August 1, 2014

Four-in-Art Challenge #4; Urban Contrast

Time for yet another reveal in the Four-in-Art Urban series. This quarter it was my turn to choose the topic within the overall urban theme. I must admit when urban was selected as the year's theme my first thought was what will I do? I'm a small town girl. Cities have always seemed like such a contrast to what I am used to and what I am comfortable with. So it just seemed appropriate to choose contrast as the topic for this quarter. Urban Contrast.

When I go to a big city I am always struck by how things contrast so much with what I'm most familiar with. I'm also struck by the contrast within the city itself.
  • Noisy vs quiet
  • Big vs small
  • Man-made vs natural
  • Fast vs slow
  • Differences in social/economic status

Here are some photos I took in Houston least fall while at Quilt Market. These images became the point of origin for my Contrast concept.

I fell in love with the trees in Houston. Such wonderful huge trees with branches spreading everywhere. The contrast between the trees and the buildings was beautiful. The trees made me feel at home amid the vast concrete urban environment. I much prefer a natural jungle over a concrete one. (Although I don't much like the humidity of a real live jungle. Been there in Belize and Guatemala and sweated way too much if you know what I mean.)

The contrast of the rigid concrete building and it's strong repetitive linear structure offset by the fluid lines of the tree was the perfect example of Urban Contrast for my mini. The contrast of man-made vs nature. Rigid and straight vs organic and curved. Perfect. 

I started by creating the building as my base. I wanted to mimic the strong vertical lines of the building in the photo. Two shades of cool gray plus a cool blue gray where used to keep the building rather cold and austere. Once it was pieced, I layered the top, backing and batting, stitched around the outer edge leaving an opening and then turned the whole thing right sides out. Then the opening was hand sewn closed. I chose this method over traditional binding because I wanted to allude to the building continuing beyond the actual frame. I quilted vertical lines in the ditch between all rows.

This became the foundation for the rest of my concept . . . the natural aspect with free form branches and leaves. The next step also became the hardest part for me. I know what I'm doing with a grid and structure but find myself less sure and less skilled at knowing how to achieve my vision when it comes to improv. I started by fusing brown fabric and cutting free form branches based on a loose sketch to get the scale and shape of the tree right. Even this wasn't easy for me. I wanted to draw it out precisely and then cut. Once I had the main trunk and a few branches cut, I tried various arrangements. Here is one of several I tried.

Next came figuring out how to create the leafy areas of the tree. I knew I wanted to add individual leaves as the final element but felt I needed to create clumps of color to indicate the mass of green areas before individual leaves were added. I tried cutting free form pieces of tulle in two different shades of green but once they were sewn on it was obvious this wasn't what I was after. Out came the ripper . . . away went the tulle.

Searching through my scrap bins, I grabbed a leafy green print and cut a large leaf shape. This seemed more like what I wanted. I used a darker leafy print for the base and added a few lighter ones here and there for highlights. I tried so hard to avoid the leaf shape for this underlying part of the tree only to find it was just right after all. Many times going against the obvious solution works and leads to better, more creative results . . . other times the obvious answer is the best after all.

Once the foundation leaves were positioned, I fused them and the branches in place and free motion quilted each one around the edges. Then medium sized leaves were positioned and quilted in the same way. These leaves were brighter in color and from a Kaffe print, a less traditional fabric than the larger leaves. The final layer was an even smaller leaf in an even brighter more modern print. These were stitched to allow the edges to be a bit more loose than the others and curl up. Here are the fabrics I used and a close up of all the leafy layers.

That was the process . . . now here's the end result. I'm quite happy with how it all turned out. Perhaps my favorite so far in this series. I haven't come up with a name yet. Any ideas?

As I worked on this project I came to realize the concept of Contrasts was at play not only within the Urban theme but also symbolically within my own quilting journey. 

  • I am a structured quilter. I rarely do improv or free form quilt designs. Planning and working with predetermined pieces and parts is more within my comfort zone and style. The building perfectly illustrates this love of structure and form.
  • The tree symbolizes the type of quilting I'd like to explore more . . . a looser more free style that I admire in art quilts. Perhaps my inner artist is breaking out a little.
  • The fabric choices also represent my journey from traditional to modern prints and solids. There was a time when I didn't own a solid and never envisioned using them let alone featuring them in a quilt. My fabric preferences have changed a lot in the past few years but I still love large scale Kaffe prints the most. 

I hope you've enjoyed my Urban series. You can see the first three quilts following these links:

There will be one more round in our Urban series and then we'll start the new year with a brand new direction. The quilters in this little group are all so very talented. It's a joy to see how they interpret each new theme. Follow the links below to see their work.

Amanda  at
Betty at a Flickr site:
Elizabeth at
Leanne at

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  1. Anne, this is just perfect - I absolutely love it!!!! You had me at the first edition and then I was totally sold at #2 - that contrast is outstanding. And then you moved on and on and it morphed into something spectacular. So well done!

  2. I love it. The leaves turned out so well, and the quilting on them is great too. I really like the underlying building too and how you depicted it in the quilt. The over all effect is wonderful.

  3. Another triumph! I related so well to your explanation of concrete vs trees and straight vs curved. There is great movement and freedom in this lovely quilt and can just imagine it hanging proudly on your wall! Lovely.

  4. Where do I start?! I just love your quilt and the explanation...what a way with both a needle and words you have, Anne! Your photos are awesome as well. I'm a big fan...can you tell?! For a title...".Leafing Out" popped into my head!

  5. Wow. I really love the texture and layers of the tree and leaves over the building. What a beautiful way to depict such a contrast. Leaf-ing through town?

  6. You have really captured the topic of contrast. You executed it so well. I love the quilt hanging in the tree in the last photo. And you did such a great job with the tree and the leaves and stems. Congratulations!

  7. I really loved reading this--your thoughts about the contrast, and then the process you went through. I think we are on a very similar journey in terms of what we are comfortable with and what stretches our boundaries.

  8. Loved reading about your thought process here and seeing the end result-lovely!

  9. This quilt also shows off your love for contrast in photos too. You can't resist taking a photo of a grid wherever it appears, and likewise of leaves and tree branches wherever you can find them! They could be your two biggest visual interests; grids and leaves. This quilt was an awesome way to bring them together. It's also very artsy, maybe the most artsy of your Four in Art yet, which like you said is a contrast to your usual modus operandi. Brings together some new modern structure with some love for leafy crazy Kaffe. <3

  10. You write really well about the art concepts and where they come from. And I love the photo of the finished piece hanging in the tree!

  11. How nice to know the process and changes behind your project. It's quite a lovely piece, and certainly suits the tree where you took your styled photo. Naming it is certainly a challenge too. You're designing with much more vision than I will ever attempt. Keep up the fantastic work!

  12. This is probably my favorite, so far. You captured perfectly the contrast between the structured building and the natural tree. The best picture is of the quilt hanging among the leaves!

  13. Anne, you captured the theme of contrast so well in this quilt. It's interesting reading the thought and process used in creating these works of art. I especially love how you finished the building piece with hand stitching rather than the traditional binding. Thanks for sharing!


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