How to Make Winning Quilting Designs: Q&A with Sharon Schamber

mystique original quilt design
'Mystique' (102" x 102") by Sharon Schamber, featured in the International Quilt Association's 'Quilts: A World of Beauty' competition in 2010.

pokey boltonWhen the leaves start to turn and there's a nip in the air, my thoughts immediately turn to International Quilt Festival/Houston.

One of the many highlights of this event for me is getting an up-close look at all those award-winning quilt designs and techniques. There are so many different approaches to quilting, choosing quilting designs, combining colors, and quilting motifs, and it seems there is something in each one that inspires me.

One artist I always try to seek out is Sharon Schamber. Her quilts are not only intricately pieced and stitched, but her color choices are very well thought outand she has the award ribbons to prove it!

Lindsey Murray, our assistant editor for special projects, caught up with Sharon in anticipation of this year's Festival and asked her about her color palette and tips for quilting.

LM: I hear you have an aversion to certain colors; can you explain that and tell how that affects your work?

quilt design quilter sharon schamber
Quilter Sharon Schamber

SS: I have what is called synesthesia. This is when a person's senses have mixed. Not only do I see color, but color also has texture and smell. This can be a problem in everyday life when I am subject to different environments, and I have to be very aware of my surroundings. But I also would say that this is one of the keys behind my work. Because I have a special relationship with color, I combine colors that other people wouldn't think to. If a color doesn't combine well with another color, then I won't use them together. I actually think many award-winning and well-known quilters have synesthesia on some level, and that is what helps them create their art as well.

LM: Do you currently have any quilts in the works that you are going to enter?

SS: I have a quilt in this year's competition called "Crimson Promises." I also have one that is going to be ready relatively soon that has been in the works for about 12 years. In addition to that, I am going to start on a new project that incorporates technology and a number of smaller quilts.

LM: Twelve years! How long do you usually work on a quilt before it is complete?

SS: Since I travel a lot and teach I do not work full-time on my quilts. It usually takes me two or more years to complete a quilt.

quilt design detail
'Mystique' detail

LM: Any tips for aspiring quilters out there?

SS: I think that a lot of times quilters lose their path. To be successful and fulfilled, a quilter must find their color palette and stay doing the work that fulfills their soul. It is also very important to learn the techniques of the type of work you want to do. A quilter should find their vision and take the time to learn the correct techniques that will help them fulfill that vision.

To see if Sharon won a ribbon this year and to get a look at some of the winners of the International Quilt Association "Quilts: A World of Beauty Competition," be sure to pre-order your copy of Quilt Festival Quilt Scene 2011. Inside you'll find more of Sharon and Lindsey's interview, plus projects, insider's notes from the quilting scene, stitching and quilt design tips, and so much more.

What's your favorite part of Festival? Or, if you've never been, what do you most look forward to when you go to quilt shows? Share with us in the comments section below.

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4 thoughts on “How to Make Winning Quilting Designs: Q&A with Sharon Schamber

  1. Wonderful article. Love reading about Sharon and her work. I look forward to seeing her and her work at festival. Speaking of which, my favorite part of festival is meeting new friends and connecting with close friends. The joy and comraderie is like no other!

  2. My favorite part is visiting with my daughter (who lives in Houston), and friends I made while living in London, England. Some of those friends now live in Houston, others fly in and we have a wonderful girls week catching up, taking classes, seeing the show and buying at the vendors, drinking wine……a great week.

  3. Never have made it to a truly huge show…no mecca trips for me! But I just got home today from helping set up our little Wenatchee, WA show yesterday and demo-ing today. What I love about shows is the inspiration all the styles and variety of color and craftmanship infect me with. I am leaning ever so heavily toward felting/embelishing wool and there was a quartet of incredible wool work that had me drooling!