Formstorming: Travis Thomas

Bars And String-Pieced Columns” by Jessie T. Pettway. 1950s, Cotton, 95 x 76 inches.

The first quilt that I chose to analyze was a quilt produced by Jessie T. Pettway called Bars and String-Pieced Columns. This quilt is a great example of form storming just like all of the quilts that came out of this area because they had no outside influence to copy or to base off of. This design in particular looks like it was based on stacks of various fabric and materials that were lying around one of the houses. Or it could be a bunch of finished quilts stacked together in a pile. She was able to make this very abstract representation from her own mind as she went. The quilt uses a very abstract and organic design. The different pieces of fabric that are stacked in the columns are curved and irregular giving the design more of an organic flow. Even the bars that have the different colors in them aren’t perfectly straight, they curve a little making this design come off as very organic and fluid. The fluidity that is created by the irregular repeating pieces of fabric works to create rhythm and pacing throughout the design leading your eye all over work as well somewhat from top to bottom to take the whole thing in. The three bars with somewhat even spacing between them creates balance and symmetry in the design making it visually appealing. The design definitely represents something that the woman is seeing in her day to day life, but it is not directly represented in this work. The design uses a bunch of randomly colored pieces of cloth to create an abstract picture of what it was that she was looking at.

“Housetop” Medalion Variation by Liza Jane Williams. 1950s, Cotton and synthetic blend, 83 x 79 inches.

The second quilt that I chose to focus on is the quilt called “Housetop” created by Liza Jane Williams. This quilt again is a very good example of form storming. The design on this quilt is based on what looks to be what the view would be looking down on the house that she lived in. This design came directly from her physical environment and was made just what was left over that they had. This idea was completely uninfluenced by other works of the time and it speaks to its originality. The design somewhat abstract in nature but very geometric. Each of the pieces has very hard crisp edges compared to the other quilt that I looked at making it seem more man-made. This tactic fits the title because it is supposed to be representing the housetop which is a man-made structure. That being said this walks the line between abstract and representational because if you didn’t have the title it would be hard to tell what it was making it more abstract but with the title it is easy to tell that the object on the left is a house top and the right is a river or body of water of some sort. There is a lot of balance in this design. The multiple small pieces and objects on the right are counterbalanced with the large and contrasting blue body of water on the right side of the design.

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