This project actually began when I was playing with the Drunkard's Path block. There are so many wonderful layouts using this simple quarter circle block.
My early explorations were primarily based on positive shapes created when quarter circle units are combined into larger shapes. Some of these shapes reminded me of flowers which led to my Christmas poinsettia quilt with lovely red and green Kaffe fabrics. I even did a quilt along last year based on this design which you can learn more about here. I love how it turned out.
While this quilt was in the works, I continued to explore other layouts using the Drunkard's Path block. As I played, I began to focus on more modern designs and the use of negative space. Three quarter circles creates a square negative space. One quarter circle can look like a bite taken out of a larger square. Just look at all the interesting negative spaces in the example below.
Creating negative squares from positive circles really intrigued me and, with this concept in mind, the name Circling the Square was born. I don't often name a quilt before designing it but in this case the name spoke to me. It seemed to clarify the concept and began to influence my design decisions.
Early on I tried quarter circles coming in and swirling around until they created a square of negative space in the center. Very interesting but not quite what the name implied to me. Perhaps I'll pursue this further at another time.
Then I began to focus on the circles forming a mass with the square at it's center. This was closer to what the name implied but wasn't quite there yet.
Once I got the basic shapes in place, I started to explore color. The constructive nature of the design reminded me of the early modern art movements of Constructivism and Bauhaus. Black, white and red were frequently used in the graphic designs of these movements so it just seemed to be the right color scheme to use here. I did look at a few other colors but nothing was as dynamic and strong.
As you can see in the illustration below, I tried using red for the center square. It seemed like the natural place to use color. The effect, however, was that the red square became a positive shape rather than a negative space. There's nothing wrong with this except it wasn't what I was trying to explore. My intent was the creation of a negative square formed by the circles. Removing the red, as in the second example, returned the square to it's negative space but the design needed color. By placing the red in the only full circle in the entire layout a focal point was established. It gave the eye a place to start the journey of the circles swirling around the square.
Once I settled on color placement, I explored the finer details of the arrangement. The addition of little black arcs around the outside activated the circle. Take a look at the far right illustration above and then the illustrations below and you can see how the composition feels more active. I started with three (below left) and ended up with six (below right).
Another refinement was in the three small negative squares that come off the large central square. I felt the small squares (below left) diminished the effect of the large square. It didn't quite read as a single large square in the way I intended. Next I tried changing the small squares to quarter circles (below right) but this didn't quite work either. Now the center square looked like it had three little wings. This arrangement also introduced a new positive shape to the black 3/4 circles that I didn't really like.
Do you feel like you're playing one of those games where you need to find the differences? Can you find all the things I'm referencing? If not look harder. : )
Below is the final layout. Simply rotating the quarter circle units brought the 3/4 quarter shapes back in alignment with the rest of the design while clearly defining the negative center square. So there you have it. The final design . . .
While I work out a lot of my design in Illustrator, many of these finer details happened on my design wall. The placement of the final black arcs and refinement of the center square all happened on the wall. I'm pretty happy with how this design evolved and developed. I also auditioned fabrics on the wall. I used tone-on-tone prints for almost all of the circle shapes and for all the negative areas except the center square which is a solid.
Here's the finished top. Even now, I'm contemplating a change or two. We'll see.
I hope this has been an informative post. It's a glimpse into my design process. My graphic design background leads me to a more controlled approach to my work but not everything is predetermined. It's a back and forth between computer and design wall. Sometimes even a rough sketch on paper.
I love designing. : )