I love patterns. Especially in textiles and fabrics and on furniture and in art and found in nature. I especially love patterns in coordinating colors like you find in fabric displays where the designer has created a color way of materials that all go together color-wise but the patterns are all different.
Throughout my life I’ve come up with a few mantras about my personal style. Here are a few of my favorites-
“My favorite color is Rainbow followed closely by Tie-Dye.”
“Life is too short not to wear bright colors.”
“If nothing matches, then everything matches.”
I know these mantras might be revolting to some, but for me, they work. They’ve also always been a summation of the way I approach my art style.
A few years ago, a gracious friend, Lynda Gilcher, showed all of us who attended the French Lick Atelier her technique on swirling patterns. She loves to work in black and white with a spot of color. After taking us through a series of cane making strategies in black and white, she had us each pick a spot color to add to our program of work. Then we took all the patterns we’d created and she showed us how to incorporate them into a swirling design.
Sculpey Swirly Bowls
This workshop changed my life! I was smitten with the idea of having a moving swirling platform to host my love of patterns. I instantly translated what Lynda was teaching us into what I call my “Swirly Bowls”. I was super duper proud of my first bowl – I chose turquoise to highlight my bowl and pop out from the black and white.
After that retreat, for reasons I cannot now fathom or remember, I had an extraordinary amount of time to spend in my studio working on my own ideas. I swirled the days away! Every time I made a swirly bowl, I wanted to make several more, just to see how the patterns would twist and how the construction would work out. I was just completely intrigued with this process.
But alas, all too soon, my curiosity and my energy took a turn for the crazed and I got way out of control with the patterns and the playfulness and before I knew it, I was making overly patterned swirls that were just kinda hard to look at. I mean look at some of these – I had to take a step back and ask myself, “what am I doing wrong?” My mantra, “If nothing matches, then everything matches” was failing me.
I have a daughter, Ellie, she is quietly brave and confidently serene. She only offers advice when asked. One day when I was feeling frustrated with myself and my art, I asked her what she thought I was doing wrong. Ellie said, “Mom, you’re abusing the use of patterns.” I was flabbergasted. She had hit the nail on the head. My Swirly Bowls were offering the viewer no where to land, no where to rest, no focal point. My patterns were just swirling on and on to the point of a dizzy blur.
I took her honest words to heart. I regrouped and refocused. I started engineering patterns, that yes, went well together, but also incorporated a solid color, or a blended color where the eye could land and rest until it was ready to be swirled again.
I’m thankful for Ellie’s honest words and critique that day. It changed the way I approach my Swirly Bowls. The outcome is getting better and better I think.