When I was in high school I learned how to carry and flirt with a fan. This was in the late 60s in the southern USA, and while they certainly had been put to good use before the days of air conditioning, when I was growing up, they were rarely seen. However, as part of Miss Libby’s Charm School, where I learned “table hands”, so I could look alluring across the table from a guy; how a lady lights her own cigarette (I’ve never smoked in my life); and just in case the need should arise, how to carry a fan. The photo on the left shows two from ones that I’ve collected when I traveled, and the top,black one, I actually have used at a gala. I put a ribbon loop with the lavender flower on it to go around my middle finger to go with an evening dress in the 80s. Such pretentious days!
So as I became a quilt artist, I was naturally drawn to fan-like shapes. Here is a motif from a piece of indigo fabric from Japan. I imagine that the image is a stylized flower, but to me they look for all the world like fans. I wish I had bought more at the time, as I have only a little left, but I’ve used the shape in several of my art quilts.( I’ve yet to figure out a way to utilize the terrific geometric lines in between the fan shapes yet, so those pieces get thrown away. There’s only so much room in my studio….sigh!
Here is a detail from the piece “Japanese Irises” that utilizes the fan shape from the fabric shown above. It’s not as elegantly curved as the actual fabric design, as the size 10 seed beads are larger than some of the printed curved ends in the fabric motif. Another problem is finding beads that are close in color to the original fabric. Color is a very important design element for me, and the pieces are first composed using the balance of colors and shapes in the original fabrics. Then part of the fun for me is finding buttons and beads that complement the fabric choices that I’ve made to give me the effect that I want. It’s not always possible to find the exact colors of beads to match the colors in the fabric, so compromises sometimes need to be made.
This is an example of some of the “batik” fabric coming out of Africa these days. While the images and techniques are not traditional, they have big, bold prints that are a lot of fun. The fabrics however, have a lot of sizing in them, so the “hand” or how it drapes, is pretty stiff. That can make it harder on your own hands if you plan to do a lot of beading on the piece, as pushing needles in and out of stiff fabric thousands of times can wear on your fingers. The fans from this fabric that are utilized in the next photo are the ones that are shown vertically on the left, although I have used the gold ones that are show horizontally a number of times, too.
“Angels of Darkness, Angels of Light” , is the art quilt from which this detail shot is taken. I blogged about this art quilt earlier, so if you click on the above link, you can read more about the story behind it. Here in this blog, I’m focusing on the blue fans in the lower left and middle bottom. I used blue bugles in the outer semi-circles, and then scattered plastic blue crow beads nearby to carry the color out into the rest of the nearby surface. In Japanese landscaping, that would be called “borrowing the view”, where a large feature, such as a nearby mountain is framed by a circle cut into a fence, and then a much smaller version would be built in the garden to suggest a mountain. I use the same concept in spreading out colors and shapes in my art quilts.
Semi-circular shapes tend to lead your eye around the outer edge, which suggests some movement and then grounds your eye back nearby as it lands at the end of the curved edge. I feel that the result is that movement can be suggested in a small area. There are a number of fabrics on the markets these days with large circles on them. Cutting them in half allows for two shapes from the same piece. I encourage you to try them out in your own work, and see what excitement you can create for yourself.
What shapes do you tend to repeat in your work? Why does that shape speak to you?
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