Featured Artist – Joan Brailsford
This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Joan, what I like about Joan’s work is that is fresh and she always has a surprise in store for us with her interpretation of the bi-monthly themes. And I know I can identify with how Joan approaches our challenges.
What type of patchwork and quilting do you do –traditional or contemporary?
Although I work in both ways, I would say that my patchwork and quilting fall more on the contemporary, rather than traditional style. I usually decide on the style to be used depending on the design of the piece being worked, but my better pieces are the contemporary ones. I have to admit that I don’t think I’m accurate enough to cut and stitch the neat lines that traditional styles use, and admire those who can.
Where do you find your inspiration and your design sources?
Much of my inspiration comes from what I see around me, often from the countryside and places I pass through on one of my regular hikes. We walk every week, mainly in the Peak District in central England. I tend to work more from impressions and remembered images rather than photographs of these familiar surroundings, as I find that these give a more atmospheric feel than if I were to try to depict an actual scene. However, we also like to travel (both in this country and worldwide), and on those occasions I take many photographs, so that I don’t miss anything in the excitement of being in a new and wondrous place.
How do you go about the design process?
For me, the design process starts with many hours of inactivity, whilst I roll ideas around in my head! I would love to say that I regularly commit my thoughts to the pages of a sketchbook, but if I’m honest, my first move after deciding on an idea is to visit my fabric stash and ‘audition’ colours, textures and combinations. I would then make a very rough sketch of the design, so that I have an idea of proportions, positioning and general layout. My favourite part of the whole process is to start putting the elements together, matching threads and finding the excitement of the piece. I find that I alter and add to the design as I go along, as the mood, the textiles and the design take me. For me the process is a dynamic one, and the piece rarely comes out exactly as I had imagined at the outset. Since the recent challenge to use a sketchbook, I am trying to jot this process down as I go, but I don’t think that this could capture just how many times I change things as I go!
Fabric selection – do you dye your own fabrics, or just use commercial fabrics?
I have a mixture of hand dyed and commercial fabrics, and I use both, but probably use the hand-dyed ones the most. I love to play about with different dying and colouring methods for fabrics. I like to add layers of colour and pattern onto fabric including stamping, printing, over-painting and adding sheers. I also like to use ‘non-fabric’ media, such as tissue, interfacing, paper, etc. Of course there are limits to the places in which these can be used.
What are your preferences for stitching – hand/machine, applique, piercing, whole-cloth?
My stitching preference is always by hand. I enjoy the tactile aspect of hand stitching and the fact that I can sit and do this at any time, and in any place. I take pleasure in choosing shades and thickness of thread, and I like to think about the mark that each stitch makes.
This question made me think about the type of work I do. It made me realise that I can’t remember the last time I used cloth. However, I don’t know whether the purists would say that my style is strictly piecing or applique, as I don’t cut accurate patterns to applique, nor regular templates for piecing. I’m not sure what you would call my style, as I tend to start with a background and add design elements either by cutting and joining, or by layering them over the background.
Are you inspired by other quilters and artists?
I love to look at the work that other quilters and artists make, and I have a bit of a magpie mind in which I tend to store images of the pieces I like. I don’t take photos or store printed images of other people’s work, because I would hate to think that I am making a copy in any way. I do have many and various reference books (I have to sneak new ones past my long-suffering husband) which I love to browse for ideas on techniques and to get me started when I get stuck on something.
I follow a number of textile artists, but my favourite changes. At the moment I like to look at the work of Ingrid Karlsson Kemp, and I am looking forward to attending one of her workshops in the next few weeks. I also love the simplicity of the work of Ineke Berlin.
Please talk about the different quilting groups you belong to and your involvement.
Apart from out FifteenxFifteen group, I am half of a duo, 2inspire, with Margaret Horton. We produce both quilts and contemporary textile pictures, for which we have had a number of exhibitions. We also produce smaller pieces, 3D items and gifts, for which we have a permanent display/outlet at a gallery near us.
I am also a member of another small group of 4 artists, which also exhibits a similar range of pieces, including contemporary hand-felted pieces. We are all City and Guilds graduates, and one of the ladies is a C&G instructor.
Although these are not strictly quilting groups, I do produce some quilted items for these, but I do also like to produce items using other methods. I particularly enjoy needle-felting, textile-collage and hand-embroidery.
What is the most exciting event in your quilting life?
On reflection, although it is always nice to sell pieces, it is also nice to reach a new audience, so I would say that taking part in the Beaujolais exhibition last year as part of this group has been my most exciting event.
Would you like to share something about yourself?
I have been around sewing for as long as I can remember, as my mother used to make our clothes on an old Singer sewing machine (which I still have). My introduction to quilting though was when I found an ancient back and white text book (Wheldon’s Encyclopaedia of Needlework) and decided to make a patchwork quilt using left-over scraps of fabric from our dressmaking. Needless to say I didn’t measure or draw accurately at first, and I learned a lot as I struggled to find the correct way to do this. However, I did continue, and to this day I have a full size bed quilt made from hexagons of multi-coloured fabric. (You’ll notice that I don’t say I have a finished quilt). This is known in our house as the “sick blanket” – partly because it is the comforter that is used to snuggle under when anyone is feeling poorly, but partly because of its crooked pieces, odd colours and ragged edges!
Although I continued to stitch, it wasn’t until many years later that I found Embroiderer’s Guild, and then City & Guilds, and I learned formal techniques and ‘proper’ stitching.
I have to say though, that my first self-taught quilt is one of my most valued possessions, and a reminder of a wonderful learning experience.
Deep Rooted Love of Blue
Window Ledge (I wish I had a Garden)
Nature Reclaims the Garden
To read about Joan’s techniques that she has used in these quilts visit the Artists Gallery for 2013-2015.
Thank you Joan.