Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Thrill of Color!

I love color! Whether I'm starting a quilt, a bead project or a painting, one of the most fun things is to select my colors. Often I do it very quickly, without much thought... more like being in tune with my mood of the moment.

A while back I took a quilting class from Sandy Bonsib... her lopsided folk art quilt. To prepare for the class, we were to cut strips of fabric in various widths. She said to use any fabrics we had on hand. If we liked it enough to buy it, it would work for this quilt. It took a leap of faith to cut strips from fabrics I ordinarily wouldn't put together. But, I decided to give it an honest try.

An even greater leap of faith was required when we began to sew our blocks. According to Sandy's instructions, we reached into our bags or baskets and blindly picked each strip. Once in a while, I just couldn't do it... could not make myself sew one strip on another because of a perceived clash in color or pattern. Mostly, though, I did it.

detail of quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Here's a little segment from one of the blocks. I think you can see how the fabrics aren't ones most people would choose to put together.

detail of quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

And here's a corner, showing even more of the fabrics, and the randomness of putting them together.

detail of quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Here's a whole block. By the way, Sandy's model had light colored centers with appliqued hearts in each. I decided to use the centers to showcase some vintage German beads I'd been hoarding for years. The photos don't show them very well. Surprisingly enough, the bead grids are quite attractive.

detail of quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

I found as I worked on these lopsided blocks and sewed fabrics randomly, that it felt rather chaotic. Later when I sewed the beads in an even grid in the centers, the chaos of the rest of the quilt was easier for me to accept.

The relationship between the two opposite elements made me think about my life, maybe all of our lives, and how there is both order and chaos. Just as the quilt might be rather boring if everything were consistent and all angles were 90°, so might my life be uninteresting if events were always predictable. Working on this quilt has made me feel more appreciative of the times in my life when things don’t go as planned.

Order & Chaos, quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Here's the whole quilt. I'll have to retake the picture some day and put it on my website somewhere. But you can get the idea of how it looks. Wish me luck... I'm going to enter it in our County Fair this summer.

Back to the subject of color. I've read quite a few different books on color theory - some for painters, some for quilters, and of course Margie Deeb's color theory book for beaders. I've especially liked reading Margie's Muse, which includes short essays about design and color. This is a really good example, about color balance, and this one, about traidic color schemes, is good too. You may want to bookmark Margie's site, because she writes a new essay every month!

However, the more I read, the less intellectual is my approach to color selections for specific projects. I simply trust that all the theory I've read is ingrained somehow, tucked safely in my brain, and will become evident in my choices.

The above quilt is perhaps the most improvisational I've ever been about color, and yet it seems to work. Does this mean we can let go of our worries, and just play with color? I think it does!

I had intended to show you one more color palette and project for Margie's forthcoming book today, but got sidetracked with the quilt.. so, in the NEXT post you'll see the Emperor Penguin palette and pin!


  1. I have never quilted because it seems to be such a "stay in the lines" artform and yet here it is anything but! I would never think to put those fabrics together but they work and it is beautiful


  2. I am really enjoying the series on Color Study and look forward to the next one. Must say, this quilt is delightful. Thanks for sharing photos of it and good luck at the Fair.

  3. I know what you mean about choosing colors. I usually decide on colors very quickly, as well. And, for my bead-paintings, it seems that I always challenge myself to see how few colors I can get away with to acheive my goal...

  4. Your scrap quilt is energetic and vital. I think these qualities come when we let go of that ordering/orderly part of the brain. Good luck with the fair. Your penquin piece is lovely as well, the shape and the colors convey so much.

  5. When I looked at your first picture of the fabrics that "didn't go", I had to smile! What didn't "go together"--looks great to me. I thought the 2nd picture might have something "worse" but it looked fine too. Your finished piece is just wonderfully colorful and "reads" well.

    A friend once told me when I was struggling to decorate my house that if I always bought items that I liked everything would go together. He was right! and it applies to quilts too.


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!