Helen studied art at the Stourbridge College of Art in the UK and the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. Using textiles as her medium, she began creating quilts in traditional designs. She quickly grew tired of creating quilts using repetitious blocks and discovered the work of quilter Ruth McDowell from her book Piecing: Expanding the Basics. Helen had never seen pictorial quilts such as hers; it was immediately apparent that quilting could be a medium for producing representative works of art.
Ruth McDowell had written a series of books explaining her techniques on designing, piecing, selecting fabrics and quilting in her unique style. Her books included specific patterns to help the novice begin creating and Helen began with these. The vegetable placemats were a great way to learn McDowell’s techniques of drafting and sewing together the pieces in sections.
While still learning, Helen began to modify McDowell’s published designs and moved components around to create her own personalized designs. The Hollyhock wallhanging is one example illustrating McDowell’s flower pattern arranged by Helen.
The Trillium quilts were one of the first designs Helen drafted and stitched from her own photograph. Creating a series of trillium quilts allowed Helen to play with colour and practice her free motion quilting. Each piece is decidedly different due to the colour and value choices, an important design aspect, which is covered in the course.
Learning how to piece curved seams, Y and even Z seams provides an opportunity to design quilt tops that look more detailed than they are.
The design process starts with either a photographic image or drawing. Using tracing paper over an enlarged copy of your photograph, lines are drawn to capture the essence of the image. Parts of the original photograph can be omitted or simplified, it’s up to the artist to decide what level of detail they want to include. Fabrics choices can do a lot of the work in creating a realistic image.
The Complex Design and Piecing workshop is a great opportunity to learn some new techniques, make new friends and enjoy a week with others artists at a great venue.
Helen has a beautiful piece at Quilt Canada in the National Juried Show called: Seaton Trail. You can see it there from today until Saturday (July 15-17)
Helen can be found online on instragram: @piece_by_piece.