I can't remember a time when I did not love working with fabric. As the daughter of a Home Economics teacher this really isn't that surprising. I remember making outfits for my dolls and decorating my dollhouse with scraps from my mother's basket. As a teen I sewed some of my own clothes from simple patterns and of course made my Halloween costumes. But it wasn't until my senior year in college that I discovered my love of quilting. That was when I purchased a magazine with this enticing cover article: "Stitch a Quilt in a Weekend".
Well, life got busy and two days became two years, but I finally had a beautiful blue and white "fields and furrows" twin-sized quilt... and I was hooked. Working increasingly quickly, I made lap quilts, baby quilts, and memory quilts by the dozens. Always keen to push the edges of what I could create, I started experimenting with new treatments on fabric, and made my first "photo quilt" in 2000. The process was tedious (I think I had to mix formulas and let the fabric soak for a certain period of time) but the end result was a family picture quilt that made my mother cry.
For Christmas 2008 I wanted to make a wall hanging (non-photo) quilt of the view of my neighbor’s barn, from my property. Getting the perspective right was a nightmare, as I tried to match up the view of the barn with my fabric cutouts. Then, suddenly, inspiration struck. If I scanned, enlarged, then printed out the picture, I could cut out the barn at the exact angles I needed. Then, using it sort of as a template on the fabric, I could transfer the shape to the fabric. Within days, my neighbor had a one-of-a-kind quilt, and I had a new approach to quilting.
A month later she asked me to replicate a neighbor's home. It had belonged to a friend of hers who recently downsized. I completed the project as commissioned, including the requested flowers and shrubbery in the front garden.
In November of 2009 I entered a "home portrait quilt" (seen to the left) in the local Festival of the Wreaths and won Charity Challenge Audience Favorite. In 2011, I entered another piece - this time depicting a silhouetted little girl reading by firelight-- and won the same prize.
By this point, I had an Etsy site and regular gigs at local craft shows.
My beloved hobby was also becoming a fledgling career.
I started landing commissions, locally, from people who saw my work and nationally, through my Etsy account. I fell in love with the process. I almost can’t quantify the exquisite pleasure of finding just the right piece of fabric to complete a piece-but if you’re a quilter, you know exactly what I mean. And, bonus: I could put all the scraps I saved over the years to thrifty use!
From time to time, I had gotten requests to render peoples’ likenesses in fabric. While I’d gotten pretty good at creating realistic pieces, I wasn’t sure I had the ability to depict people in fabric. Then a chance meeting at a craft show provided the missing piece. A very kind woman (whose name I never learned) explained how using Adobe Photoshop "artistic filter" would breakdown images in a way for me to recreate them in fabric. New opportunities were opened to me -- and I never got to thank her.
In the Fall of 2012, I created a quilted portrait of one of my favorite authors, Edgar Allan Poe. I posted it to Facebook and it sold immediately. I continued to perfect my craft -- focusing on authors I have enjoyed through the years. By the summer of 2013 I entered a new Poe into a contest a county away and my piece sold on opening night. In homage to that first portrait, I named my business after one of his most famous works.
Since then, I’ve had my work shown in galleries across the country, have sold pieces to art dealers and patrons and was honored with a Juror’s Award for my “Alfred and the Byrds” piece.
I’ve discovered I have a real affinity for this art form. I’ve worked hard to perfect both the process and my art, although in some ways, I feel like I’m just getting started.
A woman who had seen my Arts Center entry in 2009 had spoken about my work to the Village Quilters of Catonsville and I received a request to give a talk to the group. Not one for public speaking, I astounded myself by accepting. I really enjoyed the experience. Both my parents are teachers and it came naturally for me. I especially loved meeting the other quilters and discussing our shared passion for fabric work.
I went on to speak at another quilting guild at the request of the members and also taught a class on my process. It was a wonderful experience and one I wanted to replicate, but was unable to as I took a professional job with a long, long (LONG) commute. My ability to sew in my free time was limited to quilts for special occasions for family and friends.
Recently I have found local employment which has freed me up to pursue my passion. My day job is as a case manager, helping transitioning ill, wounded, or injured service members get a good start at civilian life. In the evenings I get to work on my quilts. My mother always told me "Do what you love and never work a day in your life". I have never felt more blessed.
I LOVE this new chapter in my life: sharing my quilting process and my passion with others. I never would have thought that I would be someone who would be comfortable lecturing and teaching to hundreds of people -- but when you are sharing your passion, it is like talking to old friends <3