Patt Blair agreed to answer some questions concerning her way of creating and how she became the quilter she is today.
Where do you live? And please tell us about your studio?
I live midway up one of the taller mountains in Southern California, on a one lane road in a narrow canyon aptly named Bear Canyon. The mountain is called Mt. Baldy (no trees on top). I have a small sewing room/office area there where I can work on small or traditional work though my main work is done at my studio condo at the base of the mountain. I keep most of the condo space for my art quilting, but do keep living space ready when staying off the mountain due to weather. I maintain domestic , mid arm, and long arm machines at my studio.
How did you start quilting?
I know they say curiosity killed the cat, but curiosity drives artists of all types. My entry into quilting began in the late 90s after 3 years of exercise walking with 3 traditional quilter friends. I was routinely on the outside of conversations as I’d never even thought of quilting. Now I was curious! I was a long time painter, most recently at that time a watercolorist. I jumped into quilting knowing nothing! I began creating traditional quilt tops as did my friends but soon missed my paint brush and more importantly, the freedom that came with it. In 2000, I happened upon a class on dye painting on fabric, and knew I was on the right track. I searched for a medium that allowed me to layer something like watercolors, and I’ve never looked back. Of course painting on fabric has challenges, but it seems merely a problem solving challenge rather than an artistic one. Where there’s a will, there is a way.
Did you ever make traditional quilts?
I do! As I began my painting on fabric journey, I stayed with my extremely skilled group of quilter friends, quilting with them to this day. This group of 12 have been together since the 80s so there was much for me to learn from them, both directly and frankly by example. From this work, I acquired a deep value and conviction for fine finish work – a necessity in today’s competitive quilting world.
How do you make your quilts? Are they all painted or are they sewn as well?
Most of my competitive work is painted and generally densely quilted.
My traditional pieces are both pieced and/or appliqued but I seldom enter them in competition. I somewhat keep traditional quilting as for my own relaxing fun.
Do you embroider or appliqué?
I have been known to free motion machine embroider. I like it. I quickly went through the programmed machine embroidery phase well over a decade ago. It didn’t suit me though some of todays work by others is off the charts beautiful. Hand embroidery is my airplane relaxation.
In terms of appliqué – I love needle turn applique and I do a little machine applique.
Do you quilt only by machine?
I am a machine quilter through and through. I admire hand quilting but haven’t time for it.
What fabrics do you choose? Commercial? Hand-dyed?
I mostly paint on high thread count pure white prepared for dyeing fabric. My overall favorite is one by Hoffman Fabrics. It’s tightly woven, feels silky smooth, and allows me to place my drawings underneath the fabric and thus I needn’t draw on my fabric.
Do you dye your own fabrics?
I have hand dyed for some pieced or fused abstract work but seldom do it any longer. If pressed, I use my pigment inks to quickly create a hand dyed look.
How do you get inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere. Nature of course is the most inspirational artist. I admit as well that I am generally inspired by things with a heartbeat. Life is precious. I’m likewise taken by anything that represents great composition. That includes such things as the government installed concrete walls along major highways, patterns in walkways, rugs , ceramics, clothing etc. If it’s an interesting pattern, I’m thinking about how that might translate into quilt line. And lastly, I get inspiration from joy found in students faces. I’m fueled by others success with the medium I teach.
Do you take a lot of pictures?
I carry a camera with me at all times, photographing something almost daily. I may or may not use them later as time availability is often the constraint. And I will actively seek photo opportunities for elements of a quilt I’m planning.
What do you use for painting?
My mainstay painting medium is Japan’s Tsukineko All Purpose Craft inks produced in both bottle and marker format (markers are called Fabrico) The are permanent with a dry iron heat set, and most importantly to me, are transparent allowing me to layer right on the fabric. The 45 bottled inks could be separately mixed on a palette but I find it easier to layer right on the fabric. I also use Pebeo Setacolor Transparent for large brushed in areas. Golden is now making some acrylics called Fluid that I’m playing with too. There are suddenly many good choices out there, I can’t try them all but appreciate them nonetheless.
I have already said I usually paint on white Hoffman fabric (prepared for dyeing) The PFD fabric isn’t 100% required. It just allows pigment to enter it better than a non PFD fabric. I will sometimes use a light value mottled fabric ( like Moda marbles, Benartex Apple Butter pattern, or hand dyes) on which to do portraits as the built-in motteling can add interesting texture to human skin. None of this is sacred however. For example, my portrait of a light skinned Mexican folk dancer was done on Kaufmans Kona „Snow“ slightly off white and thick individual woven threads. Such fabric is harder to see through and ‘drinks’ more pigment ink, but it was the perfect choice for the piece in question, so I used it.
Do you make quilts for big shows regularly?
I enter a couple large shows each year. Houston International Quilt Festival being the most competitive and exciting. They do a beautiful job honoring international talent.
What are your plans for the future?
I will continue painting and like most artists like to challenge myself in new directions. I’m collaborating now with a Photoshop specialist working with fracture software creating mystical images. I have his image being printed on silk. I can hardly wait to begin the quilting process.
I am often asked when I plan to publish a book. My response usually goes something like “not soon … maybe never” as I am plenty busy teaching, traveling, and creating.
I am however a blogger and use my blog as mostly a teaching blog. As I am in the process of creating, I photograph almost every stage, post it, and explain my thinking and or process. Check it out at http://www.pattsart.blogspot.com.
I do have another blog on a traveling exhibition I’ve co-curated showcasing 50+ artists work on what is referred to as Main Street USA historical Route 66 a national nostalgic highway connecting Chicago to Los Angeles. To make this even more special, we added a quilted 66 foot map of the highway where artists quilts were displayed in the area shown on the long map. The exhibit began traveling in August 2012 and will continue to do so for a total of 3 years. That exhibition is viewable at http://www.route66quilts.blogspot.com.
What an interesting interview and what an interesting person. If you want to see more of Patt’s quilts or if you would like to get information about Patt’s lectures, workshops, teaching products, and schedules please go to her website http://www.pattsart.com.
Pat’s quilts are beautiful but if you look closer at the quilting lines, this is what really takes your breath away. The lines and movement she brings into faces and landscapes are a work of art enhancing the overall effect of the motif extremly well.
Be sure to click on the pictures of the closeups to see what I am talking about.
And if you want to get an inside view on the creation of one of Patt’s most beautiful quilts „My Gentle Giant – Ben“ than check back here in the next weeks. The quilt won the Pfaff Master Award for Machine Artistry at the International Quilt Festival in Houston 2012 and it is impossible not to be touched by this soft, gentle giant.