Interview with QA Cover Artist Enid Gjelten Weichselbaum

4 Oct 2011

art quilting, quilting arts, surface design

The October/November issue of Quilting Arts magazine has the perfect autumn cover, featuring fall leaves that are both printed and stitched in a lively design. The artist behind this piece, Enid Gjelten Weichselbaum, shares her easy-to-make reusable silk screen technique in this issue. I can't wait to try out her method of printing myself!

And since she is the newest Quilting Arts cover artist, I was of course eager to speak with Enid and learn more about how she discovered art quilting as a form of personal expression, what her studio is like, and where she finds inspiration. More of Enid's art quilts can also be found in the Online Extras section of our website. Read on to learn more about Enid.

How did you get started as an art quilter?

I have sewn since I was a young girl. I started quilting pretty late-about 12 years ago. I learned traditional quilting techniques and am in awe of the beautiful work traditional quilters do, but it felt too restrictive for me. I'm not good at following rules in craft. I quickly found that quilting didn't need to be restrictive and that I could do whatever I wanted to do with fabric, even adding materials other than thread!

quilting arts; art quilt; art quilt studio

Can you tell us a little bit about your studio? What is it like? Do you quilt or print fabrics every day?

My studio is my refuge and my happy place. There is so much work that is waiting to be done that when I'm in there I find it hard to leave. This last year has been a tough one for my little family.  My husband suffered from brain cancer and passed away just about a month ago. It was working in my studio (even if it was just five minutes of tidying up) as well as our six-year-old boy that kept me balanced and positive.  It is my sanctuary. It is full of color, ideas, tools and materials, paint, dye, brushes and markers. It is a work and play room all in one. 

I try to work every day and I write, design, sew, and read. I print or paint fabrics when I am experimenting with techniques or when working on a specific quilt, but not every day.

What are your biggest sources of inspiration?

Inspiration comes from the world around me. I love the rolling prairies of the Midwest-the hills and fields, the barns and silos, the cows always grazing. I love the sweeping curves of freeways merging through cities. I love color charts in paint stores. I love architecture. I love the language of old hymns. I often see quilts in nature and especially in man's connection with nature such as a railroad track winding through fields and woods.

 

art quilt inspiration; art quilt

What is your design process like?

While I collect drawings, photographs and ideas, I rarely make a complete scale drawing of my quilt. My designs are often first realized in fabric. One of my award-winning quilts came from seeing a sunflower field in North Dakota. My sketch was three lines on a scrap of paper. I wrote by each "yellow," "dark green," "blue".  Another winning quilt was inspired by a drive through the countryside on a gray foggy winter day. I joked with my husband that you couldn't see where the horizon and the sky met and that I should make a quilt like that -a sheet of white. It became perhaps my finest quilt. I plan quilts on sleepless nights and will begin finding the fabrics, or creating them with dye or paint the following day.  With larger quilts I usually create a small prototype to check the proportion and color before committing large amounts of fabric to a quilt that ends up just not working. 

Your art quilts have a refined, modern feel without too much embellishment. How do you know when a piece is finished?

I compete in quilt shows against traditional quilters, requiring finishing techniques that hold up to the scrutiny of traditional judges. While I don't use traditional designs or patterns, I want my stitch length even, my binding filled, and perfect mitered corners. My threads are buried properly and my invisible stitches should be invisible. Without patterns, creating a piece is intuitive. I work over the entire surface of the quilt to ensure that the quilting is balanced and that the quilt lies flat. I want any embellishments to enhance the design, never dominate it. I want the design itself to communicate something without trying to be realistic or photographic. Because I work over the whole surface in stages, I am able to pause and stand back, sometimes photographing the quilt in order to step away from it. This process helps me judge whether the quilt is finished. Sometimes it is finished way before I expect it to be!

 

quilting arts; art quilt

"Little Dotty Trees"

 

Any tips you'd like to share for art quilters looking to expand their skills and expand their surface design knowledge?

Play. Explore. Cut lots of pieces of plain muslin about 12" x 12". Try a different surface treatment on each and write on the fabric what you did. Spend lots of time in craft, art, and hardware stores looking at things to print with, to create patterns with, and to color with. Constantly ask yourself "Would this work with fabric?"  "What could I do with this?" Read about techniques that are tried and true but also about those that are new. Play a lot. 

But I would also add to use good workmanship in your quilts. An art quilt can also be an award-winner in a quilt show.

To learn more about Enid, visit enidgjelten.com

 

 


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