Elements of Design - Judy Hooworth

SAQA Seminar (Artist Q&A)

Tell us about your artwork and artistic career.

I’ve been making quilts for over thirty years. I began by doing my own thing, designing and making work for beds and walls, then took classes and made lots of traditional quilts while I developed skills in sewing. My friend and I set up a business making quilts on commission back in 1985 and we exhibited at craft shows together. All the while I remained active in creating “my work” or “gallery quilts” as I called them. After my friend died suddenly in 1990, I went my own way and focused on developing my own work.

Mothers and Daughters #6 by Judy Hooworth


My art training gave me confidence in design and composition and working with color. I have always worked in series that are not mutually exclusive. Each development leads into the next and I can see a relationship between all the phases of my artistic journey. Along the way I’ve enjoyed a teaching career that has taken me throughout Australia and across the world; and I’ve been fortunate in having my quilts exhibited nationally and internationally in major exhibitions.

I’ve always been interested in how color and pattern can be combined and many of my classes focused on developing contemporary quilts from traditional design bases. So I have always had two streams to my practice.

For the last fifteen years my quilts have been about place: where I live, especially focusing on Dora Creek which flows near my home. When I moved here from Sydney I was without a studio and my fabric stash was in storage. It was the perfect time to develop some ideas that had been in my mind for some time. I set about making white quilts from strips and layers of fabric and then painting them after they’d been quilted. I love the challenge of doing something new and my new environment became my muse. After a few years I began painting and discharging fabrics and returned to piecing quilts.


If the Elements of Design are line, shape, color, value, texture, and space, which one (or two) do you focus on most in your work? Why?

Line and color are my main concerns. Line is so expressive and drawing is a natural process for me. I love the spontaneity of drawing directly onto fabric. I love the accidental blips and blobs; the marks made by my hand which are unique. It’s an emotional process.

Color relates to the work I’m doing and the theme or idea I’m trying to convey. I worked for many years with a bright bold palette and then my later work became much more subdued as I explored the nuances of the creek and its moods.

Creek Drawing #10 by Judy Hooworth



What techniques and materials do you use to create the elements of design in your work?

I create fabrics based on my theme. Painting directly with brushes, sticks and pencils, and plant material using acrylic paints and ink; discharge with bleach using brushes, squeeze bottles and deconstructed screen mono prints with water soluble crayons and pencils. I work on commercial solid colors when I discharge.

Black Water 12 by Judy Hooworth


Are there certain steps in your design process when you think more about the elements of design than others?

I create lots of fabrics then arrange them on the design wall until I’m satisfied with the composition. So many things come into play at that point. Achieving contrast in the width of the lines, subtle differences in direction and whether I have enough variety and contrast in the scale, shapes and spaces that contain the design; and whether my color and value choices are working to my satisfaction or not. Texture is also important in my quilts which I’m achieving now with intense stitching, another linear element.

Creek Drawing #16 by Judy Hooworth


Is there a particular question you ask yourself or an idea that you keep in mind when you are focusing on the visual design of an art quilt?

I always think of the elements as being the ingredients of a recipe and the principles are the method used to make a successful dish. You can’t consider one without the other. One of my favorite devices is repetition both in the linear design and use of color. I may change the scale or the value or contrast the drawing techniques so there’s a continuity of intent, but a difference in each section of the design.



Judy’s been creating art quilts for more than 30 years. A tutor, author, lecturer and judge she has shared her expertise with students in Australia and overseas. She has exhibited widely in Australia and overseas; her quilts have been featured in many books and magazines around the world, and she has written three books on quilt design. Judy is represented in public and private collections including the Powerhouse Museum Sydney and the Museum of Arts and Design New York.


Spectacular Scraps
Judy Hooworth & Margaret Rolfe. Sally Milner Pub.

Razzle Dazzle Quilts
Judy Hooworth. Martingale and Company.

Quilts on the Double
Judy Hooworth & Margaret Rolfe. Martingale and Company


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