It’s always wonderful to hear of quilts being recognized in a gallery setting, and even more so when the quilter in question is a long-time friend. Linda Smith and I first met over 25 years ago in Boone, NC, as charter members of the newly formed Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild. Before long, she and I found ourselves part of a small group of five within the guild, sharing common interests and quilting road trips. We called ourselves The Common Threads, and one of our goals was to exhibit our work on a regular basis.
Our first opportunity came in the summer of 1995, when we were invited to exhibit at the historic Jones House Community and Cultural Center in downtown Boone. The month-long show was quite a success, attracting the attention of (the sadly, now-defunct) Lady’s Circle Patchwork Quilts magazine, which proposed a feature article about us and our exhibit. I was honored to write the text for that article. Here’s what I had to say then about Linda:
Linda Smith is the risk-taker (of the group). She laughs when we call her that, saying that we really mean “I jump right in when I don’t have a clue!” Not so. Instead, she is virtually fearless when it comes to quiltmaking, eager to try each newly discovered technique, viewing each step as an adventure. Her work is experimental, fresh, and exciting.
Very little has changed since I wrote those words so long ago. If anything, Linda has become even more of an adventurer and innovator. As she continues to push her creative boundaries, she seeks also to explore new venues for showing her work.
Earlier this spring, Linda’s work was featured as part of a four-woman exhibit called Wrapped Up in You at The Gallery at Macon (GA) Arts Alliance. The other three artists were clay artist Malena Bisanti-Wall, jewelry designer Cheri Lesauskis, and mixed-media artist (and the gallery’s Fine Art Director) Heatherly Wakefield.
Like many of us, Linda started out as a strictly traditional quilter. She made her first quilt in the mid-1970s from a kit, and went on to quilt a few tops that had been pieced by her great-grandmother. As a career counselor (Director of the Career Center at Appalachian State University in Boone), Dr. Smith spent her days helping college students explore post-graduate options. What could be more natural than exploring post-traditional possibilities for fabric and thread?
“I started ‘going off’ in the mid-90s,” Linda recalls. “I had been making tons of little nine patches that I planned to use for a Postage Stamp quilt. I realized that wasn’t going to happen, so I started to explore other ways to use those blocks.” The Skewed Nine Patch quilt (in the photo above) was one of those early experiments.
Nowadays, Linda describes her approach as “somewhere between what if and why not.“ Her contribution to the Macon exhibit included a series she calls Meditation. Its 12 pieces grew from a “somewhat non-specific, between-class” exercise inspired by a class with quilt artist, Hollis Chatelain. All 12 pieces were made using the same elements: two or three rectangles, nine squares, and some lines. Each measures approximately 13″ x 16.”
“As I began making these little pieces, I decided that if I liked the design, I would take it as far as I could with different fabrics, in different combinations, to create different moods. All were made entirely from fabrics in my stash.” she says. The materials are a mix of commercial fabrics, batiks, Cherrywood hand dyes, and others that she dyed or painted herself. ”It’s amazing when you stop to look at what you have. I know that some quilters don’t want to cut into those ‘special’ fabrics. I want to use them! Sometimes I barely had enough, so I had to be creative.”
Linda finished each piece with a clean faced edging (see Jennifer’s April 16 post) and a sleeve on all four sides to insert flat molding. Always on the lookout for the next innovation, she adds, “Next time, I might try affixing the pieces to artist’s canvas.”
In addition to the dozen 13″ x 16″ pieces, Linda continued to experiment, this time with size, ultimately expanding her series to include one larger piece (20″ x 24″) and a few small framed pieces.
These days, Linda splits her time between three locations: Boone, Macon, and Amelia Island, FL. (After the Macon exhibit closed, the remaining pieces of her Meditations series went on to the Amelia SanJon Gallery in Fernandina Beach, FL.) While she admits that working from three places can be a challenge, she manages to cope very nicely. Boone remains the center of primary operation, “but I carry my Pfaff everywhere.”
Her quilting continues to become more collage-like. To this end, she takes not only quilting classes, but collage classes, recognizing that “the two overlap and inform each other.” She enjoys combining paper collage and quilted fabric.
The fiber pieces are completed first and then hand-stitched to a collaged or painted canvas. Leaves and trees are a primary recurring theme and although she is often pulled to the more abstract (as in her Meditation series), trees and leaves always seem to pull her back.
For the past few years, Linda has belonged to a small group in Boone comprised of visual artists of various media who expand and inspire her– who encourage her to think outside the box. This group, an offshoot of a 12-week Artist’s Way workshop series, forced her to think of herself as an artist. “It’s been a very powerful experience for me.” At the same time, she continues to “treasure and cherish” the traditional quilting community, particularly through her membership and participation in Macon’s largely traditional Heart of Georgia Quilt Guild. Evidence of this dual appreciation is evident in her Macon home, where old and new pieces exist serenely side by side.
As for sources of inspiration, Linda lists “lots of classes, lots of books (mostly quilt-related at first, but now expanded to include more art-related books as well), attendance at art shows and galleries, and Pinterest. I find so much inspiration there!”
Her advice to those quilters who want to try something new: “Don’t be afraid, don’t worry about what others will say about your art, forget the quilt police. A couple of years from now, my work may look totally different, which might be a good thing. I like to evolve.”
We’ll be watching, Linda!
Before I sign off, I’ve got good news for two SHWS readers–the winners of the double giveaway in our recent First Quilt, Latest Quilt post featuring Verna Mosquera. Ginabeth is the winner of the Prima Ballerina pattern and the packet of eight fat quarters from Verna’s Pirouette fabric line and Kathy Renz has won the packet of 5″ Pirouette charm squares. Ladies, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org with your snail mail addresses and we’ll get your winnings on the way. Thanks again to Verna for providing so generously for our giveaway.