Art & Design by Neroli Henderson

Interview series: Mixed Media Artist, Jane Davila

This weeks interview is with US based mixed media artist, writer, tutor and general all round star – Jane Davila!

Jane writes a regular business and marketing column for Quilting Arts Magazine (my favorite textile mag), has produced 3 really informative books (her 3rd ‘Jane Davila’s Surface Design Essentials‘ is just out) and teaches workshops internationally. On top of all of this she somehow manages to fit in making and selling her own art, designing websites, taking her patchwork store on tour to expos around the states and has guest starred on Quilting Arts TV. Not to mention taking the time to fill in interviews for little known Australian blogs :)

‘Woodcut Fish’ fibre art postcard 4″x6″
Click to enlarge pic
Cotton fabrics, block print, acrylic ink and pearlescent ink, metallic acrylic paint

 1. How long have you been quilting and what first drew you to it?  
I started out as a printmaker and came to quilting when my mom and I opened a quilt shop, The Country Quilter, in 1990 where I got a really good grounding in all of the basic quiltmaking techniques. I love the tactile quality of quilts, it’s the same thing that drew me to printmaking – the texture and colors and hands-on processes.

‘Strings’ 6″x6″
Small fiber piece mounted on stretched canvas, cotton & silk fabrics, stamp, acrylic ink, linen floss

  2. How would you describe your style now? 
I’m definitely an art quilter although I still make pieced quilts occasionally for fun.

 3. How has your style evolved? 
I began with traditional quilts and quickly progressed to more contemporary quilts. Then in 2002 I began making art quilts when I realized that I could bring my art training and quilt training together. My studio space has been set up with my style of work in mind, so that all my favorite materials are close to hand.

Jane’s gorgeous studio features lots of natural light, bookcases packed with stunning natural fabrics, paper displayed over rods and a dozen other things I could really get used to having around! Jane made most of her studio furniture herself including the floating workspace in the centre of the room. See her blog for a how she did it here.

 4. Apart from creating art what else to you do within the industry? 
I write books about art quilting for C&T Publishing (book #3, Surface Design Essentials, just came out!), I teach internationally, I write a column for Quilting Arts magazine called Minding Your Business about the business side of being an artist, I teach online courses as well as workshops in my studio, I have a blog, I tweet and I’ve got several products in development for the art quilting market. I have a sorely-neglected etsy store and I design websites for artists and others. What I don’t have enough of is hours in the day for all the ideas in my head!

Last year in March my Mom and I closed our retail store after nearly 19 years. She has retired with my dad (and is finally getting the hang of it!) and I have taken our shop online and out on the road, vending at quilts shows around the country. Flourish, the name of my art quilting supply company, can be found at

‘El Diablito’ 5.5″ square
Cotton fabrics, hand-dyed wool, Loteria playing card, distress inks, hand and machine stitched

 5. What’s the best advice you could give someone who wants to try quilting or textile art for the first time? 
Start with a manageable-sized project. Don’t start with a king-sized quilt! I think that if you have a positive first experience and you finish what you start in a reasonable amount of time, you’ll be more likely to continue than if you bite off too much and get discouraged.

 6. Do you exhibit your work? 
I do. I no longer apply to quilt shows and have much more luck with all media or mixed-media shows. As my work diversifies and moves farther away from traditional quilts, I find that gallery venues are better choices for me. I also work small and my work gets lost at regular quilt shows hanging next to bed quilts whereas galleries and art centers are better equipped to deal with making small work look great.

‘La Sirena’ 5.5″ square
Cotton fabrics, hand-dyed wool, Loteria playing card, stamped text, hand and machine stitched

 7. How do you go about finding and selecting exhibitions? 
I subscribe to a couple of art magazines that list calls for entry and I haunt the internet – it’s a tremendous resource for finding shows.

 8. Do you belong to any quilt associations? If so why did you join these ones? 
I belong to Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) and Surface Design Association (SDA) as well as the Nature Printing Society. I had let my membership to some local fine art guilds lapse due to lack of time and funds but plan to re-join this year. I try to find groups of like-minded people, although I don’t tend to be a big joiner. I do also belong to some interesting online groups for assemblage and collage artists.

 9. What would you recommend people do who want to seriously get into textile art? 
Study a wide variety of techniques to start to narrow down where your specific interest lies. Take classes from a number of teachers in different venues if you can. Remember that once you’ve learned and mastered various aspects of your craft it is necessary to produce a lot of work on a consistent basis to develop your “voice”, your unique viewpoint. Take in lots of information from lots of sources, internalize and process it and let it out as your original expression. Keep the parts of what you learn that work for you and discard what doesn’t.

 10. What inspires you?  
So much! Color combinations in magazines and art, music, lyrics, poetry, nature, words. I carry a little Moleskine sketchbook with me and constantly doodle in it.

 11. What sewing machine / threads etc do you use? 
I have an old Bernina that I adore. It does just enough and doesn’t do anything unnecessary for me. I love cotton threads for machine sewing, especially hand-dyed and adore linen thread for hand stitching.

 12. Do you have any formal art training? Do you think it’s necessary? 
I am almost entirely self-taught and I continue that education every day. I am endlessly curious about art and life and science and spend a lot of time studying and researching. I do think that having a solid grounding in the basics of art are absolutely necessary to create successful artwork. 

‘Anodyne III’ 9″x12″
Mixed media fiber collage, cotton fabrics, paper and paper mesh, image printed on linen fabric and hand-colored, stamped text, distress inks, mah-jong tile, over-printed with found objects, hand and machine stitching, chunky zipper edging

 14. What’s the most rewarding thing about your career? 
I love teaching and getting a chance to encourage people to try new things and challenge themselves. I love creating art and pushing myself to explore.

 15. How did you learn the techniques you use? 
I learned my basic quilting skills from my mom and from books. Art quilting techniques I learned by experimentation, from books and the internet.

 16. What are your favorite / least favorite parts of the quilting process?
I like the composing part the best, where I audition fabrics, cut and lay out pieces and start thinking about the quilting lines. I like edge-finishing the least so I don’t often use traditional bindings on my quilts.

 17. What is your favorite technique? 
I love to paint on fabric. I don’t have the patience for dyeing fabric and I try to avoid toxic chemicals and processes in my work, so painting with acrylic paints and inks suits me. I can get a lot of the same effects that dyers get with my paints and inks and there’s little to no prep, no setting and no hazardous materials or dust masks involved. To get a beautiful background wash on fabric I add a small amount of acrylic paint or acrylic ink to a container of water and simply brush it onto prewashed white fabric. I can use more than one color, I can throw sea salt on the wet paint for star burst effects and I can scrunch, fold or lay the wet fabric over a surface for even more textural interest in the finished fabric. The paint or ink changes the hand of the fabric only minimally and is as permanent as dyed fabric. And I can whip up as small or as large a piece as I need in exactly the color(s) I need.

‘Gyotaku’ 7.5″x9.5″
Mixed media collage on bristol board, printed mulberry paper, gyotaku print on cotton fabric, stamped text, transfered text, embossed and printed papers, cotton fabrics

 For more on Jane: 

Books (all available through C&T Publishing):
• Art Quilt Workbook (co-authored with Elin Waterston)
• Art Quilts at Play (co-authored with Elin Waterston)
• Jane Davila’s Surface Design Essentials

• One-Page Book (Quilting Arts workshop dvd)
• Jane & Elin Teach You Art Quilting Basics (C&T Publishing)

You can purchase autographed copies of all Jane’s books, or sign up (if you’re quick, it’s just started!) for her online ‘Jump Start Your Art Career’ course by emailing Jane.

View more of Jane’s work on her website or check out her etsy store.

I love feedback! Please comment below if you have any thoughts on this article or what you’d like to see more or less of in future interviews. –Neroli Henderson


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