We're always excited when we come across a quilter who makes us think about traditional designs in an entirely new way. Thus you can imagine our delight when we saw the modern Celtic Knots of textile artist Raymond K. Houston. In his artist's statement he explains: "Celtic knots fascinate me. Celtic knots are endless loops: they twist and turn; they weave over and under; and they end up where they began. The pieces displayed here are large-scale Celtic knot appliques, a departure from the method usually used."
Circular Knot/II, 43" x 47", by Raymond K. Houston at Nacho Grandma's Quilts
If you read about the history of Celtic knots, you will see this description: "Celtic knots are complete loops with no end or beginning." In quilting, Celtic knots are typically made with a continuous strip of bias tape. Raymond observed that such knots only look good at close range: "You can only appreciate the “woven-ness” of the knot when you’re close enough to see it, and though the knot may increase in size, the width of the bias tape remains the same, resulting in what looks like a spiderweb." In contrast, Raymond's large-scale Celtic knots can be seen from across the room, as shown in the exhibit photo below.
Knotted Band/I, 24.5" by 59, by Raymond K. Houston at Nacho Grandma's Quilts
What is intriguing is that your eye sees what looks like a continuous braid that goes over and under itself until it returns to the beginning. However, the knot is an illusion: the results appear woven, but they are not! Individual straight, curved and corner pieces that are separated by gaps are used to depict the twists, turns, and weavings of the knot, as shown in the detail photo below.
A Matter of Scale, detail, by Raymond K. Houston at Nacho Grandma's Quilts
Sometimes Celtic knots are comprised of multiple strands. Raymond colors each strand differently to set it apart from the others and to highlight its relationship to the others. It is fascinating to observe how your eye follows the strands as if they were actually woven together, as in Knotted Band/II, below.
Knotted Band/II, 30″ by 60″, by Raymond K. Houston at Nacho Grandma's Quilts
Raymond K. Houston's career has been distinguished by his innovative approaches to many different aspects of quilting. As he explains: "I'm beginning to think my quilting has gone through three different "periods" (who can forget Picasso's "Blue Period"??): patchwork, tessellations, and now Celtic knots." At his Nacho Grandma's Quilts website you can read about his design inspirations, techniques and work-in-progress, and at Tessellation Nation you can read about the creation of a myriad of quilts based on a tile of his own design.
Image credits: Images are shown with the generous permission of Raymond K. Houston. He gives lectures and design workshops to quilt guilds across the country and he has taught quilt design at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina and at Quilt University. He also has been featured at Simply Quilts on HGTV. The work shown here appeared in an exhibit called "Piece By Piece: Fiber or Glass" at The Gallery of By Design in Alton Illinois, in October, 2011.