Journal Entry: January 18, 2013.
Learning to quilt was a natural step from making clothes for my family and myself. Quilting became my choice for leisure activity. Back in the day, I purchased well-defined patterns and instructions to guide me in the making of a garment or quilted object. As a quilter, I could choose from the many traditional quilt patterns passed down through generations of quilters. To personalize my project I selected the color and design from the choices of manufactured fabric. (For many years now, quilt shops offer kits that include the pattern, instructions, and fabric already cut to the appropriate shapes and sizes.) Never claiming to enjoy mathematics of any kind, I discovered that I do enjoy the geometry of quilting, the math required to plan a project, and the clean shapes and lines created with fabric and thread in the completed product. Oddly enough, I also discovered that using traditional patterns for my leisure activity added some much-needed structure to an otherwise crazy time of juggling family and work schedules.
I’ve always dreamed of being a designer or an artist. As I became more experienced with the practice of quilting the designs of others I began taking on more risk, creating my own designs for bed quilts and wall hangings, more often than not challenged by my desire to create a unique quilt for a special person, occasion, or theme. These designs almost always incorporated a traditional quilt pattern and used the techniques of traditional quilters.
It wasn’t long after my first wall hangings that art quilts and the materials to create them came on the market. I was ready; well, almost . . .
Art quilts begged for creativity, not just a willingness to try new techniques; select fabric and embellishments from a wide range of color, texture, and types; and put these all together into a meaningful wall ornament. It wasn’t easy. I realized quickly that it was difficult for me to break out of the structure that my professional work and even my leisure-time quilting demanded. I had a really hard time freeing up my mind to allow the organic process of designing and creating art. I almost had to concentrate on letting go. I took class after class at quilt shops thinking that if I could increase my knowledge of the techniques used to create art quilts, I would naturally free up my ability to create a piece of art. While attending a quilt retreat at the Glen Eyrie castle in Colorado Springs I was introduced to Heather Thomas of Wild Heather Designs, one of the most creative people I’ve had the opportunity to get to know. Heather owned a quilt shop in Colorado Springs at the time, the only shop to provide unique classes to learn more about the techniques used to create fiber art. The hidden nugget to her classes was that she was also teaching the art of creative thinking to her students. Under her tutelage, and a lot of guided focus on my part, I turned to thinking of myself as an artist.
Copper Menage is one example of my own artistic evolution and my passion for art quilting. I chose the neutral colors because I want the “art” to stand out – the shapes of the fibers used and the texture of the embellishments. I’ve incorporated several elements into the design of this quilt: rolled fabric beads, pressed Angelina fiber, buttons made from modeling clay that I learned from Heather and thread painting (a technique I learned from Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution). Thread painting was introduced by a couple of English ladies, Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn of Double Trouble.
I challenge myself with each quilt I make. My goals with each piece are to:
- Always include a traditional element of quilting.
- Keep an open mind to what I can do… and more importantly, what can be done.
- Learn new techniques by reading magazines, looking at online sources for inspiration, check into what other quilters are doing and how they are doing it.
- Continue to try new things. Audition elements such as bead and buttons of all sizes and shapes, fibers, folded fabrics, etc.
I continue to develop a mantra that allows me to view, and more importantly accept, that my designing and quilting is an artistic endeavor; a space where there are no rules and no right way to do things. It’s a place for me to explore my own passion and creativity.