Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: The Quilter's Book of Design

I've been muddling though Ann Johnston's The Quilter's Book of Design.  This paper back book is interesting, analytical and filled with photographs that show examples of each concept as she discusses them.  

Johnston focuses on the "visual tools" of balance, unity, variety, line, shape, value, color, pattern and texture.  One reason I chose to purchase this book is that I wanted to learn more about quilting from an artistic point of view.  I've always been interested in visual art, but considering my quilts "art quilts" has been a step I've been afraid to take.  
photo from Ann Johnston's website

Review from we see step-by-step fabric illustrations of her personal inquiries into various ways of dealing with each visual tool: balance, unity, variety, line, shape, value, color, pattern, and texture. Not settling for just blocks to illustrate the tools, she gives us finished art quilts to illustrate the tools. And even better, throughout the book Johnston gives us examples of quilts from various series of her work, so that by the time we come to the end of the book, we pretty much know how her mind ticks in her hungry quest for yet more excellence in her art making, as the series grow and evolve. We see the building of a personal style, and she's been telling us all along how she made decisions to get there.

Do I recommend the book?  Absolutely, but with reservations.  It's not an easy, fun read, but it is interesting, informative and helpful in learning about artistic design.  I had to push myself at times to get through the sometimes dry material, but I'm now happy that I did.  
photos from Ann Johnston's website

One of the things I most appreciate is that while I read, I found myself either agreeing or feeling that I already understood Johnston's theory.  Having studied fine arts as a teacher, I think I had an intuitive understanding of the concepts but not a way of explaining them to others.  Now I have a great resource for defining and explaining them.

Learn more about Ann Johnston, her books and her art at

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