Monday, June 14, 2010

The taper in the tiles

Still working away on that Baños piece. The roofs specifically. After fusing a bunch of the tiles I had a revelation. There was something not right about those tiles. They didn't seem to lay down the way they should and I kept seeing stacks of thread spools instead of tiles.

Then it struck me that those tiles taper ever so slightly so that one end is narrower than the other. That allows them to overlap each other. So I peeled them off (I never fuse things very securely until I am finished, for this very reason) and trimmed each tile so that it tapers a bit. Do you see the difference?

It is a small thing, but it made a big difference to my eye. I read that originally those roof tiles were made by hand and shaped by rolling out a slab of clay that the maker shaped by forming it over his own upper leg, giving it just the right curve and taper.

I know by telling you this I am exposing that "fussy" side of my art-making that makes me feel a little defensive. I have artist friends who give me a hard time about needing to make things "perfect" and precise. The work I do is not of the very free-flowing and spontaneous sort of abstraction that a lot of fabric art tends to be.  But it is what it is and I really don't go to great lengths to be perfectly, precisely accurate. I love seeing that other kind of work, but it isn't what I was cut out to do. I used to worry about that. Now I don't. The kind of representative things that I make have a lot of abstraction in them and I am always a little puzzled by the observations of others that talk about precision. You can see in both of those closeups that the tiles are not precise at all. Making those tiles taper a bit actually made them less precise, but for me it made them more "right". It always bothers me, in both representational and very abstract art when planes and angles feel wrong. When lines are awkward. When composition is out of whack. It is all the same, whether meant to look like something real or not, it is composition, planes, lines, balance, color. The plane of that roof didn't tilt in the right direction until I tapered the tiles. I remember a college professor saying that even in the most non-representational work the laws of physics and gravity and nature still provide the sense of order that helps you make sense of what you see. I have a pet irritant in artwork—trees that taper in the wrong direction. I wonder, has this artist never noticed that tree trunks are larger at the bottom and smaller at the top? Or maybe it's irrelevant to them and maybe I am fussy. That really isn't something I want to be.


  1. I agree that the tapered tiles look better, and that it was worth trimming them to get them looking right.

  2. I like the tapered tiles too. Don't feel bad about your art. I, too am a symmetrical person. Completely understand wanting things to look real, look right, and will spend hours getting it that way. Don't change a thing about yourself and don't feel bad - it's what makes you, you!!

  3. Terry, It is good to have art that looks "right". a rest for the senses from the free-for-all type of art.
    your work settles very nicely into the calm and well-being part of the eye. It fits. the viewer doesn't always need to be provoked or to have to search to find the sense of a thing.

    keep on!
    Sandy in the UK

  4. Anonymous5:37 AM

    Please continue to do what you do and don't second-guess yourself. I think your work is sensational!! I never think of it as fussy (or not), but just beautiful.

  5. They are beautiful tiles, well worth the time and effort...I get the same comments when I make quilts with pieces the size of sprinkles on a doughnut...

  6. It has definitely added more dimension to the tiles. I'm really glad someone has the patience for this. *S*

  7. They look "real" after you tapered them. Before they looked like brick steps, too regular.


  8. What a difference a little tapering makes!

  9. And what does it say about my confidence that whenever you make a comment like this, I am sure you are referencing my work? LOL Now, I have to go look at all my tree trunks.

  10. Anonymous10:05 AM

    Yes, Tapering was just what those tiles needed. Continue to take joy in what you do.


  11. Gerrie, I think your tree trunks all taper the right direction! Your trees are great. But it's nice to know I'm keeping you on your toes! ;-)

  12. Fussy or not, my pet peeve is that it look intentional. I want the artwork to look like the artist wanted it to look that way -- representational, detailed, naive, bold, abstract, realistic, whatever. If it's somewhat realistic and representational, then yes, the planes and volumes need to be right. If it's abstracted, then it needs to look intentionally off, not just off because the artist isn't capable of making it "right." Your artwork is intentional, so as far as I'm concerned, keep on being as fussy as you want to be! :-)

  13. I feel so un-qualified to comment except to say that you made the right move with the tiles. They look so much more authentic.I can't wait to see how this piece progresses. It's wonderful.

    Regarding the squirrels you commented on. We made a simple corn cob feeder. A stationary piece of wood with a nail that holds the cob. If you think their antics are at all amusing-you should see them perform acrobatics over the corn cob. You can buy a bag of cobs for very little in the nursery around here. Worth every penny.

  14. what i am so impressed with is your knowledge of yourself... we all have to put down what looks and feels right to us... and your work reflects that.

  15. I'm in awe of your powers of observation. Among other things!

  16. You have such a good eye for detail, Terry, and that's partly what makes your work so striking--the attention to detail on so many levels. And I wholeheartedly agree with Kristin's comment, about the abstract vs more realistic work, and the awkwardness of stuff that is in between. I don't think you are fussy -- you have a discerning eye. That is a GOOD thing. :-)

    (The change to the tiles was worth it! I thought they looked amazing originally but you're right, the slope makes the perspectives clearer. Small details CAN matter.)

  17. Terry - your work is your work. I often find that those who make comments about detailed work and detail are those who don't know how to create it, nor want to take the time to learn the skills they need to do it.

    I LOVE your tiles - they look so realistic.

    I've stopped feeling that I need to do what others do. I finally understand abstraction, but it's not and probably never will be anything more than an occasional venture for me.

    I am detail oriented and it shows in my work - it's who I am and what I do, no point in doing something else.

  18. The change in the tiles makes a big difference. I'm not a good enough artist to have been able to figure out what was wrong, but like you I am bothered when a stylized, but still representational, piece like yours has something wrong. The wrong kind of leaf or a leaf that grows wrong drives me nuts. Complete abstraction is a different matter.

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