Category Archives: nature inspired

Swan Song

swan finished full

Swan Song 36″ x 25″

The summer of 2001 was a special time.  We were finally building our dream house on Lake Marion.  I spent the summer in the apartment over the garage; Bill came up on weekends. So I was alone on 9/11.  But not quite alone.  A juvenile Trumpeter Swan was hanging out on the lake. I began feeding him and he got used to me sitting by the lake.

I took many photos and have depicted him in fiber art a few times.  I made this last piece in January.  The house sold while I was finishing it.

The lake ice went out much earlier than usual this year.  Even though its still very cold the lake is full of migrating waterfowl.  The loons have returned and I am so happy to have caught sight of one. My swan never returned to the lake but I will take this one with me to North Carolina.  And it seems like a good image for my last post from the 45th parallel.




Filed under nature inspired, Uncategorized

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

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

A Useful Critique

A couple of weeks ago I took some pieces into the art center.  The visual director selected some for the sales gallery.  One piece she didn’t select was the more representational view of Marsh Marigolds, though she did take the abstract view,”The Marsh“.

Marsh Marigolds 22" x 32.5"

Marsh Marigolds 22″ x 32.5″

We have a good relationship and she is comfortable giving me critique.  She pointed out that the leaves/flower read like a big block of yellow.  Of course she is right.

Its kind of funny because one thing I love about walking in the woods is the play of light & shadow and even though I used fabric with texture and tried to make use of the white in some of the hand-dyes, it didn’t really convey that.

I changed some the fabrics and used some of my screen-printed silk organza to darken the leaves and, hopefully, get more of a light and shadow effect:

Marsh Marigolds


Filed under nature inspired

Cardinal Flowers…finished

Last week after a long workday (it was sidewalk sale week) I came home and decided to just start slicing away the the Cardinal flowers, taking a cue or two from the Photoshop prototype.  I was tired and didn’t over-think it.

Cardinal Flowers 24" x 33"

Cardinal Flowers 24″ x 33″

I used clear monoflilment thread and a zigzag stitch to attached the strips.  Then I fused on a new backing piece and zigzagged over all the connections again.  The stitching is invisible even at close range and the backing is securely attached.

This version is much more interesting to me and I rather liked the challenge of combining pieces. I pondered over the process.  Would it have been easier to combine the images before quilting?  I decided that it would have meant a LOT of starting and stopping.  Stitching the background first, adding the images and stitching them was easier.  It was a fun exercise and I may try it again, on purpose this time.


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Filed under abstract, free-piecing, nature inspired

More Beneath the Surface, a second Tall Story

I finished the second tall, narrow tree for Loose Thread’s forest.   I found a great hand-dyed piece for a winter sky.  I had originally planned for the ground beneath the surface to go from brown to purple then red and finally orange but when I pinned it up it didn’t look right so I reversed it and liked it better with the purple on the bottom to balance the purple/gray of the sky.

background pieced

background pieced

I drew a sort of a tree and the root system in Photoshop.  I liked the lime green roots but decided that the brown tree was not enough contrast and the tree was just too big.

Photoshop version

Photoshop version

Final version:  The tree is black and simple.

Winter tree crop for web

And I decided that the roots are still working their way down.  If you click on the image the whole length should appear on your screen.

More beneath the surface

More beneath the surface
70″ x 14″


Filed under abstract, Exhibits, free-piecing, nature inspired

Back to the Cardinal Flowers

cardinal flowers WIP

This piece has been on my design wall since March when I wrote that I was “Stalled”.  I had played around in Photoshop and had pretty much decided that I needed to cut it up and reassemble it but it clearly needed more than that.  Finally it dawned on me that there was not enough variety to make an interesting piece.  I didn’t want to introduced new imagery or new colors so I decided to add a flower in a different scale.   I also wanted a bit of calmer background.

big flower

Since the original piece was already quilted I made the larger image with the same batting and stitched the same random grid in the background.  Originally the entire background was gray hand-dye but it looked too separate from the original so after it was done I put in the batik.  It was a backward way to do it but this project has gone that way.  It obviously has something to teach me.

More playing in Photoshop and this time I decided to get bolder with the inserts:

Merged cardinal flowers

And I think this is a more interesting piece because of the inserts.  Now its a question of placement (this is just a bit too centered for my taste) , and, of course, just how I am going to reassemble the already quilted pieces.   I will make up some practice strips and try both monofilament and plain gray thread.

Of course its one thing to chop up an image in Photoshop.  Courage is needed.


Filed under free-piecing, nature inspired

Tall Story….Finished

Tall Tree Finished

72″ x 14″

I finished hemming the facing last weekend at the 212 Art Center‘s Art Camp.  Art Camp was really exciting for me so stay tuned for more about the experience.

Since we need a lot of trees to make a forest for the Loose Threads show in September I have started another “tall story” but this new on is much different.  Here’s the beginning of the background.  Now that I have a plan I hope to have the background done in the next few days.



Filed under free-piecing, nature inspired

Lavender Project Continues

I’m on my way to having 5 pieces ready for  the Artists Day at the Lavender Farm  on July 25.  There will be 15 artists who will set up in the lavender fields.  I can bring items to sell, information about classes, etc.

I’ve ordered mats and bag for these pieces (they are all 11 x 14) and then will have some kind of hand finishing on another piece so I will be doing something with my hands.  If there is time I’d also like to make a table runner and a bowl or two.  The combination of lavender and green is a very soothing palette.

Lavender closeup stage 3 for blog

Lavender field stage 2 for blog

Lavender Hills Blue Chair stage 2.for blog


Filed under free-piecing, nature inspired

The Lavender Project

Lavender Hills Farm just outside of Boyne City MI invited me to participate in an artist event later this month.  Artists will be in the gardens demonstrating their art and selling small works.  Easy for painters but more of a challenge for a fiber artist.  I am thrilled that I was invited  but I will need to most of my creating before the event.  I will save one piece to finish with beads or hand embroidery but the others will be finished before the big day.

So this morning I went out to the farm to take some photos.   There were plenty of scenes I wanted to capture.  Here’s a few:

DSCN0335  DSCN0337 DSCN0336

Field with turquoise house

This is the first one I decided to depict:


I decided that I would make all my compositions 11″ x 14″ and order mats for them.  Rather than crop  the image exactly and try to trace the the photo I wanted to go with the feel.  First the background was pieced and quilted:

Lavender closeup stage 1 for blogNext I fused strips for the stalks and stitched them as well:

Lavender closeup stage 2 for blog

I think I want to keep it more open than the photo.  I can always add more green if I need to.  Tonight I get to think about shapes to use for the flowers.  This is FUN.


Filed under abstract, free-piecing, nature inspired