Formstorming: Jacob Granneman

The incredible and elaborate quilt patterns created by the women of Gee’s Bend, are most certainly an example of formstorming. Formstorming, the process of finding inspiration and creativity through iterations of design and observations of many many designs, allows creators to devise far more unique and original work. This is precisely what the quilt makers of Gee’s Bend did. Limited by there socio-economic statuses, and restricted by there geographic location, these women pulled inspiration from there simple surroundings. They also pulled physical fabrics and materials from their surroundings. The quilts made of clothing scraps, and formed into designs inspired by the patterns on the barns and roofs, is an example of observing many designs around and creating a new design with unique contrast and patterning.

“Milky Way” by Nettie Young

The quilts at right, demonstrate superb balance with geometric patterns that are more abstract in nature. The quilt design featuring circular patterns, makes great use of contrast and presents a style that lands nicely in a rhythm of toggling colors. When you look at it, yours eyes switch back and fourth between light and dark shapes, giving a positive/negative space illusion, which adds to the overall strength of the design. The more triangular pattered quilt, definitely gives a strong sense of direction and even movement. The sharp, geometric repetition, makes the eye travel diagonally down from the top left. The arrow-like geometry, also informs us where we should look and track.

“Birds in the Air” by Lucy T. Pettway

Both designs are rather abstract, as they are not clearly identifiable as representing an event, object, or person. However, the circular patterned quilt, is titled “Milky Way” and is in an “H” arrangement. Thus, it could very well be representative of the actual star-scape of our galaxy. As for the “H” design, I am not sure. Perhaps, it is representational of a name, or place. Ultimately, these examples of superb design and design concepts, shows a level of understanding equivalent to that of the technique of formstorming. To look at the field, the barn, and the stars, and extract design inspiration is exactly what these women did. That process is exactly what formstorming is all about.




About Jacob Granneman

Jacob has been the Multimedia Editor for The Clark College Independent. He is also an improvisational actor and enjoys all forms of writing and videography. Find more of his work at or at
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