A Different Kind of Palette

What do you get when you cross a fine artist in the Southwest with someone who?s been sewing for the better part of 40 years? You get majestic landscapes interpreted through many pieces of fabric.

Rio Grande Gorge (art quilt, 34×47) was a finalist in The Artist?s Magazine?s 2002 art competition.

Though she?s traveled to such faraway places as Russia, China and east Africa, Gould doesn?t have to venture far from her Angel Fire, New Mexico, home for inspiration. The subject of Rio Grande Gorge (at right), for instance, is just 25 miles from her home. “This incredible rift never fails to take my breath away and leave me in awe of the violent forces that formed and continue to shape our earth,” she says. “The sky can change rapidly from deep, clear blue to a pastel blend or to dramatic storms, and the gorge changes colors and character throughout the day with it?s ever-changing shadows.”

Working in her studio from photographs she or her family members have taken, Gould first makes a full-size line drawing on paper of the major shapes, taking liberties with the actual image where necessary. For instance, in Rio Grande Gorge, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are slightly east of the gorge, but she moved them into the view for visual impact. From there, she?ll decide the major color and value areas and possibly do a small color study with colored pencils. She?ll then transfer her drawing to a piece of white cotton/polyester-blend fabric with pencil.

“Since fabric is my palette, I stack up my fabrics in their color and value groups and also group them into the areas of the scene that they?ll be occupying,” she says. “If I?m painting the sky, as I did in Rio Grande Gorge, I?ll paint the sky in fabric paints with brushes and sponges first.”

Sometimes she applies fabric to the base fabric with fusible web or, in the case of Rio Grande Gorge, she?ll make templates for the mountains and canyon walls and apply them in a part-appliqué, part-hand piecing manner, working top to bottom, background to foreground.

Once the quilt top is completed, she creates the quilt “sandwich” using the top, batting and a backing fabric. “I free-motion quilt/embroider the ?sandwich? adding detail and texture with rayon, metallic and Mylar thread,” she says. “This stitching goes all the way through the three layers, which creates a silhouette picture on the back.” Once the quilting is complete, she squares up the sides and applies a binding.

“The most fun—and the most challenging—part of creating my art quilts is choosing fabrics from my huge stash or buying new fabrics if the right ones aren?t around,” she says. Sometimes she?ll even paint her fabric to make it the right value. “That?s always a big challenge in fiber art: You have to make the fabrics not only the right color, but also the right value and have the right amount of pattern, if any, so they?ll work with the scene and with the other fabrics beside them. I especially love to work with silky fabrics in certain scenes, and this was one case where they helped to differentiate the sunny side of the canyon wall from the shady side.” And, like any true fabric collector, she acquires any fabric she can, even cutting up clothing or upholstery from thrift stores and discarded items.

Her art quilts can take anywhere from two weeks to months to complete, depending on the size, the difficulty of the technique and the amount of detail involved. “I challenge myself to try new techniques to achieve a certain result, and that can lengthen the process but give me a great deal of satisfaction and knowledge.”

Because Gould?s projects can be daunting, it?s almost more likely that it?ll take her awhile to begin one. “Once I get started, however, I work compulsively to finish, to see the birth of a new object of beauty,” she says. “Art is something I?m driven to do. It?s a very loud voice within me that wants to scream out its message.”

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