Featured Artist – Margaret Blank
Last month I had the pleasure to interview Margaret, not only was it an insight to Margaret’s life but also a view of her talents.
What type of patchwork and quilting do you do –traditional or contemporary?
I enjoy – and do – both traditional quilting and contemporary (art) quilting. I prefer piecing (patchwork) to applique when I am making bed quilts, but use a great deal of fused, rough-edged applique when I make art quilts. I am also not particularly fond of “modern” quilts with vast empty spaces and colour blocks.
Where do you find your inspiration and your design sources?
Most of my inspiration comes from my environment – a rural hamlet in the rolling prairie of Central Alberta. However, sometimes I am “given” pictures, which I believe come from a spiritual source; I could never have made them up on my own. I am also sometimes inspired by a word or phrase in poetry or prose.
How do you go about the design process?
Generally I begin by printing an inspirational photo. I then make a sketch in my sketchbook about how I want to interpret it. Sometimes I then transfer the sketch to clear plastic film (off-cuts from a laminating machine that I recycle from my daughter’s office). I can use this to audition fabric, to create templates or fusible shapes. From there I go to fabric. I usually begin with a light-weight muslin or cotton foundation fabric which I coat with fusible web. I lay my fabric selections on top of this to get the gist of what I want. Then I fuse the background to the foundation, layering as needed.
Fabric selection – do you dye your own fabrics, or just use commercial fabrics?
I use both my own hand-dyed fabrics and commercial fabric. I like to play with the latter to see what I can make of them. Sometimes I use them ‘wrong side up’ to get the look I want.
What are your preferences for stitching – hand/machine, applique, piercing, whole-cloth?
My preferred quilting method is by machine. I’ve also used embroidery-type stitches – especially seed stitch – to both quilt and embellish in one go. Most of the applique I do is with fused shapes that I then stitch around, generally by machine. I’ve done only a bit of whole-cloth work – my “Time” submission, for example, which was whole-cloth with paint.
Are you inspired by other quilters and artists?
Yes. I am particularly entranced by the work of Linda and Laura Kemshall, and Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn in the U.K., by my friend Kathie Briggs in the U.S., and Canadian quilter Judith Martin.
Please talk about the different quilting groups you belong to and your involvement.
In addition to 15 x 15, I belong to only one other quilting group, and that is SAQA. I’ve been an Artist Member since 2008, and am currently almost half-way through a two-year term as Co-Rep for the Western Canada Region. I also contribute most years to the SAQA Benefit Auction, and have contributed to two SAQA trunk shows. This region has produced two non-juried group exhibits and I contributed to both. “Meet the Best of the West” just finished it’s tour of just over 2 years; “The Burgess Shale” is about to begin its second year of touring under the auspices of the Alberta Society of Artists.
I try to get to a SAQA conference every other year, when the venue is on the west side of the continent. I’ve learned a great deal belonging to SAQA and have made several good friends over the years.
I also belong to a multi-textile art/craft group, the Focus on Fibre Art Association based in Edmonton, Alberta. This group encompasses quilters, weavers, knitters, rug-hookers, embroiderers…any and all types of fibre art. FFAA has a biennial juried show; I’ve had a piece in each of these since 2010. “Rural Rhythms” is in the current show, “Prairies”, on exhibit in Edmonton and area till November.
What is the most exciting event in your quilting life?
I’ve had a few exciting events in my quilting life – such as being accepted into a juried show on my first try in 2008, and attaining my Level 2 Certificate in Creative Techniques: Quilting from the City & Guilds of London in 2012, but I’d have to say that the most recent exciting event was having my piece, “Mackintosh’s Garden: Hardy to Zone 3” accepted into the IQF’s satellite show, “Quilt! Knit! Stitch!” in Portland, Oregon this month. It’s the largest show I’ve entered to date.
Would you like to share something about yourself?
I’ve been “crafty” all my life. I learned to knit around age 8 and I’ve never really stopped. It’s my first love. I also learned to embroider and to sew garments from about age 11. I took up quilting in my early forties when my husband’s health began to fail; two quilting friends persuaded me that cutting strips would be therapeutic and relieve some of the stress in my life. I began with a traditional Block-of-the-Month program at a local quilt shop, and then took a class for “Magic Tiles” quilts which I still love to make. I discovered textile art when I went to an exhibit of work by eight local women who had all taken their City & Guilds certificates (Embroidery and Patchwork) together as a class. I was smitten, and said to the friend I was with, “I have to do this!”
I began to take classes locally and online and was for a time part of a small group of art quilters (now disbanded). I also took two years of basic drawing and water-colour painting so I could learn to “see” and to blend and work with colour. From there I moved into the City & Guilds program, and I continue to add to my skills with online classes and self-study.
After my husband’s death I moved out of the city of Calgary to a tiny rural settlement on the prairie. The hills, trees and proximity to water (there are lakes in the area) reminded me of my childhood home in Quebec, and the low cost of living has enabled me to “retire” to create my artwork. My grown children – a daughter, 33, and a son, 29 – live in Edmonton, less than two hours’ drive away. I see them fairly often, but prefer to spend my time at home in the company of my two cats, either in my studio, my garden, or walking through the quiet hamlet, where all the streets end in trees.
Below are some of the quilts that Margaret has designed for our bi-monthly challenges.
Margaret’s Artist Statements can be found by clicking on the Artist Galleries for 2013 and 2014 and then clicking on her name.
Margaret, thank you so much for this interview.