An Interview with Caryl Bryer Fallert!

24 Nov 2009

Though International Quilt Festival/Houston is certainly one of the most highly-anticipated and enjoyed events of the year for many quilters, the Quilt Scene is never ending; all year long, quilters are busily at work brainstorming, creating, and, of course, discussing the art of quilting. In fact, I recently managed to steal a few moments from the very busy schedule of Caryl Bryer Fallert, winner of this year’s Best of Show Award for her stunning quilt, “On the Wings of a Dream,” which you can see for yourself on the pages of International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene. Caryl discussed what it was like to receive this immense honor, her passion for quilting—and dancing—and what she’s up to now.

First of all, I have to ask the obvious question. How did it feel to win the Best of Show Award at International Quilt Festival, certainly one of the highest honors in the quilting world?

I was thrilled, and it's always a surprise.  We are so close to our quilts when we make them, it is hard to see them through the eyes of others. Winning Best of Show at the International Quilt Festival was definitely on my "wish list" of lifetime achievements, but considering who else was up for the same award, I was very surprised that it was my quilt that won.

The story behind your quilt, “On the Wings of a Dream,” is very personal. Is this true of many of your quilts?

Actually, yes, many of my quilts have been this personal. Often even the most abstract quilts grow directly out of my personal experience. Certainly many of my past quilts have come directly out of major events or transitions in my life. Some good examples of this would be “Messenger #1,” “Messenger #2,” “Farewell to Silver Bird,” “Duet #2,” “New Dawn,” and “Solo Flight.” What I'm noticing about all of the examples I am giving you here is that they all feature birds, which seem to be a recurring theme in my work.


This quilt was inspired by your new love of dancing. Are you still dancing, and do you think this will continue to influence your quilts?


Actually the design was inspired by my desire to dance, but was completed before I signed up for dance lessons. The first year of actual dancing corresponded with the construction of the quilt in fabric. I love dancing and plan to continue until I can't stand up any more. Everything in my life influences my quilts, so I'm sure there will be more dancing showing up soon in my designs.

Your quilts have such amazing, vibrant colors. How do you achieve this effect?


No one loves color more than I do, but what I have really come to understand about my quilts is that it's the inner glow that people respond to most, not the hue or where it falls on the color wheel. The clear pure colors represent light and life for me, and that's what my work is about. The inner glow is created by using gradations of value (light to dark).This creates the illusion that the light source is within the quilt itself rather than an outside source. I include gradations in almost all of my work for both visual and philosophical reasons. Until recently, I dyed all of my gradations. However, I recently designed a line of fabrics for Benartex that have these same gradations in the yardage. About half of the fabrics in “On the Wings of a Dream” are from this Gradations line, and half are my one-of-a-kind hand-dyed and painted gradations.

What are you working on now? Do you have any particular plans for future quilts?

I'm still working on a quilt I started last spring which is part of my Feather Study series. I'm thinking about what I want to do next, and have a few drawings set aside for when I'm ready to start, but haven't made any decisions. Part of the problem with living in Paducah is that I'm just having too much fun. I have a social life and a regular schedule of activities (both cultural and physical) for the first time in many years, and I'm loving it. It does, however, slow down my rate of production.

Many of Quilt Scene’s contributing artists have also been quilting away, and several of them have been sharing their Quilt Scene participation on their blogs. Check it out! 

Teri Lucas

Susan Brubaker Knapp

Paula Prass

Jen Eskridge

And, as always, let us know what you have been working on. Were you inspired by something you saw at Festival—or perhaps you’re feeling the post-Houston blues? Either way, we’d love to hear from you!


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