Allegra Brelsford Quilts

Much of my process has been learning to trust my own process. How many times have I read about all those successful quilters who plan every part out, including which fabric goes where, down to the binding, or who create full-color mock ups, or produce a perfectly representational computerized design? I can’t seem to get beyond an initial rough sketch. I remember the day I read the description of someone who simply worked intuitively, directly on her design wall, with no particular plan or vision in mind, but simply making each decision as she went. That hasn’t quite worked for me either.

And then the day came when a dear friend asked me, “So when you think of your creative process, what is going on for you?”

That question was the beginning of trusting myself as an artist. For in answering that question, I found that it is not about the “how to.” It is about how I am being as I create.

Yes, there is a vision, an idea of what the result will be in the end. That vision can come from anywhere, and I often see it as a landscape. By that I mean a visual plane where certain things seem to be happening, but nothing is specific or concrete. I grab a piece of that landscape in my mind, and then find the thing that seems to speak of it – a shape, a piece of fabric, a palette of color.

Then I give myself just two or three “rules,” and no more than that. The rules to my mind are a way to structure myself as I go so that I don’t have to get too caught up in so many decisions that I become paralyzed, lost in limitations of my mind, too slow to move on. A rule can be anything, such as, “only greens that have blue in them, and yellows that are orange-y,” or “use this block as the basis, but use that line coming out of it to create the setting structure.” A sense of how I want to work with value almost always ends up becoming one of my rules, because I often find that not only does value offer up a structure that is tied to color, composition, scale, etc. but also is the one thing I can count on to make my piece unique.

At this point, I try to work as unfettered in my mind as possible, and simply trust my vision and  my “rules.” This is not to say I’m not making decisions all along the way, but whenever I find myself  stuck, I reach for the vision and the rules as quickly as I can. When I have a certain amount of  information up on the wall, whether it be a series of blocks or other pieced parts, only then do I allow my mind to go full force and start making decisions as to what goes, what stays, what works, what doesn’t. Nancy Crow, to whom I am indebted for boosting my confidence and permitting me to work the way I do, tells us that it is only in the final stages of the process that we allow our “critic” to come out and play. This helps me enormously, because otherwise I am too smart for my own good, and trip myself up mercilessly.

So how am I “being” when I am “doing?” I like to use words such as free, passionate, focused, committed and clear. If I can choose in any given moment to be present to those qualities, then the “how tos” become less important, and the process, whatever that is for me in that moment, can be present.

Thank you.

all photos on this page are © 2011