Category Archives: free-piecing

Forest Fire


27″ x 20″

A forest fire can be destructive but it can also renew a forest with new growth. Some species, such as the Jack Pine, require the heat of a fire for their seeds to germinate.  I tell myself this to put some positive spin on my new piece.  I made it in response to an assignment to illustrate movement.

Last month I began a year long online master class with Elizabeth Barton.   Each month Elizabeth presents a concept via an essay with examples of artwork illustrating the principle.  Each participant produces 3 sketches based on the concept and we need to turn them in by the 10th of the month.  They are posted to a private blog with Elizabeth’s critique and we choose one to develop.  We have another 10 days to produce a block-out mockup of our piece and submit it for comment.  The finished work is due by the end of the month.

One of the things I love about this class is being able to follow the progress of each student’s artwork.  Each student has her own style and methods.  No two pieces resemble each other at all.  Since its all on our blog I can spend lots of time studying the photos and reading Elizabeth’s comments and suggestions.

In January we explored contrast and I will share my January piece at some point.  I submitted it to a show and while there is no restriction about showing it ahead of time I’ve decided to see if by some wild chance its accepted.

I found the February assignment to be challenging.  For some reason I wanted to try a subject I had not explored and to treat it in a somewhat  abstract way. I’m not sure where the idea of the forest fire came from.

The fire in the background was a lot of fun. Nothing like hot colors in drab and dreary February.  The trees gave me fits until I realized that I was falling back on my very literal tree shapes that did not work with the abstracted background.  I took another look at how Patty Hawkins suggests trees with simple shapes.  All my fabric choices seemed too heavy and then I recalled a very old piece Ghosts of the Forest and decided to try organza.

Kathie Briggs SAQA  Ghosts of the Forestl

Ghosts of the Forest 2006

I finished in time.  March & April might be tricky but I am really going to try to produce one new piece each month


Filed under abstract, free-piecing, nature inspired

April Accomplishments

Jenn's Mirror

My massage therapist is launching a life coaching practice and will use some videos in her sessions.  She had to mount a TV in the space and it looks very out of place in the surroundings.  So I made a piece to hang over it.  I used her chalkboard for color inspiration  but didn’t wish to compete with the images or the words so I kept to simple free-piecing.

What she has written on the chalkboard is interesting, particularly because I am going to try to make a piece fore an exhibit that is themed “Wabi Sabi”.

Jenn's quilt 72 dpi

I was the topic of a nice article in our regional weekly paper.  I was especially pleased the at the author did not resort to the tired phrase “not your granny’s quilts..” Northern Express 1 Northern Express 2Poppies Again 72 dpiCharlevoix area resident Kathie Briggs creates eyecatching landscapes and nature scenes, which is common for a northern Michigan artist. What’s more uncommon is that, instead of using oils, pastels or watercolors, Briggs’ medium is fabric and thread.

“I paint with fabric because I’m fascinated by the visual and tactile texture of cloth that is further enhanced by the impression made by the stitch,” she explains. “I enjoy combining my own hand-dyed and painted fabric with a wide variety of commercial fabrics.”

Growing up in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Briggs was exposed to art at an early age.

“My grandparents sent me to the Detroit Institute of Art for classes when I was really young, probably six or eight years old,” she recalls. “I just always enjoyed doing art.”

After earning her degree at Western Michigan University, she opted for a practical vocation and taught computer science. Briggs had a long and varied professional career before retiring to northern Michigan in 2001, making her full time in a region she had grown to love while spending childhood summers at Arbutus Beach on Otsego Lake, south of Gaylord.


I have always loved working with fabric. For many years I sewed artsy clothing and home decoration projects. About 25 years ago, I became fascinated with fiber art dolls. I created original art dolls and taught doll making at a quilt shop. Through the shop, I discovered artists creating paintings from fabric, employing some of the techniques used by quilters. I was hooked.


My studio is tucked in the woods and overlooks a small lake between Charlevoix and Ellsworth. No surprise that I find much of my inspiration in the ever-changing seasons and shifting colors of the surrounding woods and fields. The landscape, as well as the abundant northern Michigan wildlife, supplies endless opportunities for study and interpretation.


The portrait of my dogs, Charlie and Annie. The Jordan River Art Center had a Dog and Pony Show a few years ago. I was hesitant to try because black dogs are hard to depict, but I succeeded, and everyone who sees the pictures knows which dog is which, and both pieces are included in the recent book “1000 Dog Portraits.”


I can write with a sewing machine, and I once coached a men’s intramural football team for two years in college. I took a class in coaching football at Western. This was back in the ‘60s and a men’s team asked me to coach them. We made it to the semi-finals the first year with a bunch of freshmen. I come from a football family. My grandfather was Gus Dorais (former Notre Dame All-American quarterback and long-time coach at the University of Detroit. Dorais also coached the Detroit Lions during World War II.) My grandpa would be proud!


It’s really hard to narrow it down to one artist, but if I have to choose one, it would be Renoir for many reasons. He said ‘For me, a picture be a pleasant thing, joyous and pretty — yes, pretty. There are too many unpleasant things in life for us to fabricate still more.’ I pasted this in the front of my sketchbook.


Inspiration usually comes from doing the work, rather than before it.


At the Crooked Tree Art Center in Petoskey, the Charlevoix Circle of Arts, Round Lake Gallery in Charlevoix and at

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Filed under abstract, free-piecing, Published

“The 100” – Winter Solstice

FFAC2015logoThis year 100 fiber artists were asked to create artwork that will be given to the first 100 donors who pledge $100 to the American Cancer Society through Fiberart For A Cause.  This goal of $10,000 will bring the total raised by Fiberart For A Cause to a quarter million dollars.  The fundraiser begins on February 4, 2015.  Details can be found of the Fiberart For A Cause website.

“Winter Solstice” was created specifically for this Fiberart For A Cause fundraiser.

Winter Solstice 12" x 15"

Winter Solstice 12″ x 15″

Winter is a time for nature to rest in anticipation of new growth in spring. The winter solstice marks the change from the days becoming shorter to the days becoming longer again. It can be a time of monochromatic landscapes that invite reflection.


You can see many more of the donated artworks on a special Pinterest Board.


Filed under abstract, free-piecing

No Time for Art

Much has happened since I posted here two month ago.

For some time we have been talking about moving to a milder climate and last month we bought a house in Weaverville, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville.

Our Michigan house is for sale and getting the house and studio ready to show has taken most of my time.  With our prolonged winter it has been a formidable task.

Luckily I started preparing for a move in December but getting rid of (at least) 10 things every day. I have made countless trips to recycling and the charity resale shops.  I have sold items on eBay and Craig’s list.  I have given away almost all my craft items, books and doll house items.  And it feels wonderful to be free of things I no longer love or no longer need.

I’ve had very little studio time but I did manage to finish a piece I started in a workshop I took with Gwen Marston the day before I went to Asheville and fell in love with the new house.  Gwen’s workshop was about creating abstract quilts using only solid fabrics.   I almost never use solids so I had to buy some fat quarters just to have a decent selection of fabric.  Turned out to be a lot of fun and I love the contrast that you get with solids.  I like it enough to try a couple more and then see how I will incorporate solids with my usual batik and hand-dyed fabrics.

29" x 17.5"

29″ x 17.5″


Filed under abstract, free-piecing

What Happened to February?

Its the shortest month of the year but around here it often feels like the longest month.  Cold, snow, colder, more snow.  This year the weather was terrible, like most of the eastern half of the US but my month flew by.

Circumstances limited my studio time but I concentrated on two pieces with imminent deadlines

Golden Marsh 34" x 34"

Golden Marsh 34″ x 34″

Golden Marsh is my entry for a Michigan Regional SAQA exhibit “Michigan Memories”.  Work needed to be created specifically for the show and while I was tempted to just create something white-on-white to memorialize this memorable winter I decided that spring is a happier memory so I returned to my marsh marigold series.  Working with the bright colors was a good antidote to the white & gray outside my window.

Jazz Flow 29" x 29"

Jazz Flow 29″ x 29″

Jazz Flow was a more challenging project.  Its for “Got Jazz?” an upcoming traveling exhibition of the Fiber Artists Coalition.  I wanted to create something that represents what I hear in the music without using any literal imagery.  I started this last year and various parts lived on my design wall for a while before I figured out how I wanted to make them come together.

I set Feb. 28 as my deadline (to give myself time to be done a bit ahead of the actual deadlines) and photographed them over the weekend.

My goal for March is to finish the samples for a workshop I’m teaching in April.  And to get back into blogging once a week or so.


Filed under abstract, free-piecing, nature inspired

Color Therapy Continued

I enjoyed the process of free-piecing the log cabin assemblies and  decided to use the same 4 colors but with red as the predominate color for the log cabins.  The red called out for more lime green.  Purple and turquoise played supporting roles.

"Don't Worry; Be Happy!"  approx 21" x 21"

“Don’t Worry; Be Happy!” approx 21″ x 21″

And I think though this piece has the same elements it has a very different feel.  I worked on this piece in frigid single digits temps and a snow storm.  I’m wearing a lot of layers and taking breaks to put more wood in the stove. But the colors made me happy and soon I was singing Bob Marley’s song.  So this piece has a name.

I worried a little that working with such bring, saturated color that I might not be paying enough attention to value but when I took black & white photos (something I often do when creating a composition) I was happy to see a decent mix of values:

first compostion

first composition

second composition

second composition

Tomorrow I will start a different grid exercise.  Time for a new palette. Something with blue.  And with blue I will want orange and ???   If I’m more-or-less  snowed in at least I can play.


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Filed under abstract, free-piecing

Color Therapy

It has snowed nearly every day the past two months. The sun has come out rarely though it made an appearance today; something it only seems to do when we register single digits. So this week I decided it was time to bring out the bright colors and have some fun.

I’m working through some exercises I have designed for an upcoming class.  I like to have several samples to share with the class.  This is a grid exercise and I decided to play with free-form log cabin assemblies.

I keep my scraps in clear plastic shoe boxes and I like to start my piecing using scraps.  I can always cut from yardage is I can’t find what I want in the scrap box. I grabbed four boxes holding favorite colors:  green, red, purple and turquoise.

untitled 21" x 21"

untitled 21″ x 21″

Its stitched and back on the design board while I contemplate a matching or contrasting binding.  I have flipped it around several times before decided which way was up!

I’m repeating the exercise with red as the predominate color and more contrast.   I am having a blast and the bright colors have put me in a happy mood.


Filed under abstract, free-piecing