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Hey, constructive criticism, or critiques are helpful, not scary

You know when you are getting ready to go out, and you turn to your friend and say “the blue sweater or the red one?”, and they say “The blue one, it goes with the pattern on your shoes”. That is basically what a critique is. You are asking for and receiving helpful advice, with reasoning behind the advice, to achieve the (in this example) best outfit possible. We want you to apply this idea to your craft projects. The idea is not to put down or speak harshly about your projects, but to bring unique perspectives of others and help elevate a project to it’s best.

Another way to put it is- Say you want to become a better tennis player. Play with someone who is better than you. They will push you to perform better in order to win, and you will learn from them.

I love quilting, so for these first few examples, we will focus on looking at quilts and critiquing them. The basic elements of an art critique are description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment. We will discuss how the elements of art are used as the building blocks of the pieces, and then how the principles are applied. All of these quilts are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Example 1:


Critique of this quilt:

This is a 17th century quilt from China, made for export to Europe. This is a wonderful example of fine craftsmanship. In this quilt, the elements of art that are utilized are shape, space, and color. The principles of design incorporated into this piece include emphasis, repetition and unity.

Emphasis is achieved by creating a focal point in the center of the quilt, with lots of detail and color, surrounded by a lighter fabric that is only one color.

Squares are repeated multiple times in this example, bringing the viewer’s eye into the center, which is a circle. Which is another way emphasis is achieve- the contrasting shapes (squares vs. a circle) makes the center stand out even more. When composing images, it is easier to think of parts of your image as general shapes to start, separate from the subject. You can see this idea simplified with the color overlays below:


The embroidered flowers, fruits and animals are repeated in the border and center piece, which help tie the piece together even though there is a large space of plain fabric in-between the border and center. Some of the repeated parts are highlighted below:


Unity is achieved through symmetry here. If you cut the quilt in half, either horizontally or vertically, the layout remains the same.


Would you change any part of this quilt?

Example 2:


Critique of this quilt:

This is an American made quilt from 1885, made in New York with silk, satin, velvet, and cotton. This looked like it was so much fun to make! The overall shape of this quilt is a rectangle, made up of smaller square blocks. Each block is made of smaller strips of fabric, varying in shape, size and color. In this quilt, the elements of art that are utilized are line, texture and color. The principles of design incorporated into this piece include movement, repetition and variety.

Line is used here in two ways. First, each smaller block is made up of strips of fabric, each which can be considered a line on it’s own. Secondly, the entire quilt is made on a grid, which you can see forming when you look at the overall quilt. These are implied lines.

Texture is achieved by using all the different fabric types that make up this quilt. The different weights and surfaces of each of the smaller pieces of fabric combined together give the quilt body and texture.

Within all the smaller blocks or squares, the fabric pieces are sewn together on diagonals. Diagonal lines create a sense of direction and movement. Your eye continuously moves around the quilt, there is no focal point to stop at.

A variety of colors, shapes and sizes are used to make up this quilt. No two blocks are the same. This works to achieve the overall look and feel of this “crazy” quilt. (Note: “Crazy quilts” are a real thing, they refer to textile art of crazy patch-working. Because the careful geometric design of a quilt block is much less important in crazy quilts, quilters are able to employ much smaller and more irregularly shaped pieces of fabric. In comparison to standard quilts, crazy quilts are far more likely to use exotic pieces of fabric, like silk and velvet. Embellishes, like ribbons and buttons are also common. Crazy quilts became popular in the late 1800s.) 

What would you change to push this even farther?

Example 3:

quilt 3

Critique  of this quilt:

This is another American quilt by artist Mertlene Perkins (American, born Gastonburg, Alabama, 1917–2015 Alberta, Alabama). I love, love, love this quilt. This is a wonderful example of how even a seemingly simple design can be impactful and timeless. In this quilt, the elements of art that are utilized are shape and color. The principles of design incorporated into this piece include pattern, repetition and rhythm.

The triangles create strong directional arrows throughout this piece. Triangles are formed in both the positive space (the white fabric) and the negative space (the green background fabric).

The quilt is made up of a pattern of the same sized triangles, repeated over the entire quilt front.

The striking larger lines formed by the groups of triangles in 5 large vertical strips are pleasantly broken up in three places, where a group of triangles are turned and point in a horizontal direction. This adds rhythm to the quilt.

Would you add or take anything away from this design?

activity iconActivity 1 – Everyone will have different reactions and interpretations when looking at projects, and that is great! The more perspectives, the more helpful the critique. Using the same format as the prior critiques (description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment) critique a project posted in the community blog – talk about the elements of art as the building blocks of the pieces, and then how the principles are applied.  Have a go at critiquing a project here in the community blog.

activity iconActivity 2– Observe the images of the quilts below. Take your time to look over each one. Spend 5 minutes looking at each image. I know, that’s a long time in the internet world today, but just try! Let your eyes linger on all parts of the image. You may have an initial gut reaction to something that can change if you give it a little more time. Then compare and contrast the following two quilts submit your answers here in the community blog.


Comparing and contrasting artworks help you start to see the obvious similarities and differences but also highlight subtle differences or unexpected similarities between two pieces. Starting to look at other work and speaking about it, you will learn more. It is a good exercise to start building up your design abilities.

Here are two very different quilts. Both these quilts are overall rectangular in shape. Both rely heavily on triangles in each design. In fact, the quilt on the right is made up of only triangles. The quilt on the left has more of a variety in the sizes of shapes used. The dark navy, white and patterned triangles in the center are the largest, and the navy triangles in the top left corner are the smallest. The left quilt has a much more limited color palette, the quilt on the right is much brighter, which makes it feel cheery.

What else can you see?

activity iconActivity 3 – Observe the Fiber Art project below. Use the elements and principles of art and design to defend the design decisions that have been made. Use as many elements and principles you see fit. Explain in detail how each one is being used here in the community blog.


Image cite:https://www.pinterest.com/pin/70298444156734360/

tools iconTools needed: Elements and Principles Glossary

Elements of Art

The elements of art are the building blocks used by artists to create a work of art.

40x40-fabric-line Line – Line is a mark with greater length than width. Lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal; straight or curved; thick or thin.

40x40-fabric-shape Shape –Shapes are closed lines. Shapes can be geometric, like squares and circles; or organic, like free-form or natural shapes. Shapes are flat and can express length and width.

40x40-fabric-form Form – Forms are three-dimensional shapes expressing length, width, and depth. Balls, cylinders, boxes, and pyramids are forms.

40x40-fabric-space SpaceSpace is the area between and around objects. The space around objects is often called negative space; negative space has shape. Space can also refer to the feeling of depth. Real space is three-dimensional; in visual art, when we create the feeling or illusion of depth, we call it space.

40x40-fabric-color Color – Color is light reflected off of objects. Color has three main characteristics: hue (the name of the color, such as red, green, blue, etc.), value (how light or dark it is), and intensity (how bright or dull it is).

40x40-fabric-texture Texture – Texture is the surface quality that can be seen and felt. Textures can be rough or smooth, soft or hard.

Principles of Design

The principles of design describe the ways that artists use the elements of art in a work of art.

40x40-fabric-balance Balance – Balance is the distribution of the visual weight of objects, colors, texture, and space. This includes symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial balance.

40x40-fabric-emphasis Emphasis – Emphasis is the part of the design that catches the viewer’s attention. Usually the artist will make one area stand out by contrasting it with other areas. The area could be different in size, color, texture, shape, etc.

40x40-fabric-movement Movement – Movement is the path the viewer’s eye takes through the work of art, often to focal areas. Such movement can be directed along lines, edges, shape, and color within the work of art.

40x40-fabric-pattern Pattern – Pattern is the repeating of an object or symbol all over the work of art.

40x40-fabric-repetition Repetition – Repetition works with pattern to make the work of art seem active. The repetition of elements of design creates unity within the work of art.

40x40-fabric-proportion Proportion – Proportion is the feeling of unity created when all parts (sizes, amounts, or number) relate well with each other. When drawing the human figure, proportion can refer to the size of the head compared to the rest of the body.

40x40-fabric-Rhythm Rhythm – Rhythm is created when one or more elements of design are used repeatedly to create a feeling of organized movement. Rhythm creates a mood like music or dancing. To keep rhythm exciting and active, variety is essential.

40x40-fabric-variety Variety – Variety is the use of several elements of design to hold the viewer’s attention and to guide the viewer’s eye through and around the work of art.

40x40-fabric-unity Unity – Unity is the feeling of harmony between all parts of the work of art, which creates a sense of completeness.

You have completed Section 4! Great job.

Questions? Email us! 


Preview of part 5:

  • Choose two fabric pieces for a project

  • Sew your cut pieces together to make your first 9 block quilt square

Go to Part 5