Recently, I was contacted through e-mail by a new art quilter. She found my Trees pattern online and had a few questions. What started as a conversation about my pattern has morphed into a discussion about where to start when you are drawn to making art quilts. She tells me she loves to see nature represented in quilts and prefers organic art quilts to geometric patterns. She has sewing experience and she’s ready to dive into quilting. I thought this might resonate with others, and so I’m sharing my advice to her.
Her first question was how to begin, specifically, asking for beginner books. My response:
- First, subscribe to Quilting Arts Magazine. Seriously. I like it for inspiration, new techniques, and exposure to what’s going on in the quilt world. There’s no substitute.
- Next, look around to see what resonates with you. I can recommend books on specific techniques, but it’s best to narrow the field and figure out where to start. And so, what appeals to you? Collage, surface design, photorealism? Go into your local quilt shop (or, in the absence of a decent shop, go online and Google quilt books) and just look at the covers. If something pulls you in, then open it up and investigate.
- Generally, it’s a good idea to find books on basics that include a survey course on a variety of techniques. For the price of one book, you can cover a lot of territory. Get yourself a copy of The Painted Quilt by Linda and Laura Kemshall. You can find a link to it and more books I consider essential on this page of my website: http://www.moonlightingquilts.com/FavoriteThings.htm.
- Most important is to find a group of like-minded individuals. Do you have a local quilt guild? Also, you are really, really lucky to be close-ish to Pacific Grove and Asilomar. Go online to http://www.emptyspoolsseminars.com/. Attending this “quilt camp” is a life changing event for many quilters. Pricey, but worth it.
In a follow-up e-mail, my new friend told me she bought Joan Colvin’s Quilts from Nature, drawn in by the cover. With this in mind, I offered a book list:
- Nature’s Studio and The Nature of Design, both by Joan Colvin. If you like her style, continue to collect her books. I find her portraits haunting. The Nature of Design is a journal where Joan discusses her process.
- Personal Imagery in Art Quilts by Erika Carter. This artist has a completely different take on landscapes. Her trees are at the same time geometric and graceful. The book lays out her work in periods, which allows the reader to see a progression both in technique and palette.
- Serendipity Quilts: Cutting Loose Fabric Collage by Susan Carlson. While this book may prove inspirational, I’m recommending this book also for technique. Quilters who are discovering the world of art quilts are often stymied by the challenge of moving away from patterns and toward techniques. When I survey my incoming Art Quilts 101 students, I often hear about the desire to translate the visions in their heads into art quilts. This book provides an easy technique that takes the “how to” off the table and allows you to concentrate on design and composition.
- Luminous Landscapes by Gloria Loughman. Process, technique, and inspiration. Gorgeous work with a liberal dose of design and color theory.
- Intuitive Color & Design: Adventures in Art Quilting by Jean Wells. Some trees and landscapes, but mostly process and technique. Visually rich.
- A Fabric Journey: An Inside Look at the Quilts of Ruth B. McDowell by Ruth McDowell. Ruth does the most amazing pieced pictorial quilts. This book is about her process, which is straightforward and well-developed. If you decide you want to learn her technique, she has other books aimed at specific subject matter that you may enjoy. Her approach is worth investigating.
I’m eager for progress reports from this new quilter. I’m also eager for recommendations from you. What advice would you have for a new quilter? Or, if you are a new quilter, what questions do you have?