One morning while I was still asleep, Katelyn, my nine-year-old daughter at the time, rushed into my room and jumped on my bed saying, “Daddy, will you help me make a quilt?” She was possessed with the idea and couldn’t wait to get started. My eyes flipped open and I looked into her eyes, “Do you want to do a traditional quilt or unique quilt?” The quilt design had popped into my mind.
The quilt design was tailor-made for Katelyn. While the pieces are unusual in shape, they are all the same, and while the design places high demands on understanding the motion of the color through the fabrics, Katelyn had a tremendous sense of color even at that young age, so I believed she could handle it. Once we figured out the technique for sewing the pieces, it would be easy for her—and all on a subject she could relate to: the sun. She answered, “I would like to do an unusual quilt.”
Even though I had never made a quilt before, nor used a sewing machine, the idea for the quilt popped into my mind probably because I had primed the idea from a previous interest. At one point in my life I considered buying a quilting publishing company. I had been interested in niche publishing, where from a manufacturing point of view, a publisher could create a small range of topics but reach and serve its audience efficiently. When I was interested in the quilting books publishing company, I scouted the markets from a business point of view, attending quilting conventions and perusing quilting books and saw astonishing quilts. I realized quilting was a tremendous art form, and so my orientation to quilting had already been enriched, and clearly I was ready to design something in this arena when it popped into my mind and how such a quilt could be made.
As an artist I was also considering the theory of complexity, which describes a threshold of values that must be reached to satisfy the mind. Later when I was studying neuroscience the idea was confirmed: the mind is actually able to process complexity more easily than simpler things.
I wanted the quilt to communicate at multiple levels, so that the perciever would sense a complete message at one level and even a seemingly contrasting message at another level. For instance, I designed the entire quilt with the same size piece, so the resulting design communicates strict symmetry, but the colors flow fluidly at the same time. The subject—the sun—also communicates simplicity, yet the colors and other emergent patterns communicate complexity.
To create a smooth enough gradient, I knew that we would need many different colors of fabric and patterns of fabric. I wanted the shapes to overlap so that the colors from one fabric would more easily overlap the neighboring fabrics, and I knew we needed motion in the
sun rays and motion in the colors.
There are other features that help the nervous system contribute. I placed two color sets for the borders—purple on the bottom and top and red on the sides. I needed these two color sets to heighten the intensity of the yellows in two different ways—the purples through contrast and the reds through resonating the oranges in the sun. Because the colors move across a gradient from light blue to dark blue, we easily see the colors in the borders move through a gradient, from inside to outside, so our eyes contribute to making them seem like the same color. Because they aren’t, our eyes continue to move around the design, giving a sense of the piece being alive.
The subject is also a story—Joy cometh in the morning—where we see the dark being pushed out by the light, allowing the verbal story in the title to amplify the visual story isomorphically.
In the end, we have over 1,200 pieces and over 100 different fabrics.