Strata II, 48 x 60 inches, © 1999
As part of our work for the Distinctive Directions show, each artist agreed to write about why we work in a series. As I was trying to tell my story in that regard, it got me thinking back to my experiences in Nancy Crow’s workshops. These were some of the first art-quilting classes I had ever attended, and it was a sink-or-swim type of environment. Nancy’s dedication to her work is legendary, and she expected a lot from her students. Those who were willing to rise to the challenge got a lot out of it. There were some who found it a little too intense, and rumor has it there were even some tears shed on occasion.
For me, it was an eye-opening experience. Up until that time, I had only just been dabbling a bit with trying to make my own experimental variations on traditional quilt patterns, but still stuck in the rigid ruler-and-rotary-cutter world. Nancy showed us how to cut freehand, stitch odd shapes together, and use a design wall to design improvisationally. She also taught us to take our work seriously and introduced us to the idea of working in a series to fully explore our ideas. In the first class, called Sets & Variables, we had to take a single motif and do several different variations on it. I made a lot of pieced quilt tops from these exercises, but Strata II, above, is the only one that I ever finished. Most of the motif blocks were made in class, but when I got home I wasn’t happy with how they looked just butted together. So I added the black & white striped fabric to make a counterpoint to all the wild colors. I can see some things in it that I would do differently now, but it was a pretty big breakthrough for me at that time.
I also loved the outside edge that was formed by all the differently-sized blocks, and so I was pretty proud of myself when I figured out how to finish the edge with a decorative overlock stitch that I could make with the Pfaff 7550 I was using then.