What I plan to be doing for the next year.

Lately my work studio has been filled with graphs, maps and molecular structures. Perhaps I'm crazy, but I think I've found a way to connect all of these seemingly disparate subjects into a new series.

A work wall in March.
I'm in the process of creating a contemporary quilt pattern language. One that reflects our current society's issues. For years, we've replicated the 'wagon wheel' and 'jacob's ladder' patterns in more traditional quilts. And as I've learned from my past series, they can effectively used to record history and even offer new knowledge to viewers who were previously unaware. These traditional patterns are certainly beautiful but why not attempt a new pattern language for today? I was inspired when I read about the myth of the Underground Railroad quilts. If it were true, what a brilliant idea! So, why don't we utilize patterns to talk about what we're dealing with today? Issues like climate change, the digital era, migration, water and food security, etc. There are certainly plenty of artists addressing these issues but I haven't found anyone who has created something that could be used by others to generate new pieces and new ideas. So I'm setting out to create a body of work to start the conversation.

Pages from the fabric book with conceptual wall pieces sketched below.
To kick off the series, I wanted to create some sort of book to reflect these new ideas. A lot of us know and love Louise Bourgeois' fabric books. What better way to pull of these ideas together into a cohesive form? It allows me to work out the fabric construction while exhibiting the patterns. I'm only using black and white at this point to really focus on the graphic design of the pattern making.

This pattern is about migration, the pattern was
inpired by looking at my daughter's flip flops one day.
 The patterns in the book act as a starting point to generate larger pieces. There are so many ways to use a pattern: altering scale, color and fabric. It's endless. Based on the patterns, I will create a series of large wall and floor pieces that are just one interpretation of the ideas.

The stories about these patterns are still evolving and the wall pieces will reflect this. They will be presented using relevant visual mapping, statistical information and structuring, whatever the subject calls for. For example, below and above is a piece about Colony Collapse Disorder occuring in the bee population worldwide. If we don't resolve this problem soon, our bee population will dwindle to the point of not being able to pollinate our crops and hence, grow our food. I'm simply laying out the molecular structure of the current causes of CCD, a series of pesticides called Neonicotinoids overlaid on top of the natural structure created by bees, the hexagon. Curious how visually related they are, isn't it?

I suspect this project will keep me busy for at least a year. I'll delve into each of these patterns as I develop them. The possibilities are endless.


Karen Thiessen said...

Kathryn, What a great idea! Thanks to your last post about Louise Bourgeois, I dug out my copy of her The Fabric Works book, and there her fabric books were. I am eager to see what the Kathryn Clark book of contemporary quilt patterns will look like.
all best, Karen

Meliors Simms said...

Kathryn, thank you for sharing this start of your project, which is so timely for me. I have recently launched my textile work in a new (more quilt-like) direction, developing a vocabulary of hand embroidery stitches to tell stories about industrial farming in particular/to begin with. So it seems serendipitous to read where you are taking your quilting work. I know from following your blog for some years that you (mostly?) quilt by machine (and I have no real quilting experience to speak of) but perhaps there is room for my hand stitches and your quilt patterns to talk together? I've written more about what I'm working on, and in partial response to this post, at www.meliors.net

kathrynclark said...

Meliors, your work is STUNNING! I could get lost in your site with all of that beautiful work! Most of my work 99% actually, is hand stitched so I suspect the same might happen with this series. The hand stitch is so much more beautiful and responds more accutely to these issues of mass production/destruction. Best of luck with the work!

Karen,I'm so glad you pulled out your Fabric Works book. So many amazing ideas there!

Thanks for the support!

season said...

I can't wait to see where you go with this. The idea of combining a contemporary lexicon with modern quilt making is fantastic. I find myself attempting (within my own work) to tell visual stories. Thank you for continuing the conversation of the larger issues - always inspiring.

Unknown said...

How very, very interesting! I am really looking forward to the development of this project. Good luck, mlise

sarah makes pictures said...

Very exciting idea. Keep us posted!

Christine Mauersberger said...

You are an innovator and a thought leader. Cheers!

Katrina said...

Wonderful, Kathryn! So excited to watch your next project evolve. And YES to your email. Writing you back now. xoxo

Lari Washburn said...

Really wonderful direction Kathryn. It reminds me of using metaphors to capture the body of knowledge they represent. When I worked in a corporation we utilized a Harvard Business School study on metaphors to help engineers get in touch with buried ideas and express them. It might be interesting to you as I think it relates to patterns. The reason I paint is because I'm not so great at words!

kathrynclark said...

Thanks for the support everyone! I'm so thrilled to hear everyone is excited about it. @Lari, I'm going to have to check out the HBR article you're referring to. I'm guessing it's by Gerald Zaltman. Fascinating research and a great additional dimension to ponder in my work! Thank you!

MulticoloredPieces said...

Oh, Kathryn, you just knocked me off my feet! What an amazing project--just brilliant. Sorry to hear about your cancer scare, but, maybe it gave you the perspective that will allow you to dig deeper. I am SO impressed by all this!
best, nadia


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