Exploring Improv

This weekend I had the fabulous opportunity to attend a Heather Jones workshop. Heather and I live in the same area and I've been way too shy to introduce myself until the fall 2015 Quilt Market when she launched her first fabric line Color Dash with Robert Kaufman. Since then we try to fit a lunch date into our busy schedules and talk shop. 

I still have my fan girl crush on Heather and her talent for sublime quilts. Taking her recent Improvisational Linework and Design Workshop was just what I needed to start me on my journey into the world of modern quilt design and improv piecing. 

The workshop space at Divisible in Dayton, OH, is also home to her current exhibit of improv technique quilts and the cover quilt to her Quilt Local book. The beautiful space in itself was inspiring as well as all the creative energy Heather and the other workshop attendees brought on Saturday.  

I have to admit when we were sent the supply list for this workshop I agonized over the fabric selection and found it difficult to pack only solids to work with. I was the only one in class with some prints, but hey, I need to ease into this and still needed my print security blanket.

Here's a photo from the workshop. You can see a classmates beautiful improv squares above mine. I scissor cut all my pieces and this first batch I felt some of my blocks are a bit too skinny on the outside edges and will be lost in the seams. You can see I'm playing with orientations as well. During class I was just unsure of how I felt about my work. Maybe because mine was busier and different from my classmates I felt it wasn't right. Looking at it now as I post this picture I'm warming up to it more and more.

Here's another shot at the end of the day in which I started adding in larger pieced blocks to break up the business I felt was happening. I still hadn't committed to sewing an actual 16'' square block together because I wasn't feeling it yet. 

I've decided that this technique needs to be further explored and I call it the "Christmas tree syndrome" you know, you keep tweaking out where the ornaments are on the tree for that perfect balance! There's an infinite number of possibilities with this technique from fabric selection, cutting, piecing, and arranging. I was hoping that complete randomness would result in perfection but I think there needs to be something in between random and obsession.  

With my individual sections I thought I'd do a bit more playing around. What if I reduce the palette? What if I change the scale of the strips even more? What if I play more with orientations? Here's some possible looks exploring these variables in what could be a 16" finished block.

I know there's no right or wrong way to create. You need to create from the heart and gut. 

I've yet to commit on this but feel I may be getting closer to understand what I need to do to learn and grow from this experience. It's so exciting!

I have to put this all aside for the moment because other projects are calling my name but I promise there will be a follow up post when I finish this improv quilt. 

See more of Heather's work, workshop information, and quilts on her website. Her newest fabric line, Conservatory for Robert Kaufman and quilt patterns were part of our workshop goodie bag--what fun!