Art quilters tend to stitch outside the box. Traditional squares and patches are not for them. But that doesn't mean that repetition and a sense of order isn't important. In fact, repetition is a key element in design. The concept of using a grid as a design element is classic–that's one of the reasons why patchwork appeals to so many people.
But art quilters are prone to turning "the classics" on their heads. That's what mixed-media artist Debbi Crane did when she created a nine-patch "quilt" of mixed-media collages. Debbi described her process in an article called "Get a Grid! Canvas Wall Art for Collectors of Odds & Ends" in the January/February 2010 issue of our sister publication, Cloth Paper Scissors®.
- Debbi started this project as one 12" x 12" canvas, but soon discovered that if one piece looked good, a series looked even better. So she created a nine-patch wall "quilt" out of canvases, using paint, fabric, paper, and found objects. To make the piece cohesive, Debbi used the grid concept and repetition. Here are some of her tips for how to unify a piece like this:
- Repeat a grid form within a larger grid form to help create a unified whole.
- To keep the squares cohesive, use at least a smidgen of each of your main colors (in this case the deep red, brown, and latte of the painted frames) in each square.
- Repeat design elements (such as circles and stripes) from square to square to make the individual pieces relate to each other. The viewer's eye can easily travel to each part of the work, resting on familiar colors or textures.
To add to the patchwork effect, Debbi incorporated some classic quilting elements, but gave them her own mixed-media twist. For example:
- Debbi treated the entire piece as an enlarged nine-patch quilt block.
- She painted the frame of the center canvas a deep red, as traditional quilters have used red in the center square of a quilt to represent hearth and home.
- She tied the buttons on the lower left square in a similar way as hand-tied quilt patches.
- The center "patch" is a stitched collage in the shape of an Ohio Star.
- Aside from the canvases, all the other materials Debbi incorporated were those she had at hand, like quilters of old.
I think this is such a fun piece in that it not only marries traditional and contemporary quilting arts, but also combines mixed-media and quilting techniques–and helps find a place for all those fabulous found objects we like to collect.