Radiating Composition

January 14, 2007


A couple months ago I read an interesting book about art quilts; Journey of an Art Quilter, by Barbara Olson. It is a very interesting read about the author’s experience beginning to quilt and learning what works for her. Then she goes on to explain how she works, her techniques and her processes. One section that I find especially interesting is about her finding and understanding her own innate program which guides her in her design of new projects.

Ms Olson suggests that every person has an innate way of creating that we come into the world with and from where our uniqueness emerges. She feels that working contrary to that “program” results in frustrations. So her suggestion is to find your program and work within it. Some of the examples of possible ways of creating are to form a frame and fill it in, to work from the right to the left, or vica versa, or to work from the top to the bottom, among others. She herself creates from the center out.

Being the skepical person that I am I figured, “Yeah, right” It works for her, but I don’t have any innate program like that.” And I kind of forgot about it.


Later I was looking at my recent work and suddenly realized that all of the work that I have done recently that I am happy with has a radiating composition. Every one of them. Hm-m-m-m. What was that she said about an innate program?


So, in light of this discovery, I am going to be exploring radiating compositions over the next few months and see if there is something to this. I did use a radiating composition on my 12 x 12 journal quilt for January and I am very happy with it. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. I should post it by next Wednesday. It’s done already, but we’re actually having grey, rainy days here in San Antonio and since I use natural light to photograph I have not been able to get good pictures.

So what might your innate program be?



  1. Very interesting idea. I think I must be a radial quilter too. When I am not following a pattern I tend to start in the middle and work out. That sounds like an interesting book. I don’t consider myself an art quilter but maybe that is my future.

  2. I am so glad you mentioned this book. I have been meaning to read it.

    I love your radial compositions. I think they express hope. Kind of a coming into the light idea. Your first 12x12x12 is gorgeous. It looks like a pebble has been dropped into a clear blue lake on a sunny day. Very cool.

  3. Interesting realization. I am quite sure I have no innate program, however I am quite fond of radiating patterns.

    I love the way your compositions use traditional patterns in a non-traditional way to evoke radiation. You definitely have found your niche there. Beautiful work.

  4. Does cluttering a surface count as innate? It must because I tend to arrange everything in my lifespace and now I am happy doing it on the surface of quilts too. I think that is why crazyquilting is appealing to me.

  5. How very interesting! I can’t count the times I’ve picked up that book, thumbed through it, and set it back down … because I’m not an “art quilter.” But it sounds like there are some universal theories of design/creativity. I’ll have to pick it back up again.

    One of my daughters was tested a few years ago for adult ADD, and one of the tests was insightful. She was shown a grid containing different designs (stripes, dots, circles, etc.) within each cube of the grid, and then it was taken away. Her task was to draw what she’d seen. (Before I explain it, where would YOU start?)

    She began by sketching the designs within the cubes! The common response is to draw the outside parameters of the grid and then work inward. The significance of her choice was that she sees the details (and can get bogged down in them) before she sees the Big Picture. We talked about it later and she says she was afraid she would forget the designs, so that’s why she started with them first. Maybe she’s just a radial-brained thinker!

  6. Fascinating! I got that book some time ago, thumbed thru it and never got around to reading it. Now I definitely need to. I guess my 12 x 12 this month was radial, I’m going to go look at my journal quilts and see how I did them. Since I didn’t design most of the quilts I’ve made, but used other’s patterns, they don’t count. Now that I have EQ I want to start designing my own.

  7. I also read that book and loved it. Don’t know what I am though…have to think about it or read the book again! The two quilts you show here are gorgeous, each in it’s own way!

  8. Your radiating quilts are a great example of your process of radiating out. I think I work this way a lot when I get away from more traditional work
    Thanks for the lesson and reference to the book. I have bumped into Sherry in a chat room on “The Quilt Show” web site. Now I have another point of reference for her.
    Keep creating
    Sherry Lynne

  9. Your radiating quilts are a great example of your process of radiating out. I think I work this way a lot when I get away from more traditional work
    Thanks for the lesson and reference to the book.
    Keep creating
    Sherry Lynne

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