Quilt Art from the Road: Q&A with Lisa Kijak

25 Jun 2013

I have never been one to get excited about car trips. Although I have great memories of family vacations up and down the East coast, I also remember being stuck in the back seat of a hot car, wedged between my brother and sister, as my parents negotiated unfamiliar roads and last minute detours. I always longed to skip the ride and just arrive (Beam me up Scotty!) at my destination. But if I'd had that option, I would have missed the best part about those long rides - watching how the landscape changed and seeing the cities whiz by.

neon schwinn bicycle quilt art by lisa kijak
'Neon Schwinn Bicycle.' Art quilt and photo by Lisa Kijak.
Now that I ride "shotgun" in the front seat, I have a fresh perspective of the fabled romance of the road. I can imagine myself traveling the fabled Route 66 lined with diners and drive-ins, top down and radio turned up.

Lisa Kijak's quilt art evokes that bygone era. With photographic inspiration, thousands of pieces of fabric, and miles of thread, she captures the look and feel of deteriorating neon signs that once lit up the highways.

According to Lyric Kinard, who interviewed Lisa for the August/September 2013 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine, Lisa is relatively new to quilts as a medium, but she has certainly hit the ground running with entries from her Neon series accepted into both Visions (2012) and Quilt National (2013).

Her mastery of composition, of color and value is the result of years of practice and formal training including a BFA in Visual Arts from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and an MA in art therapy from Loyola Marymount University.

Today I'm treating you to an excerpt from their fascinating Q&A.

Lyric: What is it about derelict neon signs that has so captured your attention?

Lisa Kijak: I am attracted to really complex surfaces that show the effects of time.
I am constantly photographing peeling paint, chipped, weathered, and dis¬tressed surfaces. There is such beauty in things that have witnessed the passage of time. I want to explore the details of those things that are broken and worn down and elevate them by creating art, calling attention to them, bringing them a new life by memori¬alizing them.

quilt artist lisa kijak
Lisa Kijak with a detail of one of her art quilts.
Photo by Arash Samadani.

In particular, with my Neon series, I am hoping to capture signs that are disappearing from our landscape. There are so many wonderful signs from the 1920-1960s that have been torn down-too expensive to maintain and not energy efficient enough to consider keeping. The artistry of those signs is being lost when they should be preserved and restored as important cultural artifacts.

Lyric: Please describe your process of transforming a photograph into an art quilt.
Lisa: For every sign, I shoot somewhere between 10-50 shots, from different angles and with different lighting. I never know if I have the right shot until I get back to my computer where I do a great deal of digital work: editing the colors and contrast, adjusting the composition by removing elements, and moving things closer together. I could do it all by hand, but sketching on the computer is so much faster for me and I am always anxious to get to the construction phase.

I love to see the full image slowly come to life. At the height of my work on any piece, there are literally thousands of tiny bits of fabric arranged in color palettes on my desk, waiting to be pieced together to see what works with my vision and what keeps my work most true to the original rawness and decay of the signs I am capturing.

Lisa's art quilts remind me that you can find art quilting inspiration everywhere--from your backyard to the open road. Our August/September 2013 issue of Quilting Arts is also packed with inspiration and techniques, from Lisa's Neon series to free-motion quilting tips, gallery features, and more Q&As with cutting-edge artists. Order now!

P.S. Are you inspired by road trips? What do you see by the side of the road that you'd like to put into an art quilt design? Leave a comment below.


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Comments

suemor wrote
on 25 Jun 2013 8:09 AM

Abandoned farm buildings on my way to work, ruins of 19th century factories and a historic mill inspired a photo image collage art quilt for the Stretching Art & Tradition 2012 online challenge that was hung at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza.

beachboomer wrote
on 25 Jun 2013 12:52 PM

Any object that has rusted.  "I have patina not rust," seems like a good motto to live by.

CypressJoan wrote
on 25 Jun 2013 5:28 PM

I have a photo of a derelict roadside billboard taken on an empty road in New Mexico - it is waiting to be transformed into an art quilt!!! ... along with just a FEW other items of inspiration ~~~ now I've got a great example to  feed my brain.

kitkat1223 wrote
on 25 Jun 2013 7:06 PM

I collect fat quarters from shops along the road when we travel and am currently working on a quilt incorporating items from a trip from Ohio to Oregon by car last fall.

crazywoman wrote
on 29 Jun 2013 9:13 AM

I have a collection of photographs, from my various plane rides, landings, take off, and low altitude captures. The graphic qualities are so striking, I've always wanted to transfer those images to fabric. But photography has been my main focus. I don't know where to begin. After seeing these photos in fabric, I am getting excited. Maybe I need to find the perfect person to translate my images to fabric?

   I'm open to suggestions.