A stage for fiber art
After two decades of working in professional theatre, I found my true calling. Over the next twenty years, my studio has become the stage for my dye-stained hands to choreograph art quilt design through a playful yet dedicated practice. It’s at the cutting table, where the love/hate relationship with creative process begins. Emotions and frustrations arise during the journey of each piece, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a glorious struggle. When things are flowing, I actually enjoy throwing in a wrench to raise the bar and further push my creative muscles.
I joke that I “live to dye”, but it is true. Throughout my life, I have had an insane love affair with color. It touches my soul more deeply than any music or poetry. When asked in kindergarten, I reported that I had two favourite colors - olive green and “Kodak” yellow. Coming from photographer parents working out of their home studio, the signature cadmium yellow on each box of paper or film was part of my surroundings.
For me, when designing a quilt, improvisation is the quickest route to a successful piece. Each quilt is first inspired by a fabric palette. On a day when I don’t feel particularly creative, I find myself pulling fabrics from my stash and piling them together in interesting combinations for the joy of seeing various hues next to each other. I have numerous “palette piles” which often sit on shelves waiting for me to pull them down and begin the drama.
My favorite technique is reverse appliqué. I use my hand-dyed fabrics in combination with commercially printed cottons. I enjoy the visual tension that appears as they dance together in a composition. Organic shapes are sewn on top of two layers of fabric. A negative shape (i.e. the hole in a doughnut) is cut away to reveal the fabric underneath. I continue to layer, sew, cut and compose - repeat as necessary. There is always a spark of magic when throwaway scraps become integral motifs within the design, or serve as inspiration for a future piece. My favorite game is to make a quilt only from the leftover scraps from the last. These are often my most successful as they are embedded with practice, process, and discovery with abandonment of expectation.
For better or worse, I’m partnered with process for the long haul. I’ve learned to be disciplined enough to build a foundation from a seed of inspiration but open enough to deviate from the script. More than anything, I’ve learned that the deeper the focus on process, the greater the reward. I’m a serious artist, but what I am most serious about is play.
Heidi Hunter is a Canadian artist living in an old school house in Manitoba’s Interlake. She works and teaches out of her Runs with Scissors Studio. You can see more of her work on www.runswithscissors.ca or follow her on social media.