We’re kicking off the new month with a new online feature: the Quilting Arts Community Spotlight. These spotlights will give us the opportunity to focus in on the work of some of our talented QA Community members, to share the stories behind their pieces, as well as their experiences as art quilters.
Our first Community Spotlight features Janice Paine-Dawes and her vibrantly colored quilt, “Oda Pagoda.”
How did you become interested in art quilting? Do you have a background in the arts or traditional quilting?
I was a traditional quilter for many years, working on historically accurate quilts. In 1996, I got started on the road to commissions and selling work. I worked traditionally until I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2003. I threw away all my quilting supplies and went back to painting, thinking I would never be able to quilt again.
Then, about two and a half years ago, I discovered art quilting. It allows me to meld two-dimensional art and quilting on a manageable, smaller scale without stressing about matched seams and perfect stitches. I used to be able to crank out large quilts for commissions and art shows. Now, it takes me ten times as long to complete a piece due to my RA. Working on smaller art quilts allows me to complete a piece in a reasonable time frame.
Tell us a bit more about “Oda Pagoda.” What was the inspiration for this piece?
I belong to an online challenge group called Fast Friday Fabric Challenge. This piece started for Challenge #32, which was to use a grid or frame, an analogous, and a complement. I was not used to doing anything abstract, but thought I would give it a go with this challenge. The piece didn’t get its name until later.
How did this piece evolve as you were working on it? Did it go as planned or take you by surprise?
This wasn't intended to be as freely formed as it turned out. I began cutting hunks of fabric to fuse and then I was to go back and square them up for my design. As they fell on the background fabric, they started to look like something interesting, so I just went with it. I posted it to the challenge and everyone was nice with their critiques; it’s a wonderful group of artists.
But as this piece hung on my design wall, I kept thinking I could do more with it. I thought it had some good bones but was still pretty ho-hum. I started adding embroidery stitches and then beads, just to see if I could improve it. The more I worked on it, the more I liked it. Then it reached a point where the original square design just wasn’t working. Since it was experimental, I took a deep breath and cut the background abstract edges, somewhat following the design of the raw-edged appliqué pieces.
I love how you hung the quilt on chopsticks. What gave you the idea for this?
I am a collector of interesting objects and I love all things oriental. I had purchased a box of these mother of pearl inlaid chopsticks at a garage sale for a quarter. My daughter and daughter-in-laws have long hair and I thought they could use them as hair accessories. I decided that the quilt looked oriental after I had cut its edges; the box of chopsticks happened to be on my cutting table and I realized that they would emphasize this quality. The key was figuring out how to wrap the chopsticks to make the hanger and how to hang the quilt from them. It was only after this that the quilt got its name of “Oda Pagoda,” which came from my strange thinking that the piece was a visual ode to a pagoda.
It looks like you do quite a bit of hand stitching and embellishing. Do you have any favorite techniques?
If you had asked me this question a year ago, I would have answered differently. I used to try every new trick or technique that came along. But I feel my work has been evolving; I work very free-form but have scaled back to only a few techniques that work for me.
I do like the added texture of hand stitching and beading, but I still want whatever I add to leave no doubt that the finished piece is a textile. I try to let each piece speak its mind and go where it wants to go, rather than being forced into a square box. If it needs paint or embroidery, buttons, beads, or even chopsticks, that’s what it gets. It might live on the design wall for months before it’s completed.
Is there anything else about your work that you would like to share?
I am a huge fan of recycling found textiles. Some of the most interesting fabrics are found in thrift shops and at garage sales. Part of what I love about art quilting is that I can use pretty much anything I find without the quilt police telling me it isn’t all cotton or won’t hold up. That special fabric in a $2 blouse can be the perfect inspiration for a knock-your-socks-off piece. It’s fun to search for these things and makes art quilting affordable on a limited budget.
To learn more about Janice and her work, visit her blog.