Where do you get your inspiration from?

Posted by on 1 February 2021 | 0 Comments

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Wherever you go – slow down – take the time to look around you. This is one of my biggest forms of inspiration, especially in art quilts. Do not look at just the scenery though.... also look for shapes, color, and contrast.... stretch your imagination. If you see something of interest, sketch it, write notes or take a photo to remind you. Almost all of us have smartphones on us these days so there should be no excuses to take a snapshot. Don't just think ‘wow that’s so cool, I could use that in a design. I will remember it’. Trust me, you won't. It will get stored somewhere in the back of your mind and you will never retrieve it. However, if you have a note or sketch, you have something to jog that memory or thought of the moment. Keeping a notepad and pencil in your purse or pocket so you have something to write your thoughts and sights with or get familiar with the camera on your phone so you can snap photos anytime. You can even record your thoughts!

Let’s explore a little. Take a look at a tree for instance. Do you remember when you drew your first tree as a child? We called them lollipop trees.... a stick for the trunk, and a circle for the foliage. If we colored it, we had a brown trunk with a green top. Is that really what trees are like? It can be to some extent. Look at these small trees.....

lollipop tree

lollipop tree

Or if you exaggerated them you could get this...

double lollipop tree

triple lollipop tree

They look pretty funny and while they might have a place in some quilts, let's take it a bit further. Think about exploring a tree and ask yourself, “What’s it made up of? What shape is it? Are leaves all one green color? What shape are the leaves?” Look at shape, color, size, and texture of the leaves..... and do not forget the trunk. Did you know, I've found some amazing quilting designs in trunks!

Here is a really good exercise for stretching your imagination... do it on a piece of paper or if you keep a quilting journal notebook, record it in there for future reference. (PS: You can make one of these from my free class at academyofquilting.com)

For this exercise, we are going to explore a tree. We are going to do several things to explore it and exercise your mind. You can use your thoughts and impressions of a tree or you can focus on one tree that may be in your backyard or close by. In your journal, write the title “Exploring a Tree” and add the date. Under the heading write down six words that you associate with the word “Tree”. Write down the first six words you think of excluding: autumn/fall, brown, leaf, green, trunk, and bark.... just because those are the ones I've listed below. Select something different and you can add mine to your list later!

Next, take a photo (or find online) of something relating to each word. Remember, take close-ups too. An overall photo of a tree is likely to give you only the shape, taking a closeup will give you details.

Write down or sketch some thoughts related to your photos and word.... you'll find quilting inspiration within it.

Here is my example to show you how it works:

Here are some trees in the Fall that I snapped a few years back...

autumn trees

Autumn/fall

I'm sure you can find brown colors there too! Along with red, orange, yellow, and green.

autumn leaves

brown leaves

This is a tree in my backyard - you can find many interesting shaped leaves that can be used for applique. Basic leaf shapes work well too.

leaves cropped

leaves

Green can be seen in many leaves, however, it isn't just one green. Look at all the different shades of green in this one tree above! And I'm not just talking about those in the shadows. The leaves in bright sunlight have many shades too. Imagine if you are making up a composition, you could use nearly every green fabric for variety.

Trunk is my 5th word. Trunks remind me of strip piecing - perhaps they remind you of that too. The main stem goes up and branches go out... that whole concept could well be a wonderful idea for a quilt.

trunk

Trunk

...and bark can be associated with the trunk of course, but compare these two photos. How much more interesting does the trunk look when you zoom in for a closeup?

bark

Bark

When you look at the picture above imagine.... I could make a strip quilt with textured detail as you see in the bark.

So you can see, where you start with a simple word like "tree" you could end up with a great number of many possibilities...

simple strip quilt

A simple strip quilt with leaves

strip quilt sm

A textured strip quilt

fractured fall sm

A Bargello (strip quilt) even with autumn leaves

Just to name a few or..... you could use your ideas for part of a quilt such as the quilting to develop various textures...

quilting textures sm

quilting textures

or detailed textured backgrounds.

detailed texture sm

Detailed textures

So from here, you can use what you have collected - words, thoughts, sketches, and anything else - to inspire you into making a quilt. It could be as simple as using the colors you see or as complicated as drawing a detailed sketch. Simple sketches are a great start.

PS: If you want to get detailed using your computer to trace, check out my online workshop which will teach you how to use free software you can download from the internet: Free Software for Quilters

Have fun.... Happy Quilting!

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