Friday, February 4, 2011

Linda Zimmerman On Quilt Art

ROBERTA: A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine, Linda
Zimmerman, announced that
she was quitting her job as a teaching assistant to do quilting. Well it turns out there is quilting and then there is quilt art. And the latter is what Linda has launched herself into. Today she visits JRW to tell us about her art and her transition. Linda, first question--please tell us about your career transition. Did you have a clear idea of what your new life would be like and how closely has it followed your vision.

: Thank you, Roberta. It is quite an honor to be a guest on this
wonderful blog! Seven years ago I took a fabric collage class with
EdJohnetta Miller, an art quilter whom I greatly admire. Although I
have sewed all my life, and have a degree in textiles, I didn't know
anything about art quilts or fabric collage and was introduced to a
whole new world. I found a group of art quilters on line with the same
vision and I was creatively re-energized. I took another class, this
time with Carol Taylor and met other art quilters in my area and was
thrilled to join their critique/support group, Sisters in Cloth.

I was beyond thrilled....but I had this job..... For the next two
years I met with them when I was able, my youngest child went off to
college, and I decided to quit the job and strike out on my own. Now
what? I enrolled in the Mastermind Coaching sessions with Jane
Pollak to learn how to define my goals. I realized that I could
design and sew but I had no idea how to start a viable business as an
artist. I have had to learn to become a strong marketer to find
venues and galleries at which to show one's work, an expert textile
photographer, an edgy web designer, and a clever blog post writer.
Becoming a successful artist is a very hard job, rewarding and creative, but very hard!

ROBERTA: When I was whining on facebook a few weeks ago about being
stuck in the middle of my book, I was struck by your comment about how
similar your process is. Tell us about that.

LINDA: My response to Roberta was this: "I don't know anything about
writing a book but when I am creating a
quilted piece, I ALWAYS get to a point when I don't like the way the
piece looks... BUT the majority of the time I love the final piece.
When I am at the questioning point, I put the piece back on the design
wall, look at it again in a day or two, or a month or two, and I am much happier. So keep writing, you know it's good. Go bake a pie."

Perhaps all creative people feel this way while working on a piece. I steel myself from the beginning, remind myself this frustration will
undoubtedly happen and just put the piece down when the negative
thoughts enter my mind. For example, the fabric for the piece below
sat in my basement for four months before I used it. Sisters in Cloth
is collaborating with a local photographer, Rosemary Delucco-Alpert,
where the art quilters are interpreting a photograph taken by Rosemary. She visited some of us in our studio and shot some photos while we worked on our piece.

After painting the fabric I was VERY unhappy with the way the painting came out. My mental image of what I was hoping the fabric would look like didn't match the reality. In December, when the drop dead date for completion was upon me, I was nervous. I didn't like the piece, the project ,or the fact I left this to the very last second. I cut the the fabric into squares and slowly started to breathe, they weren't that bad. I began placing them and I thought, the squares are coming together. By the end of the project, I was in love with this piece and believe it is one of my favorites to date.

ROBERTA: Now we'd love to hear about an idea for a piece and how it
looked along the way and what it looks like finished.

LINDA: The idea for a piece will come from several different places.
For those that work with fabric know that a piece of fabric or a
collection of fabric will "speak" to you. I often rust fabric
(placing rusty items on cotton or linen) or discharge color from
fabric(with bleach products or thiox) to create a unique fabric. I
also fall in love with fabric dyed by other artists or designed by
large mills. When a piece of fabric calls to me, I hang it on my
design wall or place it on my cutting table and just look at it for
several days, at some point an idea will emerge. As I begin to sew,
the original idea may change but at each idea stage, I look at the
piece and instinctively know what to do next.

Another way of creating a piece is for a specific challenge. The piece
I mentioned above I made for the floral/photography challenge. I
belong to SAQA, Studio Art Quilters Association, an organization with
extremely creative artists which offers many challenges which are
designed to stretch us beyond our comfort zone and try new techniques.
Another way of getting an idea is by observing what is around me. I
love visiting New York City-- any museum, unrelated to textiles,
brings a wealth of creative ideas. After spending time away from
fabric and my studio my mind is full of ideas and I look forward to
making or buying new fabric to get started again.

In addition to creating quilted art, I teach sewing to children (as
young as four.) They learn to use a needle and thread, sew on buttons
and beads and create whatever the class is focused on. For my most
recent class, I read a book, Dragon Can't, without showing the kids
the cover or the illustrations. At the end of the book each child
designed without being influenced by the illustrator of the book or by
me. In the end, there were sixteen very clever dragons all inspired by
words and sixteen very proud children.

ROBERTA: Linda, thank you for visiting with us today--and continued good luck and good vision with your art!


  1. There are several mystery series based on quilting. I've enjoyed reading them and understanding the process of quilting. Women's history includes this practical art that I tried once and decided wasn't my desire. But I'd love to own an "art" quilt to hang. I admire those who have the skills and patience to quilt. More power to you Linda!

  2. Thank you, E. B. And I admire those who have the skills and patience to write!!

  3. I still don't know how you do it. Thanks for persisting in your dream, the results are beautiful!

  4. Linda, I love how you described hanging the fabric on your wall to let it speak to you. This mirrors writers who get a spark of an idea and let it brew until the story emerges.

    This was so enlightening. I don't quilt, but I've inherited a couple of heirloom quilts that are beautiful works of art. Best of luck to you.

  5. Linda, thank you! I enjoyed this piece tremendously. I'm not a quilter, but have always been fascinated by them. We have quilts all over the house, hanging on walls, draped over chairs, on the beds, etc. and I always envy the people who have this talent.

    The closest I've ever come to doing anything resembling the art you do was taking a mixed media collage class with Cathy Taylor. That was huge fun and I'd like to do more of that.

    Roberta - Thank you for sharing Linda with us!

  6. Hi, Linda! This is fascinating. I love quilts, have collected them for ages, and even tried to sew one (it started out as a quilt for a double bed and ended up a baby quilt). I love the photos--these are gorgeous and in a whole other league from the average 'quilt.'

    Is there anywhere online where we can see more of your art? A gallery where you are showing them?

  7. OH, wonderful! And completely gorgeous. I have several quilts as art at home--but I don't know anyone who makes them. Fascinating how the fabric speaks to you...

    You know, when I get to the point that I hate what I;m working on---a script, or a manuscript, or a video piece--I've learned to say, oh hurray. I'm at the point where i hate it! That means loving it is just around the corner.

  8. I have a good friend whose niece makes beautiful quilts, and I live in an area where Amish quilts are expensive(and rightly so) and available so I am a fan of the skill. However, I've not seen anything as lovely as the quilts pictured here. How wonderful. I'm at a point of frustration with one of my characters and am letting him 'hang on the wall'. Hopefully I will soon love him again.
    Thanks for the reminder that all creative process is made of things like frustration, inspiration, and the hard fought battle for excellent results.

  9. What an inspiring post. Linda, your work is beautiful, and it is very interesting how all art is the same at some basic level. Music, literature, painting, sculputre, fiber art... they all come from the same source and travel through the artist in the same way. Bravo!

  10. This is actually from PJ Schott, who had trouble posting a comment:

    Loved the Quilt Art Author. Tried to leave a comment about being inspired by the role of quilts in the Civil War's underground railroad. Great advice about being blocked and letting it go to bake a pie. My version is to go dance. Impossible to worry about one's writing and be able to dance well.

  11. Linda, I loved the part of your story where you essentially reinvented yourself. I think it's such a widespread longing among women--okay, I've had the house and the kids and the white picket fence, now what? It take a lot of courage to move from a place you've been comfortable in in your life and strike out for new territory--especially if striking out involves leaving a job.

  12. I am overwhelmed by the many compliments and words of encouragement from all of you. I see many similarities in all types of artists and by sharing our different talents I believe enhances creativity in each of us.

  13. Linda -

    Thanks for sharing on Jungle Red. I LOVE hearing the similarities in the creative process --and how you overcome the frustrations.

    Sometimes I think its so much easier to hear and really understand when its a different form of the creative process.

    PS. I've always wanted to make a quilt, but can never get past the part where you really need to work on a sewing machine.

    I also have a good friend who is a quilter and i'm leaving here to email her to come read this today -- I'm sure she'll love your insights about the process.

  14. This is an excellent interview, Roberta. Linda is very talented.I have the good fortune to see Linda, as well as her work, frequently. She is very inspiring, in so many ways.

  15. Linda, I was so thrilled to read this post! A character in my most recent book, Necessary as Blood, is a fabric collage artist. I was very kindly helped in my research by a wonderful artist in Arizona named Darcy Falk, and your process sounds very similar to Darcy's as she explained it to me. I hope I've done you both justice.

    Although I don't quilt myself, I'd like to learn. My good friend who is a quilter describes that middle of the quilt/book slump as "ugly quilt syndrome." Nice to know we all go through it!

    Congratulations on your success!

  16. Congratulations on all you have accomplished- your creative pieces are fascinating and your dedication is inspiring!