Words of Wisdom from Lyric Kinard

24 Sep 2009

I always feel like the fall is such a busy but inspiring time of year. There’s so much to be done, and something about the cool air and crisp autumn colors gets the creative juices flowing. Lucky for me, Lyric Kinard was able to take some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her new book, Art + Quilt: Design Principles and Creativity Exercises, which is full of advice on how to channel your inner quilt artist (click here to learn more about it.) Lyric shared some wonderful insights and words of encouragement that will surely give you even more incentive to do a little cool-weather stitching of your own. 


In your book, you talk a lot about mustering the confidence necessary to consider yourself an artist. When did you first become involved in the art world, and how did you gain this confidence?

My parents are both artists, although I did not have the confidence to be a visual artist when I was younger. My dad is a high school art teacher and he couldn’t look at anything and just say it was pretty, so I was intimidated. But this was my fault; I’m mad at myself that I missed out on that. Now, he won’t criticize anything that I’ve done, but I want the feedback!

I think I’ve been entering juried shows for 7 or 8 years now and I don’t know how I gained the confidence to actually say I’m an artist. At first, I had to pretend. People would ask me what I did and I would put on an acting face and say “I’m an artist,” and feel like a fraud inside. But eventually, it works; you just have to do it.

Do you think there is something about the quilting medium that makes it particularly appealing and inviting to beginning artists?

It depends on if they’re coming from the art world or the quilt world. Quilters already have the techniques; they’re familiar with the materials but need to expand their thinking, ideas, and designs. On the other hand, if you’re coming from something like painting, quilting isn’t instant gratification. Nonetheless, we all love textiles and that tactile quality that makes it a pleasure to work with this medium. You can really see the artist’s hand in the stitches.

In your book, you suggest taking a sketchbook and camera into the surrounding environment to find inspiration. Are there certain locations you find particularly moving?

Yes and no. You can find inspiration anywhere you are. You’d be amazed by how much information you can get without moving. You can lock yourself in the bathroom and take 100 pictures.

At the same time, there are a lot of wonderful environments that move me. I love a vista, a view, anywhere I can see a distance—maybe because they don’t have those where I live now in North Carolina. I grew up in Salt Lake City where you can just get up on the side of a mountain and see beautiful views.

I’m inspired by nature, but I also love architecture. I love the ruins of factories and buildings, and I love to watch decay. But I also love the beauty of the built environment; clean lines, Shaker furniture, the Arts and Crafts movement, and Modernist architecture. I’m a study in contradictions.

I feel like this time of year is full of so much natural color and a sense of transition. Will the fall weather influence your work?

I find myself with my camera in my hand more often in the fall. Just walking my kids to the bus stop in the morning, there’s about 80 different kinds of trees. Yes, I love it—but I haven’t had much time to create art for art’s sake these days!

Which brings me to my next question. You emphasize the importance of making the time to create art. This is no easy feat! Smaller projects seem to be a great way to stay creative in manageable chunks of time. How do you ensure that you have time for your art?

Ha, I need to learn to say no! For me, it’s more about discipline than finding time. There is time in my day and I do do the small projects, but I need to not accept every assignment, and I need to learn how to turn the computer off.

Also, I have two teenagers that don’t drive and I have toddlers, and I need to meet their needs. But they’re very well aware and they’ve grown up with my taking time away from them to fill my own well. I need to do this; fortunately, I have my little space where I can escape to create.

It also comes from being satisfied with where you are in your life and accepting that if you don’t have as much time as you want, you can either make a plan and change it, or just embrace where you are and know that time will come later.

 You talk about the different elements of an art piece, including texture, line, and color. What do you think is the most difficult aspect for most art quilters?

Composition. We need to think more intensely and clearly about everything that we add to our quilt. Every line leads the eye, and every color draws attention or takes away attention. Every texture adds something or detracts. We need to think about why every element we add to a piece is there and what it does. How does it speak in the overall composition?   

You imply that collaboration is important for enduring artistic confidence and inspiration. Do you have a close group of artist friends?

I do. I haven’t had a lot of personal time with them over the past couple of years, but I do have friends that I trust. We don’t necessarily collaborate—as in working on the same project—but I trust their opinions and intentions. I’ve also worked with enough people so that I can choose who I spend my limited time with. It’s important if I’m curating a show  to work with people who have the same serious work ethic. I’m very blessed to have positive people and I do not waste time with people who are negative and who might work against my goals. Surround yourself with people who are uplifting. 

  You discuss many different rules and principles of art making, but also point out that these aren’t set in stone. What are your favorite rules to break?

All of them—and none of them. I don’t think I talk about rules; principles, yes. ‘Rules’ have such a negative connotation but they’re often there to make life easier, so I call them principles. You teach people principles and let them make the choices themselves.

Finally, any last-minute tips or words of encouragement for beginner art quilters?

Yes! Most importantly, play and experiment. Instead of calling something a failure, learn from it, and move on. If we’re not failing, it means we’re not experimenting, and if we let what we think is a failure stop our progression, we’re not going anywhere. On the other hand, if we think we’re already there, we’re at a plateau. So play. What we do is fun; we’re so lucky to have the opportunity to experiment with fabric and call it art. Life is good.

I couldn't agree more!

Lyric was also a guest on the fourth season of Quilting Arts TV. Check it out.

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Art + Quilt Design Principles and Creativity Exercises

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Master quilter Lyric Kinard shares her secrets of success through a variety of techniques, exercises, and insider tips to get you inspired to make art.


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Explore contemporary quilt design, free-motion quilting, hand and machine embroidery, fused quilts, fabric manipulation, graffiti quilting, thread painting, and machine stitching on unusual surfaces (such as metal).


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TheNeedler wrote
on 25 Sep 2009 8:19 AM

Great interview.  Good questions and very important answers....Jim D

Carol DK wrote
on 28 Sep 2009 4:54 AM

I enjoyed this interview. I am at that point where I am sheepishly calling myself an artist. I find though, that I have a difficult time because I want to make beautiful and creative, amazing quilts for use, to cuddle up with. Many of the techniques in art quilts are  not conducive to such use. I am experimenting a lot though, mostly smaller lap size cuddlers and using materials that can withstand a washing.

I am sooo thankful for quilting arts magazine.

sha1non wrote
on 2 Oct 2009 12:15 PM

After reading the interview I was very challenged and encouraged.  I still tend to put a question mark after artist in reference to myself.  So I went out and bought Lyric's book.  The exercises to explore and develop your gift and art are a gift.  

sha1non wrote
on 2 Oct 2009 12:15 PM

After reading the interview I was very challenged and encouraged.  I still tend to put a question mark after artist in reference to myself.  So I went out and bought Lyric's book.  The exercises to explore and develop your gift and art are a gift.