Interview with Danielle Morgan: Black Tea and Honey

Black Tea and Honey Quilt

Another quilt from the ECQG show caught my eye for its excellent use of color: Black Tea and Honey by Danielle Morgan. Simple yet elegant in its design, I could not keep my eyes off of it, entranced by its sophisticated color palette. Here is my interview with Danielle:

Q: How long have you been quilting and how did you get started?

A: I started in 1992. I had always wanted to make a quilt but I was intimidated by patterns that I had seen which required making cardboard templates. When
I saw a rotary cutter demonstrated on a TV show I was confident I could do it and got started pretty soon after that. I didn’t take a class, and I made a lot
of mistakes, but I was happy with my results.

Q: Do you consider yourself a traditional quilter, contemporary, or both?

A: I’m a traditional quilter. I love contemporary quilts, but my mind hasn’t seen fit to create anything in that vein yet. As I grow I hope that will change.

Q: What is your favorite part of the quilting process?

A: Easily, it’s the color planning. I love to go into my fabric room and “pull color.” I can remember even as a kid I liked to rearrange the Crayola 64 colors box
according to my whims. I have a lot of UFOs and I think it’s partly because by the time I get to the sewing machine, my favorite part is over.

Q: What is your least favorite part of quilting?

A: Dealing with my errors in accuracy. Being self-taught, I made it up as I went along. I learned to fudge a lot. Only in the past few years have I gotten serious about strengthening my basic skills. I’m taking classes, making practice blocks, and doing that thing we all hate “unsewing” when I’ve done it wrong.

Q: What is your biggest challenge when it comes to selecting colors for a quilt?

A: Making it “perfect.” I don’t make scrap quilts for the most part, so it really comes down to finding just a few fabrics for each quilt. I feel I have to find the one “perfect” fabric for any given quilt.

Q: How did you select the design for Black Tea and Honey? Is it a pattern or is it original?

A: I designed this quilt as I went along. The center block was a pattern by Karen Kay Buckley. I took her class in machine applique last September. I was really turned on by the colors I had chosen and knew I wanted to make something I would use with this block.
The gold and red are colors from my dining room and living room, and I had a bare wall so I planned this quilt to fit the space available.

Q: Please share with us the process you used to select the colors for your quilt.

A: I loved every piece of fabric I used in Black Tea and Honey. The black, red and gold were purchased together. The greens, purple and darker red were
pulled from my stash to work with the main colors.

Q: What worked and what didn’t? Why?

A: I tried a wider variety of values, thinking it would be easier on the eye, but on such a simple applique block, that kind of variety actually took away from its visual impact.

Q: How did you audition fabric?

A: I like to pull a whole bunch of fabric out. Once I’ve chosen a few that will anchor a design I fill in with other colors. All of these fabrics go into a basket
and live together there until the top is finished. I may use only a few of them, or all of them, but I only hunt for them once.

Q: The colors you selected, yellow and violet, are complements on the color
wheel and are one of the most difficult combinations of colors for
people to use. You not only successfully used the yellow/violet
complements, but used intensity quite skillfully, with the bright
yellow contrasting against the dull brown/purple border. Have you
taken any color classes or had any other color training? Did you
make these decisions knowing color wheel theory, or were they
instinctive?

A: Someone once told me “All greens go together, just
look in the garden to see that it’s true.” I’ve never taken classes on color theory, although I have read Jinny Beyer’s book on Color Confidence for Quilters.
It’s hard to avoid the color wheel if you’ve read many quilting books, but I don’t think about it when I am planning a quilt unless I’m well and truly stuck. I
prefer to play with a pile of fabrics.

Q: When selecting colors, what was most important:
color, value, or intensity (bright vs. dull)?

A: Color first, then value and intensity. I don’t like
to use dull (gray-toned) colors. Dusty rose and sage
green seldom find a home in my quilts.

Q: Are there any questions I should have asked you that I haven’t?

A: We haven’t talked about visual texture at all, but I find it plays a role in how color is perceived. The dark fabric around the applique center and in the
borders is perceived as brown, but it’s actually a black fabric with a small brown leaf pattern on it. I love brown printed on black fabric. It’s so rich.

Q: What is your next quilt going to be?

A: Finding the strength of a whisper is my next challenge. I’ve been collecting peach and blush pink fabrics for almost a year. I’m about ready to begin a peaches and cream log cabin. I’ll applique blue, lavender and aqua flowers on it when it’s pieced. Pastels don’t need to be boring, but it requires special discipline
to keep from tipping that way. I think there still has to be visual tension to keep it interesting.