I have never NOT worked with fabric, beginning with sewing (from the age of 6), but ironically I never learned to make a proper quilt. I have been a professional textile artist for just over 20 years, but my formal education is in Horticulture.
How would you describe your style now?
Painting with fabric… it’s a mixture of machine collage, appliqué, embroidery and quilting. I call my main technique “collage with nets”. I love how it allows me to explore the freedom of line and shape that exists in the world of painting without compromising the intensity of colour and texture that you can achieve with fabric.
I begin with a plain fabric ground. On this surface I drop hundreds, sometimes thousands of tiny bits of cut fabrics and threads (of any kind – natural, synthetic, metallic) until I reach a depth and texture that pleases me. I then pin transparent netting on top, usually nylon tulle, which holds everything in place. The layers are then machine stitched together. This new fabric is now ready for further surface work: machine applique, embroidery, collage, and, more recently, photographic transfers from my photographer husband’s huge collection of natural images (www.jwrobelphoto.com). The finished surface is then quilted over batting and backing to fix the shape and enhance textures and lines.
How has your style evolved?
After many wearable fashion disasters, I learned that I had an aptitude and passion for hand embroidery. During my teens and onward I absorbed nearly every embroidery technique and was even teaching them at one point. But as you may suspect, it’s a slow medium. The transition to my new techniques took a number of years and lots of experimentation.
Apart from quilting what else to you do within the industry?
I occasionally teach workshops on a freelance basis (teaching my techniques or design). Lately I have been organizing my own, by renting facilities in a lovely historic church just around the corner. I even provide excellent lunches and it’s lots of fun. Also, I do some public speaking and presentations, and trunk shows, about my work and/or about native trees and art.
What’s the best advice you could give someone who wants to try quilting or textile art for the first time?
Don’t let anyone burden you with rules.. if you feel excited and it’s breaking a rule, then go for it.
Do you exhibit your work?
Over the years I have exhibited extensively… in commercial and public galleries and plenty of unlikely places too. I love showing my work and it’s the way I connect with viewers and clients.
How do you go about finding and selecting galleries?
Sometimes galleriesapproach me directly or via my website, but more often I approach them. First I make sure they are a good fit for my work, then I speak to other artists to find out what their experience is with the gallery. After that I follow the protocol that most galleries post on their site. I haven’t needed to do that in a few years… I now have just the right number and quality of commercial galleries.
I also do a few very carefully selected Commercial fine art shows (where each artist has a booth) – this is an excellent way to meet the public and increase my mailing list. I only do shows that are well juried and have high standards. They are not cheap, but well worth the investment.
Do you belong to any quilt associations?
No, I don’t belong to any quilt associations. Although I do miss that kind of camaraderie, it’s more useful and interesting to belong to Naturalist clubs, Fine art clubs, or any groups outside the textile community. This keeps my ideas and work fresh.
What would you recommend people do who want to seriously get into textile art?
Hang out with artists in all media. Learn and study all kinds of things, not only textile art and techniques. Bring in every experience you have. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do and how to do it. Be very selective of your critics. Try to build a broad income base by diversifying, using all your strengths and passions.
What inspires you?
Over the years, my work has become a blend of all my interests: nature, science, spirituality, literature, arboriculture, botany, environmental issues, my childhood on a farm … It’s a long list! I am best known, however, for my portrayals of native trees. Since my BSc in Horticulture, I’ve done a lot of research on culture, symbolism, mythology, native uses, stories, poems… and the more I learned, the more fascinating trees became. So that’s an ongoing inspiration.
What sewing machine / threads etc do you use?
I have 2 Berninas: an old regular one (made in Europe), and an even older industrial one. Both have free motion options. I don’t need anything fancy, just a strong motor and reliability. I use all kinds of threads, but prefer rayon for its shine and strength.
Do you have any formal art training? Do you think it’s necessary?
I don’t have formal art training. I don’t think it’s necessary but I’m sure it can’t hurt.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your career?
Art is my way of sharing how I see and feel about the world. When people see it, they know something about me, much better than when I open my mouth. This makes it easier for a shy person like me to make connections and bring those fine souls my way. Everything evolves from there.
How did you learn the techniques you use?
Mainly through experimentation and looking at other artists’ work.
What are your favorite / least favorite parts of the quilting process?
Endless pinning. I don’t enjoy pinning. Or putting on the sleeve at the end… (huge sigh). But frankly, there is very little I don’t love about every stage of my process.
Collage with nets technique in detail
Lorraine’s book ‘Saving Paradise’
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