Afraid to design?

Lots of very accomplished people are confident to follow a pattern or complete a project using a kit but become very nervous when asked to create a design of their own from scratch. Maybe it’s the word itself that’s to blame – ‘designing’ sounds like something only ‘designers’ can do! So if you are one of the individuals who shy away from making your own original designs, I hope some of the following might give you the confidence to give it a try!

First of all, let’s consider what we mean by design. Really it’s simple – it’s a question of arriving at a solution that fits a brief, so, first thing to do is to ask yourself these questions;

  • What am I making?
  • Where am I making it for?
  • Who will use it?
  • How will it be used?
  • What will I make it from?
  • What techniques will I use?

As you consider the above you will usually find the answers to more than a single question. For instance, knowing where you will display or use your finished work will often determine size, proportion, colour and method of display/hanging. This is especially true if you are designing for a domestic interior – your own home or that of a commissioning friend or client. There may well be existing items in the space to provide inspiration – precious or favourite objects that might inspire your choice of colour or an existing colour scheme that needs to be considered. In the example below, the shape of the table dictated the shape, size and proportion of the runner and the colours, stripes and spots of the ceramics provided the design motifs.

I’m a quilt maker who creates quilted textiles for walls more than I make functional quilts for beds. This doesn’t mean I ignore the questions above. I still have to be sure the quilts are fit for purpose. I might not have to measure the width and length of a bed but I do have to know where and how my quilt will be displayed. Making for exhibition or competition has a different set of criteria. Often there will be a theme to satisfy. This is always my favourite option as you have a starting point to work from. If there’s no theme and you can make anything you like where on earth do you start? It’s bewildering! Much better to have the limitations of a subject, title or phrase. Researching the theme is always an enjoyable part of the process and often takes longer than actually constructing the piece. Once I have gathered my inspirational material, whether that be photographs, drawings, song lyrics, poems, quotations etc. I have all I need to design something that brings all of those elements together. If there’s a size limit for the quilt so much the better – another question answered! As you can see, quilts in the exhibition pictured below all had to conform to a set size.

With quiltmaking in mind specifically, the display of the finished item can be hugely important to the success of your design. My quilt To the Brim, illustrated at exhibition in the photo below, was conceived not to be displayed on a bed, or even a wall, but on the floor. The intention is that the viewer can walk all around it and view it from any side. Indeed the quilt has no ‘top’ or ‘bottom’ as a wallhanging might.

Once I’ve come up with a design, deciding on how to best execute it is the next step. Knowing how you want something to look is important in reaching a decision on how to achieve that. Technique is the means to an end, not the end in itself. At least that’s how it is for me!

I hope that’s been useful to you. Bye for now,

Linda x