Updated: Jun 14, 2018
How is it that walking around a furniture store could have anything to do with creating art quilts? Well, interestingly enough, it can.
With the construction of our new family room well underway, it was time to visit a few furniture stores to search for seating options. Now, I don't know how long it has been since you've gone furniture shopping but I was quick to learn that most sofas, couches and tables now come standard with built-in power supplies and USB ports, this of course, to accommodate all of our electronic devices. After shuffling around one of the showrooms we happened to spot this long, narrow console table typically meant to serve as a piece of décor behind a couch. But this particular console table was slightly different. Instead of the standard table height, it was bar top height and it came with three swivel stools that neatly tucked underneath. My brain instantly connected the dots. This table would be a perfect fit in the game corner of our new family room. It would make an ideal spot for the kids to hang out at, eat snacks, wait for their turn to throw darts or to do a whole lot of that finger scrolling thing that they do so well.
So what's all this have to do with art quilts anyways? One word "exposure". Exposure to new things or to new experiences puts ideas in your head. In this case, if I hadn't exposed myself to a variety of furniture stores I may have never seen or known that this style of console table existed.
This word "exposure" ties in nicely to the topic of one of my lectures, Making the Leap from Quilter/Sewist to Mosaic Quilt Artist. The short version is that when I started quilting and sewing I mostly bought quilt kits and patterns. I made things like small applique wall-hangings, table runners and pieced quilts for my home or to give as gifts. I also made some clothing for my children and myself. But why would I change from this type of quilting and sewing to the form of art quilting? Well, the reason why wouldn't actually happen for many years.
Early on, I was content with traditional quilting and sewing because this is all I had ever known. But subconsciously, I also believed that I craved a different type of creativity with my quilting. One hint that suggests this, is that in my sewing circle, I was usually the one who went with the bright, bold fabric choices. My first favorite glimpses of what I referred to as "real looking quilts" came from a few quilt books I happened to find in local quilt shops and was drawn to buy, "Snippet Sensations" by Cindy Walter and "Layered Waves" by Karen Eckmeier and occasionally from a few quilting magazines. But if it hadn't been for a trip I took a few years ago to a larger venue quilt show, I may have never really known that "real looking quilts" known as "art quilts" even existed.
This trip would be the first large quilt show that I had ever attended. It was a big deal for me. I arranged a day off from work and made sure I had coverage for my young children. And because I knew that I couldn't attend multiple days, I had signed up for as many quilting and sewing classes that I could fit into one day. The trip was great experience but as I was about to leave with my head full of ideas, semi-completed class projects and my bags loaded up with all sorts of cool stuff purchased in the vendor area, I realized that had a little time left and could walk around and see the show quilts.
The quilts were amazing, exactly what I had expected and seen in my McCall's and Fons & Porter's quilting magazines. But as I continued up and down the aisles, I found myself in a different section? I was surrounded by quilts that looked like photographs. A landscape of a vineyard and in the foreground was a cluster of grapes hanging over a fence rail, a lion's head with truly expressive eyes and flowers so real you could almost smell them. These quilts were stunning, full of life, colorful and had dimension. I recall thinking, how in the world could these quilts be made from fabric? I carefully looked at each quilt and was awe-struck. I read all the quilt descriptions and I took a several pictures. When I went home that night I drooled over my photos but more significant was this overwhelming, bubbling feeling inside me that said someday I wanted to make quilts that looked like these.
Over the next year, I started researching "art quilts" reading everything I could find in magazines, books and on the internet. I signed up for my first online portrait quilt class, hosted by Marilyn Bedford. It was also around this time that I became a member of internet based show, The Quilt Show. I watched all the back episodes and eagerly waited for the new episodes to air. I was mesmerized by the talent and skill sets that these artists possessed. But with young children at home and a busy part-time job research and dreaming would have to suffice for now.
It wouldn't be until a whole year later that I would return to that same quilt show, but this time I was on a mission to see amazing art quilts again and to learn more about the exhibit itself. I stopped by the booth that arranged the exhibition, hosted by the organization Studio Art Quilts Association (SAQA). The representatives in the booth, shared all kinds of helpful information with me and then they put me in touch with my local regional SAQA representative. And this is exactly where and when my new art quilt journey would begin.
As creative people we should expose ourselves to new experiences and be open-minded because it's through these experiences that ideas are born, imagination expands, a new journey begins or you unexpectedly find that perfect piece of furniture.