Cityscapes In The Sun

Cityscapes In The Sun

Quilts inspired by colorful buildings & decorative tiles.

Each year the dark of winter in England surrounds us as we get ready to photograph quilts for our next Rowan book. The desire for light and color to show off our patchwork is what drives us away from our studio in London to seek a southern climate. So it was off to Portugal.

I picked Portugal because it is home of one of the world’s great tile cultures. Colored buildings and decorative tiles always get me excited. We started in the northern town of Porto. I found the town a little run down and rainy but the gems of locations we discovered supported the title “Quilts In the Sun.” The colors of the tile that covered the buildings throughout the town are breathtaking. They brought to life the colors and tones in our quilts. The most spectacular was a large church in the center of the town completely smothered in a blue and white tile mural. It made for a spectacular wallpaper for the street.

We stayed in an old villa turned into a hotel that was completely tiled from inside out. We were able to show several of the quilts to advantage without leaving the hotel grounds. Some wonderfully colored and weathered old doors in the neighborhood offered us more luscious locations.

Two of the quilts were done mostly of handsome browns and warm grays, colors we have developed in our shot cotton solids range of fabrics. They mixed so well with the Portuguese love of terracotta pinks and old golds on their buildings. All these colors made the cityscapes a joy to behold. Add to that the soft Mediterranean light that helps these colors glow.

We then moved on to Lisbon, which is like a string of villages merged into a very civilized city filled with little parks, coffee houses, bookstores and uniquely personalized individual shops. Colorful laundry is festooned like bunting from many a window where people live above the shops. In fact, Lisbon has all the exciting things that make life human in a city. All of this housed in old buildings (in the heart of the town) covered in beautiful ceramic tiles and bold sculpted details like oversized heads and bowers of fruit and flowers. One of the things that charms me most is the pavement, which is often done in black and white stone mosaic.

I’m always stimulated to be in a place so full of creative energy. I especially enjoy being in a place so unashamedly in love with color. Most of the houses have bright orange terracotta roof tiles with every street containing at least one icy blue tile exterior—an unexpected but thrilling color note.

Knowing I’d find these blue tile panels throughout Portugal, I put blue and cool pastel in quite a few of my new quilts. What I love about the old tile houses is that when tiles need replacing they are often repaired with any old pattern tile householders can fine. It makes for a crazy patchwork that develops in odd colors that relate perfectly to my scrappy patchwork style.

All too soon I realized I must return from these sunny countries. But I left much more confident in my color passions.

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