Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Excruciating piecing

Here's an improvisational composition with black and white from the two-week Improvisations workshop. The composition came together quickly. But figuring out the negative spaces and piecing it all together was excruciatingly s-l-o-w.

The next exercise: repeat this in 30 to 40 colors. That's when I asked if I could proceed with it in color without finishing the piecing of the black and white. That's when she read me the riot act. No, I must finish the black and white first. And she wanted every exercise finished for the final presentation.

Later she came back to ask if I could do it in color without sewing together the black and white. Yes, I can pin it up. Well, she named a later time and would check back to see where I was with the piecing then. I was done and started with the color version.

Slowpoke me. I tried to catch up with everyone else. I'd hurriedly translated it into color then called Nancy over for a critique. Oh, I didn't get it. She wanted the colors to create a sense of depth. Oh, okay. Adjusted the colors, got Nancy's okay, and sewed it up. Used another approach but still another excruciatingly s-l-o-w piecing process with technical difficulties. Nancy loved this piece. I can't step back and say it's a good piece. I prefer the black and white study. Though I love this improvisational process, I remember the excruciating piecing. Twice.

The colored composition lost freshness and spontaneity. Due to the different approaches in piecing, there were some good things happening in the black and white that didn't happen in the color. The way the lines broke and shifted over adds interest.

We weren't allowed to make a pattern to repeat the shapes. Everything was cut freehand. The curves and shapes became studied and stale. The negative spaces distorted, sometimes through technical glitches.

Here are Robert Genn's thoughts on maintaining freshness when repeating a composition.

If I were to use this approach, I would do a black and white study cut without piecing. Out of fabric. Or even out of paper. Make it smaller. I may suffer piecing a colored composition. But I just don't want to go through the whole excruciating piecing twice.


  1. I've been doing small black and white compositions out of cut paper and gluing the pieces in my Nancy Crow notebook. The compositions are done quickly, and I'm hoping to do at least 10 of them before I choose one for a color composition in fabric. Working in the notebook also defines a given space. Setting up the boundaries of the piece is one of the things that I learned the hard way in class.
    Funny that we would come up with the same approach on this exercise. And thanks for the link to the discussion on maintaining freshness in the 2nd piece.
    -Connie in Alabama

  2. If sewing it the first time was to learn shortcuts and techniques I can see it, but it seems to me that it would have been more important to jump to the one in color while the other was still in pieces. then if you had any reason to want the b&w sewn you could do it. did you like this workshop better than the first, or about equal to it?