Artfully Arranged? Compositions?

“Compositions matter. Artfully arranged anything can become a thing of beauty.” Years ago I discovered this quote from the talented designer Barbara Barry in House Beautiful, January 2013. She put into words my own lifelong interest in everyday living. Our surroundings influence us on many levels. Composition just refers to how something is arranged. For example, often we carefully set up a photo to include what we want. We may choose to exclude unsightly overhead wires from our picture–that is composition! Quilts can be seen as fabric compositions too. You can tell a lot about a person by what she surrounds herself with and how she arranges her surroundings. Here is a brief tour of my surroundings. This photo of our mantel needs some explanation.

As you look in the mirror in the foreground, you see the row of bird’s nests under glass arranged on the mantel. In the reflection, the double shades of the light located over the couch catch your eye. This is the middle ground. In the background the antique green enamel breadbox and all the dishes are located twenty feet across from the mirror. That kitchen area extends along the back wall of the 20′ x 40′ house Jeanne and I built in 1988. There is a lot of history stuffed into this photo!

I imported this 100 year old leaded glass window from Kansas City, MO where I’d salvaged it from a thrift store in the 1980s. I was drawn to the unusual heart shaped glass pieces and the series of moon shapes along the top.

All three items in front of the window are leftover decorations from a women’s event we organized last fall. The ornamental kale are from a local nursery. The pumpkin was a volunteer appearing on our compost pile. Every time I approach our deck, I am please to see this simple arrangement. I know that the terracotta pots contribute to my admiration of the grouping since I’m always drawn to terracotta.

“Mix and Match” was a phrase I first heard in junior high school (1950s) as related to our girls’ wardrobe planning. Ever since I’ve used this concept to surround myself with things I like–some match, but most mix-it-up to please my own eye! Here I’ve assembled favorite plants, terracotta pots, seashells. The centerpiece of this grouping is a collection of turquoise Japanese fishing floats corralled in a wire basket. These wondrous glass globes have traveled the sea on their own and then proceeded overland to me as a gift from a dear friend now deceased. Once they were used in Japan as buoys to keep fishing nets afloat.

Our forty acre homestead was owned previously by a group of “hippies” who built a tree house overlooking the creek we call Orchid Creek. The outdoor kitchen, small workshed and the tree house were disintegrating when I bought Cedar Hill in 1982. Left behind in the shed was this ancient Singer cast iron sewing machine. Several years ago I dragged it up hill to our house to become yard art for this avid sewer! Daffodils and ferns surround it in the spring. I see it from my 9′ tall windows every day and never fail to admire the curves and the sturdy frame.

Artfully Arranged. My original quilt pattern “Diagonal Dance” is a carefully composed group of fabrics selected to become a community of fabrics meant to be together. This pattern is like a giant puzzle that will fit together, but only you can decide what colors, what fabrics, what focus should be placed in each spot! The actual sewing is not difficult. Composition is what makes each quilt sewn with this pattern carry a unique visual personality.

Bonus question. In observing the first four photographs, some taken indoors and some outdoors, did you notice that they all have one aspect in common? Each photo contains a reflective surface–one quite effective way to keep the viewer’s eye engaged.

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4 Responses to Artfully Arranged? Compositions?

  1. Sue says:

    I am loving the blog this time! The bird nest under glass, Japanese fishing floats, the leaded glass widow(be still my heart!), and the terra-cotta pot arrangement. These are things I enjoy and have except for the floats, which I have wanted but never come across anywhere.
    As always an interesting read! Thank you for sharing.
    Merry Christmas to you both.
    Sue G

    • Paula says:

      Sue, I agree there is something special about those tourquoise or green fishing floats–perhaps because they appear as fragile glass, but each as survived a long sea voyage. Each is so unique. They are easy to find online. Here us a blog written by a dedicated enthusiastist: I know you will have fun learning more. Thanks for letting me hear from you about your positive response to what I wrote this week!

  2. Lila says:

    I enjoyed seeing these specific compositions in your home, Paula!
    So observant that each photo includes a reflective surface!

    • Paula says:

      Once we start looking, there are more reflective surfaces in our environments than we consciously realize–like all the trees dripping drops of water this morning and the puddles reflecting the still-gray skies. Each reflection can add another dimension to the view before us. Perhaps we are like crows drawn to shiny objects?

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