Bill Kerr is now on my list of best quilt lecturers of all time. I left the Peninsula Quilters Guild meeting last feeling excited and inspired and that I needed to sit down and make something fabulous. I ended up looking through and reading the two Kerr/Ringle books as soon as I got home. What a lovely experience!
I thought both Kerr and Ringle would be there, but it turns out that they have a 7 year old who is traveling with them and Ringle was on kid control. Bill said having a family and your won business was a challenge (definitely!) and they solved the issue with a lot of ‘tag, you’re it.’ Weeks is teaching the class today, which I am, sadly, missing.
I am particularly sad to miss the workshop, on color, because he said that they are so busy with their design work that they rarely visit guilds and hardly ever teach. I am hopeful that I will get to work with them, because he mentioned that they teach a week long, intensive design course. It is now on my list of things to do when the work situation simmers down. It is not listed on their workshop page, so I will have to inquire.
I have never been to a Peninsula Quilters meeting before, though I have been to a couple of their shows. In general I found the meeting interesting. They start the meeting at 7 pm and have guild business: reports of the board and committees, announcements, all of which is followed up with show and tell. There was lots of show and tell, which was fantastic. Lots of cheerful quilts. Not too many depressing quilts. Some of the show and tell quilts they hang around the room, a la the clothesline at CQFA, but others are just held up as the presentor reaches the front of the line. Each person presents very briefly. Some of them were so fast that if you looked down and wrote some notes, you would miss the quilt! Some of the quilts were the product of their mystery quilt program, which was a Sawtooth Star with another Sawtooth Star in the middle and an Irish Chain/Jewel Box-like alternating block. Get the idea here. Donna Allard made one with a yellow background and soft, but clear colors for the stars and chains that made me really happy. It reminded me of the Jewel Box pattern TFQ and I started.
The business portion of the meeting was followed by a break until 8pm at which time they introduced the speaker and Bill Ker started his talk. From the one hour+ lecture, I really like Bill Kerr. He was cheerful and confident and delighted in the guild business as well as all the show and tell. I liked his forthcoming attitude and cheerful manner with which he approaches quiltmaking.
His way of picking out fabric is to find an idea then express that idea by choosing colors that evoke what you are trying to express. For example, if you want to make a quilt that evokes a hot fudge sundae, the colors you would choose:
- white white (ice cream and whipped cream)
- scarlet (cherry)
- toasty brown (nuts)
- brown-black( chocolate sauce)
I might add this idea to my Basic Quilting Class notes as well as their Quiltermaker’s Color Workshop book.
Bill said a lot of interesting things related to visual arts. He suggested that people think you are born Picasso or doomed to mediocrity. He believes this to be wrong and that visual arts take work, like anything else, and that you can be successful if you work at it. I like this sentiment, because it is hopeful. I wasn’t born Picasso, but I think I have some ideas to contribute to visual arts world.
Kerr said that he and Ringle collaborate completely and that the quilts that come out of their studio are the product of a combined effort. One may start with the idea, but as the idea gets tossed around and changed, it gets reshaped. He also said that the collaboration in visual arts is undervalued. Other art forms/artists such as dance/dancers and music/musicians have a long tradition of collaboration, but the visual arts don’t. I am not sure this quite true. I think a lot of artists like Rembrandt and Chiluly have people that they work with. However, this may be more a master-apprentice relationship than a true collaboration and not quite what Bill was getting at. His feeling is that the right collaborator can make the work very special.
When he talked about working with someone else, I immediately thought of the collaborations that TFQ and I have done. We haven’t collaborated as much lately, but, perhaps, bouncing ideas off of each other about the tote bags is also a kind of collaboration. there is always a possibility of starting something new.
Most of their work is in design. They do commissioned work for clients, design fabrics and write books. It is only recently that the quilt world has found them. They have been published in Time, the New York Times, O: the Oprah magazine and major design publications. The April 2007 and April 2008 issues of the American Patchwork and Quilting have also had articles on them.
Until recently they designed fabrics for FreeSpirit, but have recently moved to RJR. Not all of their fabrics are still available, but you can order some from Kerr and Ringle directly. their newest line, Wild Bunch should be out this week.
I think they have an interesting vision. They look at the icons of the era (usually current) and make their quilts evoke their era. They often start with the questions: what are the icons of daily life around us? Some of their quilts reflect this:
- Tankini (a popular new type of bathing suit available for the past 10 years or so)
- Great American Roadtrip
Tankini, which is by Weeks only, is an example of this. Tankini (sorry, I couldn’t find a pic online-check the QN ’07 catalog) was accepted into Quilt National 2007.
Bill thinks that if you can articulate your idea it will inform the piecing, the quilting etc.
They like to cross-polinate their quilts with other types of images and visuals. He recommends susbscribing to some non-quilt magazines in order to see non-quilt images and be inspired by those images. I’d like to know the non-quilt magazines to which YOU subscribe.
Zanzibar, pictured on the cover of the Quiltmaker’s Color Workshop, the quilt that TFQ and I admired at Black Cat, was inspired by the spice markets in East Africa, where Kerr lived for many years. I thought the fabrics were dull and boring in the book*, but the backstory makes the color choices more understandable. He, also, gently reminded me that color choices are very personal. I have never been to a spice market, but I don’t imagine that there are fuchsia and turquoise spices?
Kerr and Ringle are also not in the habit of slapping on long strips of borders (hooray! kindred spirits!). Actually, they cut off parts of the quilts/blocks in order to assist the viewer’s eye in travelling around the quilt. They want to engage the viewer by enabling, through design, the eye to travel all over the quilt discovering different parts. This idea kind of validates my self-bordering practice.
Kerr’s quilt (Ringle told him to make it himself), Some Settlement May Occur, started as a large piece of black fabric. Kerr cut circles out of the black and inset the colored circles. If nothing else, this endeared him to me, because I love the idea of insetting circles and have ever since I heard about it from Ruth McDowell. I haven’t actually tried it, but will someday. I think of this kind of piecing as a type of freedom.
Kerr continued to cut out fabric and inset colored circles until he was happy with the design, then he cut off pieces from the edge to make the design pleasing. What Kerr things makes this technique work is that they press their seams open so that the quilts are really flat. He didn’t want to applique’ because he didn’t want the black to change the color of the circles. Kerr acknowledged that he could have cut out the back, but thinks that the quilts are flatter if the circles are inset.
They use the very lightest weight cotton batting by Quilter’s Dream, because they like the drape. they do most of their quilting by longarm machine and use rich tone-on-tones or solids for much of their work. They use the tone-on-tones because of the way the seams are easily hidden.
All in all, it was fabulous to hear him and I can’t wait to get the opportunity again.
*Kerr what shocked when he saw the cover of my book because of how dull the color reproduction was. We, then, had a long-ish discussion of color reproductions in books.