The October challenge for the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge group is Notan. Here’s the challenge description: Notan is a Japanese concept that utilizes black and white to demonstrate the contrast of positive and negative space. Often done as pen-and-ink
drawings, Notan can easily be adapted to fabric with stunning results. This
technique can help us evaluate our own skills with balancing the
positive/negative space in our quilts.
Notan is traditionally done in ink on paper, but is now often done as a cut paper collage using the “expansion of the square” technique. This star cutout is a simple example — a star shape is cut from the black square and then flipped outward and placed on the negative white space, creating a positive/negative mirror image.
Since cutting too much with scissors makes my thumb numb, I chose to work instead with drawings in Adobe Illustrator. I started with these four drawings of sails that I’d done earlier. I played around with arranging these in a square where part of each sail touched one or two sides of the square. I settled on the version on the left below. When the sail shapes are “folded” back, it creates the image on the right.
I like the original square, but the expanded version has too much white space. I decided to create a repeating design based on the square and using the Notan ‘rules’. Here’s a revised version of the “expanded” square with all the sails folded out along the vertical sides of the square.
From this I copied the various parts, reversed the black and white, and mirrored the images to get the repeating tile below.
Here’s how the tile looks as a repeat pattern:
I made another variation of this pattern where I alternated black and white squares for each sail, shown by the squares on the left below. Putting them together into a repeating pattern made the tile on the right.
And here it is as a repeat:
Without negative space how would we appreciate the positive in our art and in our lives? —Dyan Law
Very, very interesting. I’ve played around a bit with this in Inkscape, but had not yet gotten to the point of making a repeat pattern. You have inspired me.
Thanks for your comments. I had a lot of fun with the Notan and I’ll probably play with some more designs.