Saturday, March 21, 2009

Book Review: Art Quilts at Play

I was so excited to get my hands on the newest book by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston, Art Quilts at Play (C&T Publishing, 2009.) I love the work of these two amazing artists, and their first book, Art Quilt Workbook (C&T Publishing, 2007) is one of my favorites.

If you're not familiar with Jane and Elin's work, then you are in for a treat. They are both talented quilt artists and teachers. They're both bloggers, too, and you can find regular inspiration at Jane's blog Chary Sprouts, and at Elin's, Both are on my regular reading list.

I'm drawn to Jane and Elin's work for a variety of reasons. I like the graphic quality of their compositions, their use of color, the perfect balance between simplicity and complexity that their work often shows. I can look at their pieces again and again, and always feel like I learn something new from studying it.

But back to the new book. The focus of their first book (and their terrific DVD) is on jump-starting creativity in art-quilt making through exercises and some techniques. The new book focuses on experimentation with surface design techniques and playing with new materials.

I've mentioned before how I dip my toe into the surface design world cautiously. It's not that it seems difficult -- it's that I tend to get overwhelmed by the processes. The lists of materials and preparatory steps and safety precautions and workspace set up suggestions tend to exhaust me before I've even started, to be honest. Someday I hope to have a dedicated wet studio space, but for now I'm stuck with the kitchen table or backyard patio, which means I have to set up, do the project, and clean up in the same session. So call me lazy, but sometimes I'm just not up for all of that.

That's why I'm encouraged when I find ways of playing with surface design that are quick, easy, and not terribly mess-making. And Jane and Elin's book has me chomping at the bit to experiment a bit more. They make it look easy, and not daunting. I know, I know, it's NOT hard stuff. But they make it look do-able and fun, without a ton of time and money invested in supplies and set-up.

The book covers a host of design play to try: screen printing, painting fusible web, stamp making, bleach discharging, paintstiks, shrink film, angelina fibers. The steps are clear and simple. Best, to me, are the examples of what they made with the techniques -- inspiration abounds. The artwork shown here -- from Jane, Elin, and various students, is exciting and gorgeous.

They also cover the fun of collaborative projects as a way to explore creativity. They suggest different types of challenges, swaps, and online connections.

So, if you're thinking that you might like to try some new surface design techniques but want a simple way of experimenting, give this book a try. I highly recommend it!


  1. Diane:
    Thank you for the wonderful review. I'm so glad that you enjoyed our book. I'm looking forward to seeing what you make next after playing with the techniques!