Why Quilts Matter – Question & Answer with Caryl Bryer Fallert
Featured in multiple episodes of Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics is world-renowned quilt artist Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry. Caryl, the only three-time winner of the coveted American Quilters Society Best of Show Purchase Award, is known for her distinctive style that can be viewed in public, museum, corporate, and private collections in twenty-two states and seven foreign countries. Images of many of her quilts can be found in our image resource galleries.
About her own work, Caryl writes, “The focus of my work is on the qualities of color, line and texture, which will engage the spirit and emotions of the viewer, evoking a sense of mystery, excitement, or joy. Illusions of movement, depth, and luminosity are common to most of my work. Although some of my quilts include pictorial images, my work is most often about seeing, experiencing, and imagining, rather than pictorial representation of any specific object or species. When recognizable objects appear, they represent the emotions and flights of fantasy evoked by those objects. My intention is to focus on positive energy and depict that in my work.” Given her striking attention to detail it was only natural we asked Caryl to share with us the process of designing her award-winning artwork.
The poet Karl Gartung has written about the experience of watching his wife, quilt artist Anne Kingsbury, create an art quilt. In it he compares that experience with watching the heavens at night – nothing seems to be happening, but all of a sudden everything has changed. How does his observation relate to your experience of quilt making?
That would depend on which stage of the process is being observed. Almost all of us who are fine artists do lots improvising, and our ideas evolve as we work on them. I tend to do most of my improvising during the drawing stage of project, which for me happens almost entirely before I start cutting and stitching the fabric. I often spend more time working out the details of a design than I do in the actual construction of the quilt. I usually start with a hand-drawn thumbnail sketch, which I may scan into the computer and turn into closed shapes so I can try out colors and backgrounds and rearrange shapes and proportions. I may have a dozen different versions of the design on my computer screen at the same time but I can look at all of them together and pick the one I like the best. After I have chosen a final drawing, I enlarge the design on freezer paper. The freezer paper drawing is then cut up to make templates for cutting the fabric. Once I start piecing, the design generally grows on my wall pretty methodically. When I start quilting I’m back to improvising and evolving. I make up most of my quilting designs as I go, so that part of the process might appear a bit random to someone looking over my shoulder.
In Part 2 of our Q&A with Caryl, she very generously shares detailed instructions and advice on the difficult challenges faced when pricing one’s work for the retail market. (Coming the week of July 28th, 2014!)
What is next for you?
2013 marked the 30th anniversary of making my first art quilt, Red Poppies, in1983. I won a national award for that first quilt, and almost immediately became immersed in the business as well as the art of quilting, showing and selling my work, then teaching and lecturing, followed by selling my hand dyed fabric, my patterns, workshops on CD, and finally the fabrics I design for Benartex. Currently, my one-woman show “30 Quilts for 30 Years” is on a two-year tour of American and European locations. The exhibition schedule can be found here.
Naturally, all of the business stuff takes away from time in the studio. Earlier this year I married a wonderful man, who has provided me with the opportunity to give up most of the business activities and go into the studio and make new work. In the summer of 2014 we will be relocating to Port Townsend, Washington, where I have a beautiful new studio on the bluffs overlooking Puget Sound.
More About Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry
Caryl’s website, Bryerpatch Studio, is a tremendous resource for images, ideas, guidance on producing, photographing and making your own quilts better. The gallery of her quilts will engage and inspire you! A photo of one of them, Cosmic Feathers, is below.
All images in this post are courtesy of Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry.