Naturally Beautiful Quilts: An interview with artist Sharon V. Rotz

15 Sep 2010

For many, this is the time of year when nature beckons. The scorching summer heat has passed but the sun is still shining, and the great outdoors has so much appeal. I think this is one of many reasons that SharonV. Rotz’s colorful art quilts recently caught my eye; they depict natural objects and creatures with such vibrancy and warmth. Sharon’s art will be on display at The Alexander House in Port Edwards, Wisconsin until October 12, 2010. Whether or not you can make it to the show, read on to learn more about her work.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming exhibit. How did you select the venue and the works to be displayed?

The art quilts on exhibit are based on the natural beauty of Wisconsin. The fabric patterns and soft textures of the fibers are a dramatic contrast to the hard stone surfaces of the exquisite beadwork of Christine Kysley, also on exhibit. The Alexander House is a stately mansion set on the scenic banks of the Wisconsin River. This formal setting is a grand venue for art and its high-quality museum lighting assures that each artwork is shown at its best.

How did you become involved in art quilting? Have you worked with other artistic mediums?

My path into art quilting was certainly not direct. After several years of clothing construction, alternations, and working with interior designers creating soft furnishings (such as draperies, pillows, and home accessories), I became a quilter. Being true to the time, I learned  traditional quilting and discarded my stash in favor of quilter’s cottons. I did learn the techniques but, being an independent spirit, I was always questioning the methods set before me.

This soon led to further exploration, pulling and pushing the boundaries of traditional quilting in many ways. I have a great fondness for color. I want to use every color in the box and, most often, in its pure saturated form. Not much “mud” finds its way into my work. I also like to drive myself past the natural stopping point, asking what else I can do to enhance each piece.

You seem to focus on nature in particular. Is this your primary source of inspiration?

Yes, I am definitely inspired by nature. Living in a rural area surrounded by tall trees, wildlife, and water, it is my world. I love the beauty of the grandeur, of the large picture—but I am also captivated by the details. What are the lines of a tree branch? What colors are reflected in a leaf? How can I catch the reflections of water?          

Tell us a bit about your process.

People often ask how I start a project. Do I have it all drawn on paper before I look to the fabric? Most often, I have a general idea of what I want to do. For example, in “We See, They See,” I knew I wanted to use cranes as the main focus of the quilt. From there, I visited my stash and start looking for fabric. I know even if I have a clear picture in my mind (or drawn on paper), the idea will change when I start looking at fabric. Unlike a painter or fabric dyer who can mix their colors to match their ideas, I use mainly commercially printed fabrics so the fabrics I find determine the direction of my plan.

How do you go about selecting fabrics?

The best plan that I can offer to build your stash is to purchase only fabric that you truly love, not because you have a specific use in mind, but because it speaks to your soul. That way, when it comes time to make a project, you can go to your closet and there is the perfect fabric. Large quantities of any one fabric are not necessary; variety is the key to greatness.

I have stretched myself enough now that I can choose colors that don’t exist in nature. I found a wonderful print to use in the crane quilt but it was red, green, and blue—not those dull brown crane colors, for sure. Thinking about those pompous birds, they surely see themselves in a much grander light, so they became red and blue, which are my favorite colors.

Does your background in traditional quilting still influence your work?

I do respect traditional quilting and often add a bit of it to my art quilts. In “We See, They See” tradition pops out in my “freedom” log cabin block border. The contrast yet interconnection between the two—the modern and the traditional—touches my spirit.

The techniques used in my work vary with the job to be done. Often hand appliqué is mixed with fusing. Machine piecing is highlighted by hand beading or embroidery. Machine quilting, which may be combined with hand quilting, finishes the job. Obviously, I like it all and will do whatever inspires me at the moment.

My material selection has recently broadened and I am again buying the fabrics that I discarded from my stash when I became a quilter. I am also making new choices such as beads, leather strips, and metal washers. Ever stretching, ever widening my quilting horizons.


Quilt Images (from top to bottom)

·         “Dappled” • 24" x 40"

·         “Uninhibited Growth” • 40" x 34"

·         “We See, They See” • 83" x 58"



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MareeR wrote
on 15 Sep 2010 1:31 PM

What beautiful quilts.  I especially like the inclusion of the log cabin blocks in the crane quilt.

craftygranny wrote
on 16 Sep 2010 1:43 PM

Such beautiful quilts, I especially love the vibrant colors.