Fine Art and the Colors of Nature is presented by three Carolina fiber artists, each inspired by nature throughout the Carolinas, from the shores to the mountains. Artists Kathryn Weston, Mary Stori and Judy Simmons hope their exhibit will expand the visitors’ enjoyment of the Arboretum’s natural landscape by echoing the colors of the flowers, the texture of the foliage, the wonders of the wildlife and the serenity of the trails. The diversity of the artists’ styles, construction methods and subject matter captures the tradition of quilt makers with a fresh approach, while also providing a second look at nature throughout the Carolinas.
I recently had a chance to catch up with these talented ladies and learn more about their background and artistry.
1.) Who taught you to quilt?
Weston: I started in my teen years when little information was available. Hence, I am mostly self-taught, though I took many classes from national teachers for several years.
Stori: My family does not have any heritage of quilting, so I ended up teaching myself.
Simmons: Quilting was in my family. My paternal grandmother who lived on the other side of the country was a quilter. I only met her once in my life, when I was six months old, so I didn’t learn to quilt from her. My mom’s family were big-time sewers but not quilters. I think I became interested in quilting when I was a home economics teacher and had many young girls making the cutest things out of cotton. They would give me their scraps, and I hoped to make a memory quilt out of their fabric one day. I eventually signed up for a beginner’s quilting class to learn the basics and went off and running from there.
2.) How many hours a day do you spend quilting, designing and selecting fabrics for your craft?
Weston: It varies. Depending upon other commitments, I generally spend six to seven hours per day in my creative endeavors.
Stori: I’d spend every waking hour if I could, but on average a minimum of six hours.
Simmons: I usually spend all day in my studio, but I am often doing other things, too. As far as quilting, I usually spend around four to five hours a day.
3.) Do you have a quilting studio?
Weston: Yes, I actually have two large rooms, and I dream of the day when I have one very large studio.
Simmons: Yes. We had our house built and planned for a big studio (for wet and dry work) on the main floor, so no running up and down the stairs.
4.) What inspires your art quilt ideas?
Weston: Nature is my greatest source. Sometimes I include man-made structures as they fit in nature.
Stori: My surroundings.
Simmons: Several things. Nature is a prime inspiration, especially trees. I also love the many old documents and pictures that have been handed down to me, as well as the deterioration of buildings, rocks, etc., for their wonderful texture. I use my own photography, edit the images in Photoshop Elements, and make the images into silk screens or print them on fabric, which are then used in my work.
5.) What color(s) are you most drawn to use in quilts?
Weston: Green and blue.
Simmons: I love nature colors and also very subdued and grayed colors. I love bright colors but don’t work with them as well.
6.) What is the most meaningful quilting project you have ever worked on?
Weston: The queen-sized quilt for my daughter’s college graduation was of great importance to me. My daughter was a Jane Austen fan, and we went to her home in England and saw the quilt top she had made on display. My daughter and I chose the fabrics together, and I drafted a pattern. It was a very challenging design, and we were both so pleased with the result.
Stori: A gift for Bookworm Gardens, a children’s garden that enhances literature, nature and the imagination located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It was made to honor my late brother who spent countless time there with his granddaughter.
Simmons: The quilts I’ve made for my children and granddaughter are very personal to me. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on quilts for friends with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. It has meant so much to them as well as to those of us who made them. I’ve also done some quilts with the kids at my children’s school when they were younger. Working with young people is very magical.
7.) Do you dream about quilts?
Weston. Not really while sleeping, though I “dream” of them a lot when I am out in nature.
Stori: No, but I do “day dream” about designs.
Simmons: No, although, I always keep a pad and pen on my nightstand in case I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea.
8.) Do you have a favorite print or fabric designer? Do you use their fabrics often?
Weston: No, though I create some of my own fabrics with dyes, paints and other products.
Stori: No, I create a lot of my own fabric by hand dyeing, surface design and felting.
Simmons: Almost since the beginning, I’ve made my own fabric. I started with dyeing fabric as there wasn’t a lot of selection in values, and I did a lot of shaded work back then. Fabric dyeing led to marbling, discharging, painting, silk screening, deconstructive screening, digital printing, etc.
Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. through July 4, 2016, Fine Art and the Colors of Nature is located on the second floor gallery in the Education Center at The North Carolina Arboretum. All pieces are available for purchase, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit The North Carolina Arboretum Society.