above) to open the grey background in the upper left corner so that the black that lies under the lime shape looks more like a shape and less like a background.

I added a blue shape to continue the horizontal line between the blue shape and the pieced gray strip.(above)

At this point I noticed that I had just started to make my own work and as a result everything else looked wrong now. So I took all those shapes that I had added off the wall...(above photo)

...but recut the dark brownish-red shape. (above photo) Now it is more in sync with other shapes, and the upper edge of the yellow shape to the right of it continues smoothly.

Now my attention went to the upper right corner. (above photo) I added a maroon piece there. I felt that it was necessary that this corner speak to other important elements (rectangles in the criss-crossing stripes).

Now I was bothered by the huge lime shape in the upper left. (above photo) It is the only shape of that size that stands on its own and is not broken, but it is not interesting enough and cannot carry the importance that is assigned to it. I did not feel like changing its shape, so I used a leftover hand-dyed piece and put it over the lime shape to break it.

To take even more from the lime shape, I cut off a tiny bit of it on the left. (above photo) If a shape goes off the edge, it looks even bigger than it is, because we tend to imagine that it continues away in space outside of the work. This little cut seems to do the job, now the lime shape does not dominate the whole.

Final Stage 14

As the last touch I restore some of the black on top of the lime shape. Now the mental eye sees this little piece of black as a part of the much bigger shape hidden behind the line. (above photo)

I still think that the upper right corner is not resolved, but I am out of ideas. I am done.

I am thankful to Terry for starting this crazy project, to everybody for their input and for the effort the group made to make my participation possible. Also big heartfelt thanks to everybody for their kind letters that helped me feel stronger and more able to survive my unimaginable loss.


We all want to express our condolences to Marina and her family on hearing of the death of Marina's youngest daughter, Aniuta. Everyone wishes Marina and her family the best as they learn to deal with their loss.


A big Thank You to Marina for participating in Compositional Conversation and for sharing the following information including images of some beautiful work. Please read on.


Marina with her work and a friend.


I explore line, shape, color, balance, movement, tension and texture.

I follow my chosen medium and its innate qualities and possibilities.

Every next work takes on from where the previous one has stopped.

I have my own vision as an artist, but like any artist I cannot make anyone see what I see.

I can only speak with my own voice and let it be heard.

Opening #5 , 36.5" x 34"

Opening #6, 41" x 72"

Opening #12, 68" x 42"


Marina was born in Moscow in a country that no longer exists. Her mother was an architect and father a furniture designer. Art was part of the family life as well as books, museums and concerts. The arts were always in the classical form as the ruling ideology was not supportive of abstract non-representative art.

Marina studied Russian classical literature at Moscow State University, later she attended graduate school and taught at Moscow State University,

In 1991, when the country began allowing people to leave, Marina and her husband moved to Chicago with their two daughters for a new beginning. She worked at Northwestern University as a Slavic department assistant.

In 1996 she discovered quiltmaking as a craft and was inspired by Deirdre Amsden to work in the colourwash technique. She was awarded a second place prize in the First Entry category at Paducah in 2003 for a huge colourwash quilt.

Marina says, "I was always interested in crafts, but never dared to make art or think about myself as an artist. The turning point in my life was meeting artist Nancy Crow and taking her classes. It happened in 2003. Nancy influenced my attitude towards myself and art, and she keeps helping me with both criticism and encouragement."

Marina now works as an artist in her chosen medium of textiles. While she has not shown her work widely, she has had work accepted in the annual Form Not Function exhibition at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, In and received an honorable mention in 2006 for Opening #5.

Marina resides in Wauconda, Illinois.


The project is now headed back to South Carolina. I'm not sure what if any additions or changes I may make but I will be posting that update very soon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The COMPOSITIONAL CONVERSATION project is headed into the 'home stretch' with only one more artist before it heads back to South Carolina. This week our artist is Leslie Riley of Skokie Il. and Leslie has worked her 'compositional magic' on our ever evolving project.

I can't wait to share Stage 13 so " drum roll" please...

Stage 13 by Leslie Riley

When I was invited to participate with this project, Compositional Conversation, I tried to stay open and receptive to the process. I was interested in each person's contribution and did my best not to judge the outcome. I wanted to evaluate the project produced on criteria that I used to evaluate my work.
  • Did the piece work, on the whole or in parts?
  • Are the color relationships interesting?
I did not have to address these concerns directly until I received the piece. It was then that I looked at it closely and evaluated it to see what I could add to the dialogue. I made a commitment to honor as much of the previous work that I could and remain true to my artistic temperament. First, I would not work with the palette as it existed. It did not excite me. Part of it worked for me and others dulled it and made it uninteresting for me. Second, I examined the elements that remained and decided early that I did not know how to manage the crosses as a motif. I find that they are visually loaded with meaning because they are a commonly used icon. I do not understand how to use the crosses and take advantage of them in a meaningful way visually, so I choose not to use them. I felt similarly about the small dots. They reminded me of olives made out of the hand printed fabric. I kept many of the elements and used them as I found them.

When I received the piece in the mail, I opened it up and spent the first evening looking at it to evaluate what elements worked for me and what did not. I wanted to figure out what would

Stage 12 turned 90 degrees to the right.

stimulate me to get started. When I start any project I organize my work space. This project was no different, so the next day I decided to open up the bags of pieces and put them in similar piles to see what elements had been created and what was available to be used. I decided to use as many of the elements created by the artists before me that attracted me. It connected me to the creative energies of each of the other artists.

I took the piece apart and ironed it and put it back on my design wall. I carefully trimmed the elements if the edge was not clean. I find that after I decide the basic structure of the piece I must choose the colors that I think will support it in order to invest the time and energy to compose and later to construct the piece. In this case I started with the color first, much of the form and their relationships were already in place. Parts of the palette that was used did not appeal to me. I eliminated some colors in the palette

Eliminated fabrics

and added some to replace the ones I removed.

New fabrics added.

Starting composition.

This is where I started to compose. I kept the basic elements and the relationships that were formed.

The form of the piece was defined by the elements or motifs created by the other artists. I used the motifs established by others and created more. The elements I created are modified forms of the motifs established by others. I used the elements created by others but cut that element in a color from the palette that I choose to work with. After applying some elements I posted some fabric with the intention of auditioning the fabrics to support the forms already applied to the composition. I repeated some of the elements to create a rhythm that both moved across the piece as well as down the piece.

Basic structure with new colors.

The basic structure of the piece is in place and now I consider how the plane of space is used with the application of the elements or motifs and how the color is distributed.

Motifs are introduced.

The process of refining the composition begins at this point. The changes that follow are not major but are significant in the impact of the whole. I consider how to resolve the upper right corner.

Upper right corner still needs resolution.

I consider that there needs to be a neutral in the bottom left corner and I add the grey pieced fabric on the diagonal.

Final Version

I approached this piece in a more relaxed manner and with more freedom than I approach many of my own projects. I attribute some of the freedom to that fact that I did not have to construct it so I did not think once how to engineer the construction of the visual space I composed. I appreciated the motifs that evolved over the weeks that this project has been in play. It has mined a rich vein of wonderful forms to play with that is outside of my usual vocabulary. It was fun to elaborate on them in a minor way. I felt that I had a chance to improvise freely with no agenda in mind. Ah, bliss.

This project contributes to my sense of confidence that I can create with a sense of freedom and explore places without a roadmap or a definite plan set in place. This could be rich ground for exploration and more ideas to work from.

I am pleased to be included and introduced to a broad spectrum of artists.


Leslie in her studio. Photo by: Wyatt Gollub

Leslie Joan Riley is a graduate of De Paul University and studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a professional yoga instructor and is highly regarded in her field.

Cascading Boxes - 2005

Her work focuses on color, color relationships and complex-intense piecing. She has exhibited her work widely in competitive exhibitions including Quilt National, Quilt Visons, The Artist as Quiltmaker, Art Quilt Elements and Form Not Function. She was recently awarded the First Place award at Quilts=Art=Quilts at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, NY.

22Comp - 2009 - This study is almost the size of a king size quilt.

Brown Plaid - 2009

Thank you Leslie. Next week we will be viewing the work of Marina Kamenskaya, the last of our talented artist.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Just when you start to get comfortable with what appears to be the 'final' direction of this project we find that it has taken another interesting turn and is headed for new territory....and guess what? There are still three more artists waiting to have a say.

This weeks' artist is Kathy Loomis.

Comments by Kathy

As several of the previous participants have noted, the quilt I take out of the box could very well be "finished." I had some artists friends over for lunch while the quilt (straight out of the box) was up on the wall and they said "ooh, that's nice!" It has a character of its own, and the separate elements of the composition seem to be consistent with that character.

Unfortunately that character doesn't seem to want to hang out with me. I find myself looking for its bones - the "real life" it tells me it wants to resume. The first couple of steps in its development were quite austere - big, bold shapes in edgy relation to one another. I thought that was interesting and strong. While the color scheme of the quilt has retained that strong, interesting, edgy character through its travels, the composition has successively become more and more detailed and fussy, which I find uncomfortable.

My first step is to take all the fussy bits off the quilt and see what's underneath.

First Step

I see strong color and three strong shapes: two curvilinear reds and a lime green stripe or panel. But there doesn't seem to be any tension in their relationship - maybe they're too far apart? Before I can deal with that issue, I find myself distracted by the hole in the green panel. There's enough of the lime green in the bag to recut the panel without a hole, but even better, another piece of the screenprinted green. big enough to go on as a rectangle. In the bag I also find some stripes of gray/black hand dye that had been there in a previous incarnation but were taken off several weeks ago. I put them back up to give a little more weight to the green panel.

Step Two

Now I wonder whether the proportions of the entire quilt are right. The two red shapes seem to be too small to command their space. Without all those little Xs and bits of printed fabric, there's a lot of empty space on the quilt. I experiment with cropping off the bottom, then cropping off some of the left side. Sure enough, the shapes are forced to talk to one another.

The popsicle-shaped red one has been in that same position since Day 1 of this project (are we afraid to change Terry's shape because it's her project??) and I do nothing to change that. My first approach is to juggle the other one to see if it can find a better place, to get some dialog with the first one. I try several different positions.

Step Three - Cropped

But wait. When all else fails, read the directions. In moving the piles of stuff around, I come upon the envelope of paperwork and decide to reread the ground rules that I had slid over two months ago. Guess what - we're supposed to keep the size of the quilt at 42" x 60". So much for my cropping. I'll have to achieve the same effect by changing the proportions on the large ground. First is to move the green panel down - it was too close to the center of the compositions, which I think detracts from the real action: the red shapes and how they get along. With the panel closer to the bottom, it acts as a stage for the action.

But on the other hand, this gives me an even larger area for the red shapes to float around in. If I thought they were too loosely packed before, it's even worse now. I decide to re-cut the red shapes. They had been added by different people and the reds aren't exactly the same, yet not different enough to look deliberate.

Step Four

While I'm at it, I add a third red shape. Now the shapes are crowded enough to have some tension. Finally, I find an acid green shape in the pile of discards and put it back on the quilt. I had liked that shape , and it seems to go well with both the pared-down color scheme and the remaining shapes. I experiment with some slight variations on the shapes and decide that rather than cut them to fit, I'll turn under the edges and leave some extra fabric in case Leslie and Marina want to make some tweaks.

Final Version Stage 12

Mini Artists Profile

Kathy Loomis

Kathy lives and works in Louisville where she is very active with the Louisville Area Fiber and Textile Arts group and the River City Fiber Artists. The RCFA are the originators of the Form Not Function exhibition which is becoming a well known and respected competitive show held each year at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, In.

Flood Stage

In May of this year, Kathy was awarded the coveted Quilts Japan Prize for her work Postage 3: Memorial Day, during the opening ceremonies of Quilt National 2009. QN is one of the most prestigious competitive quilt exhibitions in the world and the Quilts Japan Prize is the jewel of awards.

Memorial Day

Thank you Kathy for your contribution and commentary. Next the project heads up to Chicago to Leslie Riley. Looking forward to seeing what thoughts Leslie has on the piece.

Thank you for viewing this ongoing project. Terry


Compositional Conversation is now in Stage 11! We should figure up how many miles this work has logged. I'll have to work on that.

This week our artist is Valerie S. Goodwin. Known for her unique and beautiful work inspired by landscapes and cities, Valerie shares with us her equally unique process and approach to this project. Here are her comments.

Tuesday (10.27.09)

The package arrives from Paula ! After work, I opened the box and rolled it out on the dining room table and fell in love with what I saw. My initial thought? This piece is complete, there's nothing more to be done! Darn it....I got the composition at the tail end:)!

That night I had a strange dream. I was at my studio and all the other artists were with me. We were all discussing the quilt. Suddenly I look around and my studio space has miraculously gotten's south wall opened up and on the other side was a group of contractors -- all wanting to put in their 2 cents worth! They clearly just didn't "get it"......they wanted to know whose bed would it fit on! We started laughing and then I woke up for my nightly run to the bathroom;)

I know the dream makes no sense...but I thought I'd share it anyway!

Thursday (10.29.09)

I finally get some free time and retreat to my studio with our little project in hand. As I stare at it on the wall.....I'm still thinking "This composition is telling me to leave it alone". Good thing I had printed out a copy of it onto a sheet of 81/2" x 11" paper. My next step was to evaluate it at a smaller scale....for me this always helps.

Then I laid down a piece of trace paper and made a few sketches.

As I sketched a few goals surfaced:

  1. Give the composition more movement so it wasn't so static.
  2. Explore how the elements can interact with each other.
  3. Add a subtle sense of depth to the piece.
  4. Reconsider the green "line" that sub-divides the composition into 2 zones.
I moved the fabric pieces around for part of the afternoon.

At the end I hope I was able to deal with my four (4) goals by:
  1. Movement: I added a green shape on the left side so the eye could move back and forth more from one green circular element to another. In addition I shifted the axis of the key vertical elements so that they move back and forth with respect to one another.
  2. Interaction: I tried to give the illusion that the shape on the far left wrapped around and ended behind the red one.
  3. The green line in the center of our composition was given a hole. This gives the impression that the black element interacts with and penetrates the big green line.
  4. By breaking up the green line I tried to break that impression that the composition was not composed of 2 isolated areas. I think I could have done more of this.

So -- are we now having a conversation that is winding down? I guess that was my approach. I treated it like I was adding my take where the punctuation marks should be. I am not in any way saying that our subsequent artists need to take the same approach...this is just what I was hearing from our piece.

It was hard to let go of "Mary" (she told me her name;) Even now she's whispering to me. She is saying "I need tweaking here and I demand tweaking there!" I'll be curious to know what Mary tells Kathy next week.

My best to all, especially Terry........:)

A big 'thank you' to Valerie for a most interesting commentary. It appears that every stage of this project has it's special challenges. And now the work has a name. Will Mary speak to Kathy, Leslie, Marina or me....stay tuned as to "Compositional Conversations".


Valerie in the studio.

Valerie S. Goodwin is a mixed media fiber artist whose background as an architect plays a fundamental role. She began designing and making quilts in 1998. Her interest began as part of her involvement in teaching architectural design classes at Florida A&M University's School of Architecture. Her students investigated parallels between architecture and quilting as an introduction to ideas about composition, ordering systems, color and pattern.

City Grid II

Overall her art has moved through various stages from traditional quilting to an interest in abstract expressionism and, more recently, work inspired by real and imaginary landscapes and cities. In some cases her work shows an architectural sense of space with an archeological perspective. In others, the network of the city and its built form is more prominent. Her compositions work on a number of levels, from close up and far away as if you were looking at it from above.

City Grid IV

Goodwin's work is noted for its use of color, emphasis on line and density. Her quilts are part of a continuing investigation of ideas that focus on geometrical relationships, patterns and ordering principles found in architecture. Her work conveys these ideas abstractly, through the use of collage, layering, transparency, density and improvisation.

She earned a Masters degree in architecture from Washington University in St. Louis after receiving her undergraduate degree from Yale University. Her work has been widely published and exhibited. She has also lectured and given workshops across the country.

To see more of Valerie's work: