Over the last few years more and more artists from other mediums such as paint or sculpture or graphic arts have turned to fiber. It’s exciting and enriching and they will push quilting to a much higher standard. I think it will also behoove those of us who do not have a formal art background to get some art education; fortunately there are many ways of doing this without taking a formal college degree – which, of course, does not necessarily provide a real education in art! but that is another subject…
One example is Emily Richardson whose work I have always loved for its mysterious and painterly qualities. I was interested to reread some notes I made from a lecture she gave a few years ago and thought I would share them. Emily composes freely, but also will use the grid as a basis adding a free flowing design on top – which she calls “painterly stuff”. She uses silk, linen, cotton which she has painted with acrylic paint, and hand appliques the piece together with her own version of a ladder stitch.
Emily works principally with silk: its luster and transparency are two prized qualities. She paints with very watery acrylic paint so that the hand of the silk is largely unaffected. The cloth is manipulated in various ways while she’s painting, or while the paint is drying so that it runs and pools and makes interesting marks. Usually she will paint all the fabric for one piece, or a series of pieces at one go so it’s coherent and unified.
(I’ve adopted this method for the workshops I give where there are adequate dyeing facilities and ask the students to bring only white fabric to the class, (which incidentally means a much easier task for them when it comes to gathering supplies!). They then dye the fabric all at one go at the beginning of the workshop, mixing varying amount of just a few dyes so that the colours harmonize well.)
Asked about her process she stated: “sometimes I’m thinking, sometimes I’m just doing…what if I make it like this, or that” . She said: “My work is where my head is.”
She tries different ways of cutting out her pieces of silk and cotton as she sits on the floor. She cuts out the contours & the “best bits” – no saving of those precious morsels!She puts them up on her design wall in an “act and respond” manner, adding then eliminating. Sometimes she will work from the back on the negative spaces, either with a black silk, or with an intensely colored commercial silks.
Emily states there is a lot of symbolism in her work much of which is derived from photographs she has taken, often of moving elements – like landscape seen from a moving car, or water.
The interaction/application of what we might call “Traditional Art” or “formal art” with fiber has only recently come to quilting and is changing the look of “quilts” significantly after the quilting doldrums the first 80 years or so of the 20th century – a Great Leap!
and, if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth