Today I'm just going to talk about something that's been on my mind this week, which has been brought into clear focus by this great post by Monica.
For me part of the fun, the thrill of improv is in not knowing exactly what happens next. I might have an idea of what I want to achieve, colours I plan to use, shapes I'm going to focus on, something I hope to say, but because not everything is planned there is always room for happy accidents.
A couple of examples. My current WIP started with a serendipitous moment when I was scrolling through the black and white fabrics on a fabric website and found these two next to each other.
I wasn't looking for a starting point for a quilt, but there it was and it niggled away at me for three or four weeks, until I went back and ordered both fabrics.
The next example is from the same WIP and this is something I just noticed yesterday. This is in essence quite a simple idea: 9 patches and curved blocks combined in a way that pleases me and relates, in my head at least, to the photo I took as a starting point - not much more to it than that. But, as I add strips to my starting squares, to make them fit together, I am creating little secondary patterns. Look at the darkest square in the right hand section here - see the little rust coloured 'L'?
Now that I have spotted this I will think a bit more carefully as I add my filler strips, to start, sometimes, doing this deliberately rather than accidentally. For me it is picking up on these little themes or motifs that emerge all by themselves and incorporating them as I go along that often gives a piece much of its rhythm. Serendipity creates these elements but it is up to us to spot them and use them. Sometimes they work quietly away in the background, sometimes they change the way everything looks. This quote from M Mueller (from Joe Cunningham's Men and the Art of Quiltmaking, p.47) sums it up well:
...even though I may make a plan in the cutting and the laying out of the pieces, it is more like writing a short story; I can fill it in and if there is a narrative element that kicks that outline awry, I can go with the new narrative element.
As an aside, sometimes when I write this stuff I half expect someone to pop up and tell me it's all a load of bunkum. If I start producing nonsense, do feel free to let me know!