Monday 8 July 2013

Colour Process - Amy Badskirt

This week as part of the Colour Theory for Quilters series, I'm really excited to welcome a group of very talented quilters to talk about colour on my blog - how they approach it, and where they find inspiration for choosing palettes. Today's post is by Amy who blogs at Badskirt. 

When Jess invited me to share my color process with you, I was quite excited. Choosing fabric and pairing colors is my favorite part of sewing. I like to think of it as creating my visual voice. With color, you can set the mood. Warmth (as above), chaos (just below), lightness, conflict, coolness and unease - just a handful of feelings that you can create with color.

My color process begins with the combination of good fabrics and understanding of my personal tastes.   We are fortunate to craft in a time where there are a variety of fabrics available at reasonable costs to suit everyone's personal style.  

But just what is your color style? And how can you find it?  I'm going to tell you a bit about my color style in the hopes that it helps you understand your own. I think this understanding is the foundation of working with color and is the most important step in the craft color process.

When I start a new project, I often start in my meager fabric stash.  I once had an overwhelming collection, but have since narrowed it down to fabrics I truly love. 

What makes a good stash in terms of color? For me, it is having a range of tones that inspire me without being burdened by fabrics and colors that I'm unlikely to use.  My creative voice is loud, but not brash. I choose rich tones and avoid anything wishy-washy. In that sense, my color style is a reflection of me.My close friends would agree that I'm decisive, opinionated, bold and often beating my own drum.  

For the most part, my stash is riddled colors like dark teal, salmon, drab olive, citron and mustard. I buck the primary color trend and aim for the offbeat.  Were I gentle and soft-spoken, you might expect to see a cupboard full of pastels. Instead my stash boils with intensity.

A large part of my process is making lots and lots of fabric stacks before I cut anything out. I audition fabrics from my stash. I want to make sure that the fabrics look good together and they fit my current mood. I don't know about you; but I can't make a light, airy quilt when I'm wearing a sourpuss grimace.

I check how pairings look with just a sliver showing, then I look at larger section.  I shuffle things to make sure they look good in both random placement and well-organized stacks. I take favorites with me into shops to look for complimentary fabrics to get me started. One thing I like to do is to take photos of my combinations, then I step away and come back later to see if I still like it. 

 Like all skills, pairing fabrics takes practice. Give yourself that time.

When I find a combination that works for me, then I like to stay with it for a bit and let it evolve.  The teal, coral and grey square quilt above trickled into a palette for this envelope quilt made with the help of The Beehive quilt bee.  This envelope quilt was inspired by and evolved from Ayumi's envelope project; yet, the color palette and feel are quite different. Ayumi has a distinct, cheerful style which I couldn't emulate. If I had tried, I would have undoubtedly failed.  

In my experience, finding your voice takes time. It takes a willingness to get it wrong and the strength to continually evolve. Whether you are quilting, doing graphic design or painting furniture - give yourself the space to experiment. For many of us, the hardest lesson in shops is that a dress that looks good on someone else may not look good on us. Similarly, it can be difficult to squeeze yourself into someone else's crafting style. Don't be afraid to try on new color combinations, but don't be upset if they don't work out.  

I don't have a favorite color. I don't like purple, and I certainly don't like primary rainbows. Knowing what you don't like is as important and knowing what you enjoy.

Each of the projects shown in this post has a color palette accompanying it. In the coral Schoenrock Cross block above, I've added a sour green to the palette.  I feel this addition would give a nod to spectrum without having to fall back into the limited 8-pack Crayola color box of our childhood. It's a more mature rainbow of sorts.

Of course, the addition of green to this project isn't necessary. This block became a potholder. If it had become a quilt, I might have intentionally left the green out.  When making a color palette, omission can be as important as inclusion.

Revision is very much a part of my color process. When I'm working on a project like this hourglass pillow, I often edit and revise the palette as I go. While this cushion only needed 16 blocks, I made about 20 of them. I then decided what worked best and left out those that didn't suit. In this case, I omitted a royal blue block and a few true reds. 

Another part of my creative color process is delay. The sharded triangle quilt above sat for months while I waited for the perfect colored fabrics to finish off the top row.  I am fortunate to travel a fair bit and keep a mental list of fabric colors that I need for projects. I'd rather wait to finish them, than finish them with something not quite right in terms of color and shape.

I'm lucky that I have a good color memory and can normally "pair" fabrics without having things on hand. I can see a fabric in a shop and know if it will work with others that I have at home. If you don't have that skill (and most people don't), then you might find it handy to make yourself a little swatch book of fabrics and fabric colors to carry with you. It will help you make more informed choices for your stash and may help with your color process.

Speaking of matching fabrics, I'd like to briefly mention my approach to monochromatic combinations. In the earlier examples, I used a fair number of colors in my work. I've included this blue trivet as a means of 
talking about one of my pet peeves - flat, liveless projects. After working in a quilt store, I must admit that I find many monochromatic projects a bit lackluster. When things match too well, they can be stale. 

Using contrasting values, as in little blue trivet, can add punch to a project. Value makes things interesting. Value makes your eye dart across a project.

To better understand value you can visit  
- Rebecca's Color Theory 101 post which is part of this series
- The Value Added Quilt Along posts which I contributed to along with Rachel, Jolene and Leila
- Jess' Value Tutorial

I'll leave you with one final note about my own color process. I've got a bit of a mantra: When things look flat, add some black.  Some times I get to the end of project and find things aren't jumping off page like they should. At other times,  I may want to add a little more oomph early on in a project. When this happens, I incorporate warm charcoal or black. It's nuanced, of course. I choose prints with a balance of tone at pigment. Some projects call for a warm black and cream. Others call for a stark black and white. As Jennifer explained,  colors have context.  In my own loud way, I've embraced the darkness for the brightness it brings.

Understanding your color style can be a challenge, but don't be scared by the idea. You are the best expert on the subject.  Embrace your style whatever it is; let yourself fail; and, most importantly, enjoy the process!

happy crafting from Amy Badskirt


sarah elizabeth :: {no} hats said...

This was such a lovely post! Not only do I love and respect Amy's "visual voice" from afar, but her writing is always such a pleasure to read ;) Cheers to honoring and encouraging individuality in this vibrant quilting community!

Susan at said...

Awesome! Thanks for this series. Such a great topic and a nice lineup of other artists. I've enjoyed it quite a bit.

(Side Note: My blog has switched platforms which means I have a new bloglovin feed. If you happened to be following me there will you update the feed to Thanks!)

Debbie said...

thoroughly enjoyed this post - thank you!

Adrianne @ On the Windy Side said...

Absolutely brilliant post about colour choices! Amy does have such a clear visual voice, and she is fantastic at explaining her creative process. Thanks Jess for hosting this great series!

Vicki said...

Very informative! Thank you so much for your post.

Dianne Neale said...

Thanks jess. I think I need to have more confidence in my choices!

audrey said...

Very well thought-out post. Thanks for sharing this viewpoint!

Nicky said...

Great advice ! Failing is part of the process which leads to success I guess! And playing with colour is so much fun.

jeifner said...

I love picking out stacks of fabrics to see how they all "feel" to me. Sometimes I pick ones that I like and it's not until much later that I see a color theme going through projects from the same time.

Jess @ Scrappy n Happy said...

Great post! I love Amy's work!

krislovesfabric said...

Fabulous post, I very much enjoyed it, thank you!

elnorac said...

Thanks for the great post, Amy! Very interesting, and I couldn't agree more about adding black or charcoal. It's incredible how it perks things up; before I started doing it, I would have guessed it would have the opposite effect.

Your projects are gorgeous, as always!

Patti said...

I so enjoyed reading this post!

Jennifer Mathis of Ellison Lane said...

Fabulous post- really informative and it really spoke to me. Thanks so much for sharing your process!

Little Bluebell (Adrianne) said...

This is such an awesome post. I have always admired Amy's use of color in her work and it was so interesting to read about how and why the color decisions get made.

quirky granola girl said...

Amy, I love reading about how you think. The way you use color has always been a fascinating mystery to watch. You tend to take colors that I hate and mix them in a way that I absolutely love. This little peek into your decision-making is really helpful.