Moving through daily life in my home on Cape Breton Island, I absorb the rich colours and rhythms and translate my impressions into “fine art quilts” a hybrid form connecting painting, printmaking, collage, and textile art.
Dyeing my own fabric is incredibly fun and allows me to create a large palette of colours including indefinable shades like reddish green. Low-water immersion techniques where fabric is scrunched or twisted, pole-wrapping (a variation of Japanese shibori dyeing), and monotypes with thickened dye result in painterly effects and unusual textures. In addition to dyes, I sometimes explore other media such as pastels or acrylic paint.
Then I combine these fabrics to create original abstract designs which express my own vision and are meant to be hung on the wall. With a theme in mind but without a definite plan, I cut fabric, sew it together, and then cut it again, allowing shapes and lines to emerge, interact, and form a composition.
My fine art quilts have three layers, a top, a thin cotton batting, and a back, all held together by machine quilting lines that give the finished piece depth and dimension. With this format I honor the (mostly) women’s quiltmaking tradition which spans the bold geometry of early Amish quilts and the playful improvisation of African-American quilts.
While it’s important to me that my quilts be well crafted, I’m most interested in the overall visual statement. In my work as a whole, I try to suggest the complexity of life and let the joy shine through.
In case you missed it on the home page, you can watch a video of me talking about making quilts.
The photos below show the evolution of Wait an Hour and the Weather Will Change. First, cutting out circles from fabric. Then, arranging them on my work wall. Deciding that they must be sliced! The third photo shows me arranging the vertical rows of the final quilt top. The finished quilt has no complete circles in it.
Selected exhibitions and publications
Purchase award, Nova Scotia Art Bank, 2009
Visual Arts News, “Crafting the Future, “ Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2008
Newcomer Artist Project (juried), Anna Leonowens Gallery, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2008
The New Cartography of Craft (juried), Mary Black Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2007
Art Exchange (invitational), Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Division and Bowling Green State University, both in Ohio, 2006
Art Quilts: A Celebration, published by Lark Books, 2005
Silver Threads (invitational), The New England Quilt Museum, Lowell, Massachusetts, 2002
Branching Out: Quilts as Art, New Art Center, Newton, Massachusetts (co-curator), 2000
Quilt National ’99: An International Exhibit of Innovative Quilts (juried), Athens, Ohio, 1999
Gridworks: A Juried Exhibition of New England Artists, Hera Gallery, Wakefield, Rhode Island, 1999
Fiberarts Design Book Six, published by Lark Books, 1999
Crafts National 32 (juried), University Park, Pennsylvania, 1998
Preliminary sections for the quilt Tidal River Improv on my design wall.
I grew up in Sylvan Lake, a small community near Chicago. During walks in the fields and woods with my grandmother, I discovered wild strawberries and learned the difference between oaks and maples. I was the oldest of five children, and my writer mother and engineer father encouraged our creative enterprises as long as we cleaned up the messes. My sister now makes quilts too, and my brothers write and do woodwork in their spare time.
At Brown University I studied English literature, also taking drawing and painting classes and a quirky but influential class called “Notebooks, Diaries, Collections, and Lists,” which involved making visual/verbal collages. In 1972 I spent a summer in a cooperative study program on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, the beginning of a passion for the island’s people, landscape, and music.
After graduating from college, I worked at a small Boston book publisher, learning to produce and design books and taking classes in design, typograpy, and calligraphy. For most of my career I supported myself primarily with freelance work in publishing.
In 1978 I saw a spectacular show of southern Illinois quilts at the Chicago Public Library. My favorite, a “Storm at Sea” pattern in blue and yellow, made a strong graphic statement and fooled the eye into seeing curves where there were really only straight lines. After seeing that show, I wanted to buy a quilt, but when I couldn’t find just the right one I decided to make my own quilt. That experience was so satisfying that I began collecting fabric, designing my own patterns, and eventually dyeing my own fabric.
Althought mostly self-taught, I took several quilting and dyeing workshops, including one at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts taught by Nancy Crow. I was involved with the Names Project (the AIDS Memorial Quilt) when it toured Boston, and I joined a large quilt guild and helped to establish a small critique group.
In the meantime, I travelled twice to India, including a tour of textile arts, several times to Europe, and many times to Nova Scotia. In 2007 my partner and I became permanent residents of Canada and moved from Boston to a small village in Nova Scotia. In 2009 I gave up my freelance publishing work and began to make art full time. Because I find the dyeing process irrestible and continue to be fascinated by colour and pattern, I branched out into dyeing silk scarves and began to give fabric dyeing workshops to share the fun with others.
Besides doing my creative work and learning how to promote it, other diversions in my life include friends, a big vegetable garden, hiking in the Mabou hills, going to concerts, and learning to play the piano.