Working in a Series with Fiber Artists

Frieda Anderson

Working in a Series with Fiber Artists

Artists across all mediums explore working in a series to refine a technique, explore a concept or expand on a design principle. The exploration may focus on a particular use of color or line, such as complementary colors or intersecting curves. Or create a number of pieces with targeted content, such as leaves or doorways. Perhaps focus on a location, such as the beach or an old European city. Or express artistic intent using specific techniques, such as fusing, embroidery or painting.

We asked some of our spotlight makers about their experiences working in a series, and their responses are as varied as their artistic personas.


Angela Grasse

Angela GrasseDo you work in series?

There was a time when working in a series had no appeal to me. I felt I had too many ideas to just concentrate on one thing. But because I have fallen down the rabbit hole of the mandala/kaleidoscope, that is no longer the case.

Why?

The circle shape is endless. It fascinates me that each piece I create can be based on a circle and still be completely unique.

How does that inform your work?

This circle love has spilled over into my photography. I have developed a way to create kaleidoscopic images without the aid of computer manipulation. I recently purchased a large format printer that will print on fabric. These photos will soon be showing up in this series.

Earlier this year I created a mandala on a coffee filter every morning for a little over a month. Using simple supplies these mandalas got my creative juices flowing quickly. These are now waiting to be stitched.

Angela Grasse
Do you plan every detail of your series pieces, or do they take on creative lives of their own?

I do not plan every detail of my series. It has a life of its own. Each new piece is started intuitively. There are times when I want to take a mixed media approach and know I need to include a paper cut (kirigami). Other times a well-worn doily speaks to me and becomes the starting point. Years ago I joined the Bead Journal Project online. Most often I use the circle as a starting point for these beaded pieces.

How do you know when a series is complete – or is it ever?

I feel I have a good grasp on when to stop working on an individual piece but I do not see an end to my working in this series. That may happen eventually but not yet. I hope to create enough pieces to have a solo show with mandalas/kaleidoscope. What is enough?


Frieda AndersonFrieda Anderson

As an artist, how do you define a series?

Something that is similar in subject or technique, exploring ideas that relate somehow.

Do you work in series? Why?

I do work in series because one idea always leads to another. Usually while you are working on a new project design ideas begin to present themselves and I am always thinking – well next time I’ll do this, try a different color, arrangement, size, etc…

How does that inform your work?

It makes it more interesting and keeps it fresh and hopefully innovative.

How do you decide on a subject for a series?

I keep a sketch/idea book and use it to go back and look at ideas, but mostly ideas come to me while working or walking and I want to pursue that option that has presented itself to me.

Frieda Anderson

Do you plan every detail of your series pieces, or do they take on creative lives of their own? Is there a set of questions you ask yourself to help plan your work?

Sometimes, but mostly I work in a flow as the ideas present themselves I pursue them. Usually I will make a piece and then make it again in a different way.

Do you work on more than one series simultaneously?

Yes of course, I always have multiple projects in the works. Currently I have two different series going.

Is it hard to stay on track? How do you keep yourself focused?

I also have a business besides making art, related to my art. So I travel and teach and have a line of patterns and website that has items for sale, and I am always working on keeping up to date on my website and my teaching products. I keep an ongoing list and and a calendar with items on it. My design wall and studio walls keep current projects always in my view and thoughts. I don’t often work on a deadline, but I certainly have one in my head. I think of it as a steady walk, always moving ahead. Sometimes “work” gets in the way and projects sit for awhile, but I always get back to them.

How do you know when a series is complete – or is it ever?

When it no longer holds my interest.

Do you ever revisit a series?

Sometimes, but usually I have moved on to the next idea that has caught my attention. If I am FORCED to revisit some series my heart is usually not in it.

When you work on a series, what do you learn about yourself as an artist?

That mistakes happen and they must be embraced, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad, but hopefully you will remember the mistake and use it in an improved way, or not make it again.

Frieda Anderson

What advice do you have for an artist who is just beginning to explore series work?

Keep a sketch/notebook, be brave and continue to work. Jump in don’t wait for inspiration, inspiration comes while you work. Continue to work, work, work. Learning the skills and techniques is actually a pretty small part of making art. Learning how to tap into your creativity – and facing your fears about doing that – is the most important part.

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong”. Joseph Chilton Pearce

“A man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.” Edward John Phelp

And my favorite quote “If you like it do it again, if you don’t like it do it again. Just keep doing it.” Bruce Mau

Frieda Anderson


Patricia BelyeaPatricia Belyea

Serious About Working In A Series

As a creative quilter, working in a series allows me to dive deep, explore, and discover ideas that build on earlier work.

In the spring of 2014 I began a series of quilts that morphed in my book, East-Meets-West Quilts (published 2017, Abrams NYC). I made the 17 quilts in the book following a manifesto of five rules—with the fifth rule being “Break any rule that you want.” This set of directives gave me both constraints and freedom to play with different ideas—which resulted in a series of quilts that are all related to one another.

More recently, I began a new series—Big Grids with Inserted Curves. I have produced 11 quilt tops so far and am planning to complete 21 quilts using this theme.

Notice how the first quilt top has the Inserted Curves all landing on the seam lines? As I continued, I ventured off the seam lines with the Inserted Curves. Then, noticing that I was putting the Inserted Curves front and center, I worked to create more asymmetry in my compositions.

The ideas for each new quilt top leapfrogged the last one. I sought to challenge myself as I delved into new directions. Although I am past the halfway point for this series, I have no idea what Quilt 21 will look like. I’ll know once I have completed 20 compositions in the series!

Working in a series suits me. I can’t complain of suffering from a Creative Block as I am continually pondering what to do next with my ideas.

After I complete all the Big Grids with Inserted Curves quilts, I plan to make quilts with words on them. How I’ll do that is yet to be known. That will be part of the fun of working on my next series.

Visit Patricia’s website, okanarts.com and read her blog post about working in a series.


Tesi Vaara

As an artist, how do you define a series?

Working in a series allows an artist to explore and expand on a specific idea, theme or technique.

Do you work in series? Why?

I have three different series going right now. One piece doesn’t seem to capture all I want to say so I keep creating new pieces as I further explore my themes.

How do you decide on a subject for a series?

My first series is called “Journeys” and was the first series where I began using my fused tile method. I also wanted to experiment with incorporating photos of my family and friends into the pieces and create a chronicle of my life.

Journey Series - Memory Lane 2011 (c) Tesi Vaara

Journey Series – Memory Lane 2011 (c) Tesi Vaara

Journey Series - Memory Lane detail 2011 (c) Tesi Vaara

Journey Series – Memory Lane detail 2011 (c) Tesi Vaara

Journeys series - Ebey Slough 2012 (c) Tesi VaaraFull Moon Series - Harvest Moon 2017 (c) Tesi Vaara

Journeys series – Ebey Slough 2012 (c) Tesi Vaara

My second series is called “The Chosen One” and focuses on my recovery as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

My third series is called “Full Moon” and will be an opportunity for me to explore a variety of surface design techniques. The idea for this series began after we had two Blue Moons in January of 2018. A full moon on a clear night is a sight to behold. I didn’t realize how many different names the full moons have and some of the history behind those names is fascinating to me.

Do you plan every detail of your series pieces, or do they take on creative lives of their own? Is there a set of questions you ask yourself to help plan your work?

For the Journeys series, I based my first piece off a landscape photograph I had taken of a pathway through a desert garden. I decided to divide the photos of my life that I wanted to incorporate into the quilts up into timelines. The first is my life from birth through my teen years. Then the second would be based on my married life from my late 20’s to my late 50’s. (The third will be based on my “golden years” which I’m still living.) The plan to incorporate photos into the pieces worked well for the first quilt, became less in the second piece and will probably be nil in the last piece.

For the Chosen One series, I decided I wanted to explore the shattering of innocence; shame; boundaries; and recovery. As I read and explore and journal about these subjects, the details of the piece become clearer to me. So for this series, I had a set of questions.
What do I want to say about my recovery?
What do I want other people to feel when they see my piece?
Will my piece help others speak about their experiences?
Will my piece create conversations that will help others recover?

For the Full Moon series, each piece will be planned, but I’m sure I will deviate from the plan each time as they take on a life of their own. I am currently working on my Blue Moon piece.

Do you work on more than one series simultaneously?

Only in my head or in my sketchbook. I don’t have space to lay out more than one piece at a time to work on. Also, I’m in two completely different head spaces when I work on either the Full Moon or The Chosen One series.

Is it hard to stay on track? How do you keep yourself focused?

It’s been hard to stay on track while working on the Full Moon series. I have quite a few surface design techniques that I want to try out and I find myself wanting to experiment with more than one technique at a time. And I am learning to accept that some of my ideas aren’t working out the way I first envisioned them. So I need to learn from those mistakes and move on and not beat myself up about failing.

How do you know when a series is complete – or is it ever?

I think some series could go on indefinitely. There are an infinite number of ideas and techniques out there to work on and explore.

Hopefully one day I’ll be done with The Chosen One series. I started this series prior to the #MeToo movement and I now realize there are some other issues I need to work through.

When you work on a series, what do you learn about yourself as an artist?

The Chosen One series has really helped me recover from the effects of being molested as a child. I think it is very powerful to be able to heal through my art and to possibly help others to heal because it generates discussion. Once I started sharing my story I was free from the fear I have lived with all my life. That freedom is allowing my creativity to blossom.

The Full Moon series will stretch my skills as I experiment with new surface design techniques.

What advice do you have for an artist who is just beginning to explore series work?

Go for it! Have no fear! You can do this!


Dorothy McGuiness mcguinness_dorothy_in studioDorothy McGuinness

As an artist, how do you define a series?

For me, a series is a set of pieces that explore a technique, a design, or a process that I’m interested in. I’m not a conceptual artist, I am process driven in my work.

Do you work in series? Why?

I do often work in series, even if unconsciously. I work in series to see where I can drive an idea to see its design possibilities.

Dorothy McGuinness ZigZag5

How does that inform your work?

It often sends me down some tangent that is unexpected in terms of new creative opportunities.

How do you decide on a subject for a series?

Most series for me just kind of evolve. I may try something new and like how it looks or see potential in the idea and then I may continue to explore the process in subsequent pieces. That may mean the next piece I weave or maybe it will be several months or even years before I get back to it.

Do you work on more than one series simultaneously?

I think quite a bit of my work is part of one series or another. I’m always pushing the technical or design ideas in my work.

How do you know when a series is complete – or is it ever? Do you ever revisit a series?

I’m not sure for me if a series is ever really complete – I can pick up and explore an idea and add to a series anytime.


Read more about working in a series with this guest post from  MJ Kinman and her Gemstones Series.


 

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