Trying to tidy up my image files yesterday (and if anyone knows of a quick and efficient way of doing that I’d love to know!), I came across my first few pieces. I didn’t start with traditional quilts, but with screen printing – this was back in the 70s when long skirts, wide trousers and kaftans were all the rage and that’s what I made most of these lengths of fabric into. (above an early screen print from the 70s, to the left a quilt made from many deconstructed screen prints about 10 years ago).
Even back in the seventies I liked the patterns and designs created both by man in city scapes and buildings and by nature, especially hedgerows and natural scenes. Though I’m not quite sure where the weird combination of characters in the full length skirt on the left came from! Four panels, printed in black on gold polyester!!! The more modern piece below (a quilt entitled Midwinter and available for purchase by the way) shows the same tree shapes occurring but the animals have hibernated for the winter – not that you see many giraffes up on the moors at any time of year! And the trees are appliqued rather than printed.
I started screen printing when a friend and I bought a big old fashioned silk screen and squeegee between us and worked on her kitchen table in a very old 17th century cottage by candlelight, while her husband played Chopin on an old Bechstein.
I used textile paint and newsprint and usually designed the images while sitting through interminable staff meetings. I have a feeling I even cut out some of the stencils in those same meetings – the conference table was huge and perfect for this kind of work. Oh for the good old days!
It is interesting looking back how you tend to continue with the same ideas; I’ve made loads of architectural quilts since then and am now back to nature and landscapes and still have very much the same sense of design. The two small images are screen prints from the 70s used for jeans! The larger image below is a quilt made from screen prints much more recently.
D’you find you keep returning to the same themes? Can you see your “style” and the “mark of your hand” in your early work? At the SAQA meeting in Philadelphia in March I’m moderating a panel on the development of the artistic voice with three guests whose work I’ve always admired: Dominie Nash, Emily Richardson and Lorraine Glessner.
In the discussion I’m going to ask them:
What have the been key experiences in your artistic life?
Is this something that a person coming new to art in mid life could orchestrate?
Or is an art education necessary to being able to make strong and lasting work?
What advice would you give to people who started making traditional quilts through a love of cloth and sewing but now want to take what has been a pleasant hobby to a much higher level where they are creating pieces that will bring them and others much joy when hanging in their homes/hospitals/waiting rooms etc?
How does one make the leap from a hobby to a higher plane!
At what point should quiltmakers think about "developing a voice" - is this something that just happens, or can you guide yourself into it? And should you?
What is it do you think that makes you an artist?
How would you define that description of a person?
Do let me know your answers to these questions…and if there are any other questions on this topic you think I should put to the panel. And, if you have been, thank you for reading and especially thank you for commenting – I always read the comments with great interest.
PS I do have pieces for sale, they vary from time to time – they can be seen by clicking on the “pages” listed at the top of this post.