Susan Shie Reviews Color Mastery

Susan Shie, Professional Quilter’s 2008 Teacher of the Year, art quilter, and owner of Turtle Moon Studios, joins us today to review Color Mastery.  Susan’s work is well-known throughout the art quilting community, with her painted and stitched narratives of her daily life.  She’s just completed a series of Obama Quilts that have been on CNN’s iReports.  Susan got her hands on an exclusive review copy of Color Mastery this summer, and offered this review.  Enjoy!

Color Mastery by Maria Peagler is an exciting book for the quilter who knows she needs to understand more about color and how to make it work, but has been frustrated by less organic and less hands-on approaches. This book would best be used by you if you can buy the book, review it a little on your own, and then take a class from the author.  Of course, some of you won’t be able to take Peagler’s classes, but if you are diligent and really do the exercises in the book, you’ll achieve a lot of skill on your own.

The very practical exercises in the book are set up to bring the student of color to a natural level of skillful use, by having you use your own fabric collection for all the exercises.   (This is not a book for learning to use paint or dye to create the colors of quilt compositions, but rather to learn to use fabrics as the colors in piecing and appliqué to create designs.)

Peagler asks, “Do you know where all of your fabric is stashed?” and advises you to take the time to collect all of your fabrics into one place, in order to have a very broad selection for the exercises ahead.  As a person trying to help the Earth become balanced again, I really appreciate this philosophy of Peagler’s, to ask us to work with what we have now and use it up!  We all know we own too much fabric now!!!

Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, but it’s good to try to use up your stash, and using what you already were attracted to, in buying it, helps you learn your own natural taste in colors, as Peagler points out.  She is leading you gently into the sometimes scary realm of understanding color, and helping you see that your own preferences can all be made to work together in the right combinations.  Very interesting technique:  all exercises are done with color swatches of your very own, so you have a comfort zone right from the start in working with familiar things you love, in order to learn.

By creating a color wheel from your own stash, you start to realize your very own, personal vocabulary of color awareness.  Peagler then instructs you to work always with color swatches from your own stash of fabrics, in creating a color journal, as a way of “sketching” your ideas for your quilts.  She has you make your own color studies in your journal for grasping the color issues of hue, value, intensity, harmony, contrast, etc, which she explains in very practical terms.  Then you move on to in-depth studies of various kinds of color harmonies, such as complimentary and triadic, and eventually get to make up your very own color harmonies.  This is all done with hands-on exercises of pulling fabrics from your own stash, and making studies in your color journal.  I applaud that she suggests it’s fine to break the color rules when you feel like it, too.

The latter part of the book includes instructions for making specific quilts designed by Peagler, but with the specific color harmonies used being decided by you, with your fabrics.  She even includes instructions for some quilts intentionally made with leftover scraps from her earlier quilt designs, which makes me very happy to see.  Recycling is where it’s at!

I particularly enjoy how Peagler helps you focus your plans for your next quilt by pointing out that you need to know why you’re making this piece.  Your simple motives: you love a particular color; you want to make a soft, restful piece for a particular person; you have a topic you’re addressing, etc – will give you differing clues as to which colors and color harmonies you’ll choose to work with.

Color Mastery is packed full of very useful charts, illustrations, lists of tips, things to think about, and color wheels and harmony patterns.  Maria Peagler is a gifted teacher who understands your fears and frustrations with quilt color combinations.  She does a beautiful job of merging the normally dry process of learning color principles with very intuitive exercises that let you relax and play.  Encouraging you to take risks, try new things, and do your own thing, she will guide you to the other shore, where you handle color with joy and success.

So get your copy of Color Mastery now, rein in your entire stash to work with, and roll up your sleeves.  You’ll soon be helping your friends solve their color issues, passing on this nurturing and down-to-earth way of understanding your own joy of color success!

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