12 April 2011

Ursula Kern fabric collage

Ursula's quilt, photographed informally on the floor.

On April 9, I had the privilege of taking a workshop with Ursula Kern. This was really two workshops for the price of one: a lesson on paper piecing (see previous blog post) and, in a sort of bonus lesson, an introduction to her quilt design methodology. Indeed, Ursula teaches a stand-alone workshop on her design technique. This spring she'll be leading this class at the Empty Spools Seminars in Asilomar, California, http://www.emptyspoolsseminars.com

Ursula, right, holding the small fabric collage on which the finished quilt,
held by stalwart class assistant Ellen, is based.

Ursula travels with a bag of small fabric scraps, which I would call snippets, so she can design on the go. She also designs quilts using watercolor or gouache (opaque watercolor), creating a maquette (model) which is her layout and color guide for the quilt.

Ursula's travel bag of scraps.
A color palette strip in the foreground.

On the left, fabric scraps are glued onto sturdy paper,
forming a maquette.

Transparent grid overlay, with axes labelled,
aids in enlargement and individual block design.

Sewn block on right is based on block C2.

Once Ursula has a fabric collage to her liking, she uses a permanent marker on a transparent sheet to draw a grid. She can then stitch up each block - the fabric block in the above image, for example, is based on block C2 of the grid. This structured method also helps her keep track of her progress regardless of interruptions in her work schedule. Heavy duty sheet protectors, available at Staples office supply, would work well too, and protect the collages.

Of course, since the fabric collage is comparatively small, and perhaps has two or three fabric snippets, many design decisions remain in the creation of the larger block, which might have as many as twenty fabrics. Ursula describes her studio as messy, with a superabundance of fabric, but her process is very orderly and logical.

Floor layout of fabric collage, grid, individual block,
and partial view of finished quilt.

Another maquette, in watercolor, with grid.
Diagonals assist ensuring each block
adhere to the radial direction in this design.

Windows cut to limit view to single block.

Another one of Ursula's tools is the masking window. This is just heavy stock with holes cut out to allow focus on an individual block, without the distraction of its neighbors.

Fabric collage model, or maquette, about 10 inches square.

Finished quilt (from postcard.)

Watercolor model.

Quilt (from postcard image.)

Happy workshop attendee making a fabric collage.

Another wonderful fabric collage in progress.

As I was intent on working on my paper pieced fish while I still had access to a teacher in case of questions, I didn't have time to start a collage. Fortunately, some of my classmates dove in to this exercise, and kindly allowed me to photograph their work in progress to share in my blog.

Some of Ursula's fabric collages.

Finally, I think Ursula's collages are works of art in and of themselves, and I hope she will someday have a retrospective of her work which includes these small gems.