I was recently asked by a beginner textile artist how to get started on a piece so I thought I would share what I do.
Getting started is the hardest part. It is the same for many artists and is usually called the fear of the blank white page, aritist's block or similar. Sometimes you can sit and look at your materials without any idea of what to do. Normally I have an idea before I start but if not I will look through magazines or one of my inspiration journals. These are simple sketchbooks (from before the internet took off) where I paste anything I have seen in a magazine that I really like. Sometimes I write quotes in there too. I may also have a few techniques or samples in there of things I have seen and tried out. Most of these books were compiled when I was into paper crafts but I would still use them to inspire textiles, especially colours and colour palettes from paint swatches or the techniques that I may try out on fabric.
Some other suggestions for themes or ideas are:
1. Colour themes. Pick a colour you wish to start with and go from there. Colour may make you think of something like blue for the ocean or red for apple etc and that would be a starting point.
2. A storytelling theme may be something like: a day in the garden, an overseas holiday, first day of school, family reunion etc.
3. Image ideas: you may see an image or photo you want to recreate in fabric or will inspire from magazines, books or your own.
4. Technique based ideas. You may want to try out a technique you have seen. This is the inspiration I use the most because I love experimenting with new to me ideas.
5. Specific word themes like: nature, space, animals, abstract, traditional, circles or squares.
6. Materials. Sometimes you may have a specific type of material you wish to use and that will inspire a piece of art.
7. If you belong to a group you may have samples that you made and have not used for anything that can be used for a starting point.
8. Style of design is also a good inspiration. By this I mean a grid or circular etc design.
When I have some sort of idea I start collecting my materials on the table in a pile. This is when I decide what colours I will be using. I nearly always use a restricted colour palette. What I mean by this is that I will only use a maximum of about 5-8 colours in one piece. Of course there are always exceptions to this rule but in general it ties things together better if there are not too many colours competing for attention. I put anything that is a similar colour in the pile. I even get paints etc out too if I am going to use them. I may not use everything but it stops me going to the cupboard later and choosing a wrong coloured object or paint.
I next decide what format I will use and what size it is going to be. By this I mean, wall hanging, framed picture, book page etc. If I am framing a piece I usually get the frame first and make the textile in a size that fits. Hard decisions are over and the fun begins.
I start with either the background or the focal image. For this piece I started with the owl silk screen. I painted it with all the colours then found a quote to go with my image. I Googled "wise quotes" and this one popped up. I decided to use a block style for my textile so then stitched the background together. I wanted to quilt this piece so I put my fabric on top of wadding, added a base fabric and machine stitched around each object. If I wasn't going to pad it I would probably make the textile on a base layer of felt or stiffened fabric (usually thick cotton with iron on interfacing on the back). If I want to do machine embroidery I always stiffen the fabric so I don't have to use a hoop for tension.
If I have chosen a technique as inspiration then I would make something with that technique and add it to a background. If it is a background technique then I would make the background and find something to put on it. Circles and squares are good additions for an abstract look. Adding beads or buttons can also enhance your work.
When I have finished I always neaten the edges, either with binding, satin stitch or folding the edges to the back and stitching a backing on. This depends on the format I have chosen and whether the back will be seen. For framed work I only zigzag the edges so it can be laced into the frame. I don't use staples that may rust onto the fabric.
Recently I decided to do the 100 day project. You can choose any creative pursuit you want and agree to do it every day for 100 days. This is how I started. I decided on little stitched squares I could do quickly and would later compile them into one gridded textile. Grids are a great way to tie different items together. I gathered a lot of leftovers from other textiles and cut them to size. I then gathered buttons and charms from my stash, beads and threads I thought I might use. I did not use a limited palette here but I used the same threads on a lot of the squares so it helps to blend it together. I put all these in a box near my chair where I watch tv with hubby. I started doing 1 a night, in any style or technique I fancied but soon decided I wanted to do more. My 100 day project became my 100 project. When I finished my squares, around day 50, I stitched them to a white background to show off the colours. I had too many for 1 page in my next fabric book so now I have two pages of them. I finished off the edges and my project was complete.
Wendy's Note: I do know that there are more than 100 squares! I thought I might lose some along the way so I did extra and didn't lose any. Isn't that always the way it goes?