I continue to think about “interesting,” because I want to make interesting quilts. I want them to challenge and engage me in the process, and I want them to engage the viewer/owner when done. Keep in mind that you don’t have to like a quilt to find it interesting. It doesn’t need to be “pretty,” or in a style you prefer. It doesn’t need to be one you’d like to make yourself.
In Part 1, I mentioned a few characteristics that can make quilts interesting to me. They include
- something unexpected
- balance with asymmetry of placement, shape, color, value, pattern, or texture
- movement, a sense of direction
- rhythmic repetition
There are three other things, or perhaps more specific characteristics, that I’d like to include on that list. They are color, combination of fabrics, and story.
There’s no denying that color creates strong reactions in many of us. Who doesn’t have at least one “favorite” color? According to the lay magazine Psychology Today,
… color preferences derive from our preference for the objects that typically have these colors…
Our individual preference for a particular color associated with these objects (a living room wall or an automobile) will be produced and reinforced by the positive feedback associated with the object and the color it has. Everyone has a somewhat different life experience, and so as people increasingly experience pleasure in something they bought in a particular color, they will tend to chose similar objects in the future with the same color. This leads to a self perpetuating situation.
So color preferences help keep us safe, by choosing foods and other items with which we’ve had a good experience. We choose clothing colors that either show us off or protect us, depending on our needs. Some quilters I know prefer bright, saturated colors, while others reliably choose earth tones or muted hues. If you usually quilt with 1800s reproduction fabrics, you will probably notice, and spend more time looking at, quilts made with similar colors.
I’m not sure that is enough to make a quilt “interesting.” (What do you think? I don’t have a very well-formed thought on this.) It seems to me that for color to make a quilt interesting, there needs to be something unexpected going on. My blog friend Judith of jmn Creative Endeavours said in a comment, “One factor I try including in all of my quilts is an unexpected colour – when I get that right the quilt comes to life. It doesn’t take much of that colour to have an effect … Most people looking at one of my quilts don’t see what I’ve done, they just feel the effect.”
Recently I did a guild presentation with trunk show. More than once I found myself thinking, about my own quilts, that I’d used an unusual color combination. For example, the quilt below uses red, coral, teal, aqua, periwinkle, lemon yellow, and acid green. Certainly the colors aren’t the only thing going on, or the only reason someone might look at this. (And they’re not necessarily ones you like or would choose! It’s okay if you don’t like it.) But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another quilt with this combination.
Contrast this with Dizzy, which I showed you in the last post. The few colors are pulled directly from the print floral in the middle border. Because the floral sets the palette, there is no surprise in the colors of other fabrics used.
Combination of fabrics and story are two more factors that create interest for me. I’ll discuss those more in a couple more posts.