Tag Archives: Tree of Life

Power Builders 02.27.15

This is Week #4 of my Power Builders creative links. If you’d like to see last week’s, you can find it here.

I call this series “Power Builders” because that’s what these little items do for me. They make me more powerful in my art and in my life. I hope they do the same for you. Some of the links will be about how other creative people use their time, structure their work, find inspiration. Some may be videos, music, or podcasts to inspire you. Some of it will be directly quilt-related but much of it will not. What you see in Power Builders will depend on what I find. Feel free to link great things in comments, too.

1) This story tells of one woman who developed her power through an outreach program at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. Yes, women’s prison. The women had the opportunity to create quilts, expressing themselves in ways they’d never before experienced. Here is one woman’s story. Seven more interviews are available here.

2) A few of Austin Kleon’s comments about sharing your work, your time, your inspiration with others. My take: sharing is part of what makes you powerful.

3) Want to boost your creativity? Take a walk! Here’s a link to the research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. For a quick summary, read the news report from The Stanford Daily.

4) If you are a quilt artist, you may be familiar with Elizabeth Barton. She’s written two terrific books on quilt art design. I own them both and think they apply well to any two-dimensional design. This blog post of hers on dissonance discusses something many of us avoid: conflict. Yes, I avoid conflict in my personal life, but tension is essential in good design. Take a look.

5) My post from this week on trusting my own creative process.

6) And the quilt top that results from that process so far:


It will get another border before it is finished. Current size is 44″ x 50″. The center panel was designed by Julie Paschkis for In the Beginning fabrics.


Get inspired by the world around you! What has inspired you this week?


Tree of Life — Trusting the Process

I’ve been working on my Tree of Life quilt. The other day I showed you my second start at it. The first go was … worthy of trying. But it wasn’t working out for me. I count it as a successful experiment, one from which I learned a lot.

I removed the side borders and began again. I showed you this much already:

The black strips in the picture above are attached now. That border took the finished size to 30″ x 36″. Those dimensions work well for a block border of 6″ blocks. Of course there are a lot of other ways to solve that problem, too.

I imagined the next border as an enclosure of variable stars with pale backgrounds, and centers and points of the same blues, greens, browns, and reds. With 6 blocks on each of the longer sides, 5 blocks on each of the shorter sides, and 1 in each corner, I needed 26 blocks. I wanted the backgrounds scrappy, too. Checking scraps first, I found pale golds and pale greens for backgrounds. I cut so there were an equal number of warm backgrounds as cool. I also cut points and centers with equal numbers of warm and cool. This technique works well for me when a quilt doesn’t naturally tilt to one side or the other.

After building 13 of the 26 blocks, I put them on my design wall around the center. Scary! They were so wild, so vibrant, I was afraid they would take over, overwhelming the beautiful center. I hollered at Jim to take a look.

“Looks like a celebration!” he said. We talked through my concerns, but that’s what I want — a celebration. So we agreed I should go ahead.

“Trust the process. Trust the process,” I kept muttering to myself the next day as I finished making those stars. “The process” is the process of experimentation, of taking a vision to its point of evident success or failure. I figured there was nothing lost by continuing to make blocks. If they wouldn’t work, I’d have 26 great blocks available for a different project.

And here is the work so far. Finishing at 42″ x 48″, it’s ready for another 1″ black line all the way around. After that will come its final borders, to finish at about 56″ x 62″.


I like that the star backgrounds are paler than the pale caramel in the sawtooth border. The value contrast helps keep the focus on the center, rather than mushing it all out into a sea of mediums.

I trusted the process. I continued with my stars, knowing that I might not use them. But that lack of confidence did not stop me. Don’t let it stop you, either. Trust the process. Experiment. No bad thing will happen. Trust me.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is an old motif, dating back thousands of years in religion and philosophy, and hundreds of years to textiles from India. This quilt from the Smithsonian collection dates to around 1840. It was appliqued in the Broderie Perse style, popular at the time.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.56.00 PM

A couple of years ago on an outing with my quilting small group, I was lucky to find a panel printed with a Tree of Life motif. It was designed by artist/illustrator Julie Paschkis. In fall 2013 I began a quilt with it, but I got bogged down with other projects and didn’t get very far. Still it called to me to come back, try again.

With my initial start, I created and attached side borders. I also made a bottom border of a completely different nature. My intention was to applique the first border on the top. But last week as I analyzed the work, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. Asymmetrical borders don’t bother me at all. But I was intending to have 3 vastly different kinds of borders on 4 sides. They just didn’t seem cohesive, and the sizing would have been a problem, too.

Ultimately I removed the side borders and began again. This time I could visualize almost the whole quilt without struggle. Colors still confuse me some, but they will resolve as I proceed. This is what I have so far.

The picture is crooked but the panel is straight! 🙂 The original panel includes the center with black background. The first border is the narrow red strip surrounding it. (Actually, there is a very narrow black coping border at the top and bottom of the panel, both to finish framing it in black and to create a size that was easy to use.)

The second border is of half-square triangles, using pale caramel as the background color. This creates value contrast with the black-backgrounded center, but uses a color that appears in the tree and branches. While all 4 sides are the same width, I’ve maintained the non-square rectangle of the panel. I also set the triangles asymmetrically to keep the light-hearted tone of the panel.

You see black strips around that, which are not attached yet. They’ll create a narrow border, allowing an edge and repetition of the center’s black. And after that… you’ll need to wait and see!

I struggled with this project before and set it aside. Deciding to unstitch and restart was a good decision, and I’m having fun with it now.