In this new showcase I’m featuring four Modern Quilters that you will love!
Brenda Gael Smith
I learned to see by a kind of osmosis watching and helping my resourceful and talented mother as she clothed the family. I made my first quilt when I was at university to keep warm in student houses as I studied law and politics but did not return to making quilts until 2000 when I made a baby quilt for a friend. Making baby quilts was a great way of exploring different techniques and styles and developing my sewing and design skills. My preferred approach is freeform piecing with my own hand-dyed fabrics. I am drawn to saturated colours and my favourite design principle is “economy” where every element counts and nothing is extraneous.
Abstraction is a persistent and insistent force in my creative practice. Inspired by patterns and shapes of nature, and a deep affinity to place, I capture the essence of my subjects in my textile art. I also share the joy of colour and quilts through teaching.
Brenda Gael Smith: Serendipity Patchwork & Quilting
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Textiles have always been a strong part of my upbringing. My grandmother modelled and made couture dresses back in the heyday of 30’s fashion houses in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Then when we moved to Australia in 1974, my mother (a teacher) would make our clothes and knit our jumpers when we couldn’t find what we wanted. My father was an architect and also a maker, he would make our shoes and school bags. This passion for a creative and self-sufficient life is still with me. I would much rather make my own quilts, clothes and bags than buy something in a shop. They have memories and meaning sewn into them that a store bought item just doesn’t have.
I started quilting when I was expecting my first child, it was the perfect antidote for the uncertainty and chaos of motherhood for this workaholic. Learning to quilt alleviated a lot of the boredom of those early days. The more complex the design, the happier I was. Gradually, after making many sampler quilts with thousands of tiny pieces, during a trip to Tokyo in 2005, I was inspired by the modern Japanese aesthetic of bold colours and geometric elements. Quilts made from traditional blocks in unexpected fabrics and throwing everything in together: spots, traditional Japanese prints, text and solids. I loved their unconventional and unhindered approach to patchwork. Japanese modern quilters changed my perspective in that I didn’t need to stick with the grid, follow a pattern or fill every space in a quilt. Their exquisite hand quilting also made a big impact on me.
Fast forward to over 20 years of quilt making; I still love and appreciate traditional quilts but it’s the simplicity and graphic impact of modern quilts which I’m currently attracted to. Currently I’m enjoying playing with commercial prints, in particular striped and ombré fabrics, they add texture and interest to simple quilt designs. It’s an approach with an element of surprise as it’s difficult to predict what some fabrics will look like when they are cut up and sewn back together. I’m also enjoying finishing my quilts with a combination of machine and hand quilting for the extra texture and a stronger connection to me, the maker.
I’ve always been a crafter, so it was only a matter of time before I found quilting. My mom tried to encourage me to sew my own clothes as a teenager, but after one failed (read: ugly, ill fitting, what was I thinking?!, grape-patterned miniskirt) attempt, I quickly gave up. Years later, once I had children of my own, my mom’s tradition of making homemade Halloween costumes got me back at a sewing machine. My husband’s Grammy June was the first quilter I was graced to know, but her traditional, hand pieced and quilted, intricately gorgeous bed quilts felt way out of my league. I didn’t really consider quilting as a possibility until my cousin Hannah gave my daughter a simple, awesomely adorable squares quilt as a baby gift. Hannah’s simple squares quilt was just the push I needed to dive in.
With the help of blogs and tutorials, I started with a pretty rough picnic quilt, and haven’t stopped since. There’s something about the combination of precision, color play, and functionality that has me hooked. It’s the one part of my life as a full time mom of three young children over which I have full control. With babies in the house, I grabbed a needle and thread once the kids were in bed, and that making helped maintain my sanity. Ten years later, and my style has definitely developed and improved throughout the years, I’m now sewing more in daylight hours than night, but I’m still learning with every project. I’m self-taught and love trying new techniques and styles.
Much of my inspiration comes from nature. Color play, texture, symmetry: the natural world is rich with them all! I love working with all of the colors, primarily a vibrant tertiary rainbow, but if I had to choose a favorite color it would be turquoise. Modern design elements such as negative space and offset focal points often find their way into my quilts, which paired with the vibrant color choices and high contrast feel like a modern aesthetic. Lately, I’ve been tying my life into quilting in a very literal sense, such as with #my2020milesquilt that documents how many miles I’ve run and hiked this year (almost 500 miles!). Life begets quilting, quilting begets life. It’s a delightful cycle of creativity!
I started quilting while recovering from sinus surgery back in 2013. Quilting quickly became a passion, driving my creativity and providing me a great community to be part of. While my mother was an amazing seamstress, before 2013, I had only sewn a pillowcase in my Home Economics class when I was 13.
I now consider myself a textile artist. I have a love for modern quilting and design. I experiment with a variety of modern techniques and aesthetics, though embraces Improvisation and Minimalist styles. I enjoy both these styles for very different reasons. Improvisation offers me an escape, an opportunity to let go of structure and just be in the moment. Minimalism gives me an outlet for my scientific & mathematical thoughts, expressing these in a visual way. There are many times these thoughts are what keep me awake at night, the shapes and interactions screaming to be put down on paper.
Many of my designs are inspired by the details I find in everyday objects, in the world around me. Objects as simple as a crosswalk, rusty set of cogs or a railroad junction have sparked an idea which I then transform into art through stitching, piecing, constructing, editing and quilting. I don’t have any favorite technique or color. I like to use whatever makes the image in my head work on canvas (in this case a quilt).
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