Today, I’m part of the blog tour for Art Quilt Portfolio: People & Portraits.
As part of the blog tour, I had the great honor of being able to interview Martha Sielman, the force behind this beautiful book. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
1) Martha, you are involved with quilting in many different ways. You are the Executive Director of Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA), you write about quilts, and you make quilts of your own, as well. How did your interest in quilting begin? What other ways are you active in the quilting community?
My mother made all my dresses when I was little, and we only wore dresses to school – no jeans, no pants. So there was a huge box of fabric scraps in the closet, and I loved to go and look through them and finger all the different textures. She taught me to sew when I was five, and I made doll clothes. I was never very good at making my own clothes however.
I started making appliquéd wall-hangings in my teens but didn’t make my first quilt until 1988 when I was expecting my first child and wanted to make an alphabet baby quilt. I taught myself to quilt by reading books from the Hartford Public Library. Later I found art quilts, joined SAQA, volunteered to be the CT regional rep, and the rest is history…
It’s been a few years since I made a quilt, though I collect other artists’ work. All my creative energies have gone into writing my four books and writing articles. I also jury art quilt exhibitions and lecture about art quilts. I recently traveled to Florida to give a series of gallery talks for the opening of “Masters 2” (based on my earlier book “Masters: Art Quilts, volume 2”) at the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts in Melbourne. I currently serve on the New England Quilt Museum’s exhibitions advisory board.
2) Your newest book, Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits, is the second in your current series. How many books are planned? What other topics will you be featuring in this series? When is the next book scheduled to be written and published?
There are a total of five books planned. The first book was “Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World,” then came “People and Portraits.” I’d like to do three more: “Abstracts & Geometrics,” “Landscapes & Cityscapes,” and “Art Quilts with a Message: Political, Social and Environmental Commentary”. With the publishing world currently being in turmoil as it struggles to cope with the advent of reading on tablets and Kindles, we’ve had to put the publication schedule temporarily on hold while Lark waits to see how well the current print titles sell. The more copies of “People and Portraits” that sell, the more likely it is that the other titles will get published.
3) I understand that there will be a special exhibition in conjunction with this book. How many quilts will be a part of this special exhibit? Where can people go to see these quilts in person? How long will they be traveling?
I’m so excited that Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) had an opening in their exhibition schedule and agreed to sponsor an exhibition based on “People and Portraits.” The exhibition will include 40 art quilts, two by each of the Featured Artists in the book. Being able to see two works by each artist will allow viewers to really study what each artist is creating.
The “People and Portraits” exhibition will premiere at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas October 31 – November 3, 2013. It will then travel to the other IQF Festivals in Cincinnati and Long Beach during 2014, and SAQA hopes to bring it to additional venues around the country over the following two years.
4) For more than 25 years, I have had a particular interest in any quilt that features a person, and yet you included many artists in this book who were new to me. Where did you discover all these amazing artists? How did you choose which quilts and which artists to include in this book?
My goal in choosing artists for each of my books is to try to balance well-known artists with new faces, so that every reader who opens one of my books will discover someone new. For “People and Portraits,” Lark put out a call for entries, and we received over 1,000 images. I found some of the Featured Artists because they submitted entries.
I also constantly research who is making art quilts and often invite those artists to submit work for a particular book. I travel to IQF-Houston each year as part of my job as Executive Director of SAQA, and last year I was lucky enough to be able to go to Festival of Quilts in England as well. I take time to go through all of the exhibitions, take photos and record names of any works that might be good leads for upcoming books. I also ask other people who are traveling to exhibitions, such as the Tokyo Quilt Festival, to be on the lookout for possible quilt artists that I should be aware of, and I spend a lot of time online looking at photos that people post. I collect catalogs from as many art quilt exhibitions as I can, and I go through all of them carefully when I’m planning the next book. I really appreciate it when people send me catalogs of their exhibitions, as it helps me to grow my research library.
To select the Featured Artists for “Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits,” I looked for artists with a large body of portrait work because there needed to be enough pieces to do a feature. Lark tries not to reprint images that have appeared in other Lark titles, so that can limit how many pieces can be included. I tried to find artists with a wide variety of approaches to portraiture and artists using a wide variety of techniques. Within the limited number of pages in the book, I wanted to create the broadest survey possible of what is being done today in art quilt portraiture.
For the gallery sections, I was again looking for a wide variety of approaches and subject matter, but I was also trying to balance the themes that I had selected. As I wrote in the Introduction to the book, when I first started looking through the submissions to Lark’s call for entries I thought that the gallery sections would be based on generic categories: men, women, boys, girls, babies, senior citizens. But when I looked at the images, I realized that I needed different categories that focused on the emotional content of the art quilts rather than the age and gender of the subjects, so we ended up with Happiness, Contemplation, Community, Icons, Family & Friends, Work and Play. Some of the choices that I made were then based on trying to balance those categories.
I actually chose about three times as many pieces as are printed in the book. Lark’s Art Department makes the final choices based on photo quality and layout considerations. That’s why having professional photography is so critical to getting published. A photo that you take yourself may be fine for posting online, but a printed book needs really professional photography.
5) If there was one thing you would like to tell today’s quilter, what would it be?
Follow your passion and get professional photography (maybe that’s two things…).
6) What would you like to communicate to the average non-quilter?
The art being done today in the art quilt medium is extraordinary. Artists are using all different techniques, tackling an amazing spectrum of subject matter, and sculpting it all with stitch. My home is decorated almost completely in art quilts (many purchased through SAQA’s annual Benefit Auction). I always enjoy in sharing the art with visitors, many of whom have never seen art quilts previously.
7) Because of all the ways you are involved in today’s quilt making scene, you have a unique perspective that most of us don’t. What current trends do you see in current quilt making? What do you foresee as the direction future quilt making might take?
I wrote an article for Quilt Trends magazine and have given a series of lectures on the “Top 10 Trends” in art quilts. Several of the trends that I’m seeing deal with stitch: increasing use of long-art quilting machines at the same time that we’re seeing increasing pieces with an emphasis on hand-stitching, often referred to as mark-making. Thread-painting has become very popular, and at Quilt National there were many works where the design was created primarily by stitched line.
I’m also seeing a lot of use of sheer fabrics, as well as more use of recycled fabrics. Ongoing trends include whole cloth painted surfaces and the use of photo transfers. I’m seeing more beading but less of other types of embellishments, as well as more surface treatments such as slashing, pleating and trapunto. And there seems to be a growing trend towards more neutral colors — black and white, grays, rust browns — and away from brightly colored or jewel-toned pieces. Finally there is growing interest in mounting art quilts on stretcher bars or presenting them in frames, while some artists are actually creating three-dimensional, sculptural work.
I think that future quilt making is going to continue to explore all of the myriad directions that artists can take this medium. I can’t wait to see the results!
Now that you’ve made it to the end of my post, I’m thrilled to tell you that Lark Crafts has provided me with one book to give away! Just leave a comment below with your name and email address, and Saturday night I will pick one winner using the Random Number Generator.
Update: This contest is now closed.
Be sure to visit the other blogs on the tour, too! There will be more giveaways, interviews, book reviews, and lots of other great stuff!
June 4th – Lark Kick Off!
June 5th – Sarah Ann Smith
June 6th – that’s me!
June 7th – Laura Wasilowski
June 9th – Katherine McNeese
June 10th – Cheryl Sleboda
June 11th – Linda McLaughlin
June 12th – Kathy Nida
June 13th – Marilyn H. Wall
June 14th – Janice Paine Dawes
June 16th – Pamela Price Klebaum
June 17th – Deborah Boschert
June 18th – Lisa Chin
June 19th – Sue Bleiweiss
June 20th – Leni Wiener
June 24th – Cheryl Lynch
June 25th – Lesley Riley
June 26th – Stephanie Forsyth
June 30th – Pat Kumich
Today also happens to be my 32nd wedding anniversary. It hasn’t always been easy, but I am very thankful God put us together. Happy anniversary, sweet hubby! (I wouldn’t want to be that young again, but I wouldn’t mind being that thin!)
Update: This contest is now closed.