Friday, May 16, 2014



Patricia L. Cummings

In art classes for design, one of the first concepts ever shared is that there are two types of lines: straight lines and closed lines. Straight lines can be parallel or cross each other but they always have an end point that is their own that is "lost in space," so to speak. An example of a closed line is a circle or even a bouteh, that elliptical shape that is a predominant element in designs from India and country names that terminate with "stan," such as Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and other countries.

Perhaps you have been an artist forever and do not engage in analysis as to what you design or why. As a reliable standard, the concept of something that is whole (or complete) is easily represented by a circle. The sun, a custard pie, or a wedding ring, items that are all round, complete within themselves, meaningful just as they are even when nothing else is added. Straight lines that are mixed with other straight lines could look like a teenager just up from a nap, his untamed hair sticking straight up in the air and going this way and that without a brush or comb to tame his locks. Lines drawn on a paper could visually symbolize two divergent paths epitomized by Robert Frost's epic poem "The Road Not Taken."

This quilt, loosely based on a design by Elly Sienkiewicz is very symmetrical. It is "balanced" by the repetition of the hearts and the symmetrical borders

Right Brain / Left Brain Interface

Artists rely on the creative side of the brain, when creating anything. To analyze art, one must use the other side of the brain where cognitive awareness lies and the means to interpret data.

Doctors, especially those who study neurology (how the nervous system works) seem to be fascinated with the right brain / left brain interface when it comes to the work of artists. What exactly happens within the nervous system when an artist switches from simply creating art, caught up in the moment, and then the brain takes a good look at the project to assess if changes are needed (in size, color, or arrangement of objects, for example)?

This "Seven Sisters" Star Block was made to recall the seven states that were first to secede from the Union during the American Civil War. Do you think this is a symmetrical or asymmetrical design? I believe I do not know! Perhaps it is more symmetrical than I believe but  not as symmetrical as I would have wished.

Writing: A Creative Process

An uneducated guess is that the right brain / left brain interface for artists is basically the kind of connection that happens when one is a writer. Any good writer steps back a bit from his work to engage in much self-editing. Writing is a creative endeavor but editing is taming words, making sure that they mean exactly what one intends, and shortening sentences to be more succinct. As a seasoned writer, I would have to say that once a manuscript has been written, it is best to put it aside for a time, the longer the better. Then one can come back to the words with a fresh eye and with a sense of renewal. The same concept is true when designing any quilt or needlework project.

This "stand-alone" quilt could be used as a doily. It's symmetry relies on the same-size segments that create the "whole" outer perimeter of the design. The center is a piece of antique fabric that I overlaid and then embroidered using the Herringbone Stitch - Designed by Patricia Cummings and made by her, this was inspired by an antique textile

Museum Exhibits: What the Patron "Sees" May Rely on Good Signage

I hate the word "end-user." In this case, in using the term, I am thinking of the art patron who views any art exhibit, including quilts hung vertically as art objects. Unless someone trained in the arts is present to explain the dynamics and deliberate use of color and design, and how color work in tandem, or in juxtaposition to create the whole design statement, understanding of the work may be minimal. Signs placed near objects on display in a museum are crucial, if only for the fact that many viewers are "visual" learners who need to see words in black and white in order to remember them or conceptualize their meaning. Of course, if one is able to participate in a guided tour at an exhibit, it is likely that insights about the works in question will be shared by the interpreter of those artistic-rendered items.

The Art World has its Own Vocabulary

One word often heard among artists is "symmetry." Is the piece like a fireplace mantel that has a perfectly placed pewter candlestick on both ends? Or, does the quilt or other art item appear to be unbalanced, on purpose? Is the outer edge an unusual shape? If so, the final work may have been designed to be "asymmetrically." The true patron of the arts will eventually learn all of the specialized words for whichever type of work is being studied.

Designed and made by Patricia Cummings, this miniature quilt features a stenciled rose in the center upon which is attached a pre-made appliqué (a bee). This quilt represents purposeful "Asymmetry" and each block was completed separately before being joined to make the whole quilt top to which borders were added. The border fabrics are Indigo cloth by Momen Fabrics, Toyko, the gift of a friend in Kansas

Newly-Installed MFA Quilt Exhibit.

This post mentions just a couple of art concepts. How lucky those patrons of the arts will be when they visit the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to see the collection of quilts gathered by the late Paul Pilgrim and his partner, Gerald Roy, M.F.A. (Gerald Roy holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree and is a painter, quilter, and quilt collector). The quilts are some of the most compelling quilts ever seen, collected for their graphic qualities. Pamela Parmal has written the exhibition catalogue. That volume is sold at the BMFA gift store online or on The book will be a treasure to keep, long after the exhibit has been taken down on July 27, 2014.

If that is the only book in your collection related to quilts, it would be well-worth it to splurge a bit to acquire it. To be honest, I have not yet seen the book but I have viewed quite a few photos of quilts chosen for the exhibit, so I feel safe in recommending it.

     "Asymmetrical" quilt block, inspired by a remant of an antique Crazy Quilt. This block was made by Patricia Cummings who used many different techniques, surface stitches, and composite stitches

Encourage your Child as well as your own 'Inner Child'

I never believe the line when someone says that they are "just not artistic." Usually, that statement translates to mean that the person has not had any training in the arts and/or has never given himself-herself permission to just "play." All children are creative, naturally! Those childhood drawings are just the beginning!

Just recently, I came across a pile of drawings made by my son when he was little. When he moved out, he told me to just throw them away. I did not do so. I treasure them. They represent how he spent his youth and show great promise. He could have been anything he wanted, gifted as he is. He chose to be a professor of English. It is great to have wonderful memories of our relatively short time together and to celebrate with him very shortly as he is recognized for the fine man that he has become through hard work and education. We all have talents. Do not give up on yourself...ever! You may just find that you have a talent that is very special and as meaningful to others as yourself. This has been a lengthy post. Thanks for stopping by for awhile.

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