February’s assignment was to explore the picture plane with shape, structure, and balance. A good design is an interesting design, with the shape and structure drawing the viewer in.
Poppies are one of my most favorite wildflowers, so I chose to make a quilt filled with poppies. I was also stoked at the opportunity to practice sketching. For my birthday last year, Aaron gave me Law’s Guide to Nature Drawing, and I’ve been itching to give it a try. I printed a photograph of poppies that I took, and started to sketch. I was thrilled at how following the steps in the book produced such realistic looking poppies. And I don’t even know how to draw!
For the Master Class, each month is divided into three assignments. The first assignment was the sketch. I photocopied my poppies and played around with arranging them in different patterns and backgrounds. Above is the one I liked the most. The teacher’s comments were to try adding to the design with flowers in different directions and with stalks that bend a little. She encouraged me to show something different about poppies that I have observed myself.
I went back to my inspiration photo, and drew more poppies! I looked for poppies of different shapes and sizes to include in my design, drawing some that were facing the sun and some with petals that were more open.
For the second deadline, I turned in my blocked out quilt. I continued to play around with the background design and color choice. The teacher’s critique here was to soften the background and really keep the focus on the poppies. I really like how she phrased this, so I’ll share it here, “It’s important to capture their essence, how they hold themselves and move in the breeze…rather than botanical details..” She ended with the encouragement to put my time into a lot of poppies!
So I went back to the drawing board! I looked for as many shapes and poppies to capture from the photo. This time I spotted the smaller poppies, that were still buds or just starting to bloom. Then I cut out as many poppies as I had patience and time.
For the assembly of the quilt, first I pieced the background and quilted the fabric layers. Then I arranged the poppies onto the quilt, and stitched them down in raw edge applique.
As I placed them, I continued to keep my inspiration photo handy, to check placement in order to really capture how they hold themselves and move in the breeze.
I like how the quilting adds the needed details to bring each poppy petal to life. I thought about making each petal a separate piece of fabric, but chose not to for simplicity. That would have made the small pieces of fabric that make up each flower really overwhelming!
The final quilt is small, 12″ x 16″. The teacher’s final encouragement was simply to suggest trying to make it as a larger quilt. That would be a really neat exercise, to try to enlarge the quilt. I wonder what I would change or keep the same? Probably adding more poppies would be good!
A little bit more about my inspiration. In September 2015, our family property where I grew up burned in the Butte Fire, as I’ve shared before. My mom spread poppy wildflower seeds, and in the first spring after the fire, they came up with abandon along the creek. This photo was taken in May 2016 when we visited the property. It was the first time I had seen the property since right after the fire. My first emotion was intense grief, when I saw how so much had changed and now looked different. But after spending the day there, hiking around, visiting, working, laughing and hanging out, my sadness went away and I felt comforted. The property still gave me the same sense of home. On the surface it felt and looked different, but the heart of the land was still there. The curve of the hill and the breadth of the sky was still the same. That’s what I attempted to share with this quilt. My memory of the sadness of what was lost combined with hope for the future and what awaits us just around the corner. Just as the poppies lean in towards the sun, ever hopeful and brave. Let’s all lean in towards the sun, bringing much needed color and joy to the world.