Saturday Studio: Dazzle, Pattern, Color, & Bling

Alyssa Dumire, Director of Education

Step into Dazzle, Pattern, Color, Bling: The Alluring Patterns of Liz Quisgard and you’ll be bombarded with a selection of art befitting the exhibition’s “extra” title. Texture, embellishment, bright colors, and intricate patterns populate the paintings, wood sculptures, and fiber works. These elements are such fun to explore in our own projects that Quisgard has inspired not one, but two previous Saturday Studios, and today we’re making it three!

Although the artist is adamant that her work is purely visual with no deeper meaning or narrative, her influences are wide-ranging: Islamic rugs, Greek column capitals, Navajo textiles, Byzantine mosaics, and Baroque architectural embellishments. Where can you find evidence of these inspirations in the selection of works below?

The architectural influences are clearly visible in Quisgard’s paintings and sculptures, while her pseudo-pointillist surfaces might remind us of the small tiles that make up mosaics. In her fiber works, the intricate patterns as well as the fuzzy medium hearken to her most enduring influence: Islamic rugs. The “bling,” a more recent addition to her work, catches the light much like the gold tiles in a Byzantine mosaic.

While they’re inspired by woven rugs, Quisgard’s fiber works are made using buckram, a fabric with an open, grid-like weave through which she stitches with boldly colored yarn. For another approach to fiber art that requires no needles or knotting, we’re trying yarn painting, which is exactly what it sounds like! Yarn or string takes the place of a brushstroke, creating “paintings” full of texture and intricate linework. Like Quisgard, today’s techniques are influenced by a variety of sources: we’ll look to her colors and patterns for inspiration, but the process itself originates elsewhere. The Huichol people of western Mexico press bold hues of string or yarn into beeswax-coated boards, creating yarn paintings full of intricate, symbolic patterns. The technique is a great way to achieve curvy lines and concentric patterns, and to use up any scraps of yarn you might have around the house!

You’ll need:

  • Contact paper or glue and thick paper or cardboard
  • Yarn in bright colors (can be leftover scraps from other projects!)
  • Scissors
  • Optional embellishments (sequins, faux gems, or found objects like coins and bottle caps)
  • Pencil
Liz Whitney Quisgard, American, b. 1929. Scrambles Contained. Yarn on buckram with plastic sequins, 2013
Loan of the Artist. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

First, if desired, plan out your design by sketching directly on your board or on a piece of paper if you’re using contact paper. Inspired by Quisgard’s Scrambles Contained, I knew I wanted my yarn painting to include organic shapes enclosed by a border, so I just sketched the border. If you’re going for a more precise, geometric design, you will probably want to plan it out more carefully. Consider the thickness of your yarn or string when planning your design (chunky yarn isn’t very good at small, intricate patterns).

Cut your preferred color of yarn to a manageable length (you can always trim more later!), then…

  • If you’re using contact paper, peel off the backing and lay the paper over your sketch, then press a piece of yarn to the surface, following the lines of your design. 
  • If using glue and cardboard, apply glue to one section of your design and apply your yarn. If the yarn isn’t staying in place, try waiting a minute or two for the glue to become tacky. You may also want to use a popsicle stick or the end of a pencil or paintbrush to push the string into place (otherwise it might just stick to your fingers!).

Once you’ve filled in the desired area with one color, trim the end with scissors. Continue adding more yarn (and glue, as needed) in different colors until your entire surface is filled.

Use glue to add any desired embellishments for some added shine!

Dazzle, Pattern, Color, Bling: The Alluring Patterns of Liz Quisgard is on display at FWMoA through February 27th, 2022.

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