FriYAY Friends

FriYAY Friends: An Interview with Cindy Grisdela

Happy FriYAY!

It's warm and sunny-ish here in Atlanta, I have two quilts in my first show this weekend, and today is the second day in a row that the boys and I are planning to spend all day except nap time at the pool with friends. Even better, one of my wonderful pattern testers realized just how bad at math I really am but also helped me fix it. I started cutting my first proper test of Perfect Fit last night... I wonder if there's time to piece it AND still quilt it before the #MachineQuiltingBlogHop ends... hm... I'll work on it over the weekend and check back in Monday, okay? 

Today, I'm interviewing a very cool quilter. I know that sounds like a goofy description, but it's a reflection of my response the first time I saw Cindy's work on Instagram. I scrolled down her feed saying, "Cool! oooh, very cool!" over and over. Anyway, when one of you lovely readers asked me to interview her a few weeks back, I thought it was a brilliant idea. As we've emailed a bit, I have learned that, in a addition to being very cool, Cindy is also generous, gracious, and fabulously adventurous. I'm thrilled that she's sharing with us today!

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself-- your family, your hobbies, your creative background, etc. 

I've been sewing since I was old enough for my foot to reach the pedal of my mom's Singer. I've always been artistic and had lessons in painting, drawing, and pottery as I was growing up. There weren't any quilters in my family, so I didn't quilt until I was captivated by a picture in a magazine after I graduated from college. 

I grew up in Florida, and moved to Virginia for college, then to the Washington, DC area afterwards. I'm married with two sons, both grown--one is in medical school in LA and the other is a scenic carpenter for Shakespeare Theater in Washington, DC.  

Besides quilting, I enjoy cooking, hiking, and travel. My husband and I started a quest 20 years ago to take our boys to all the US National Parks, and we have been to 50 of the 59 parks as a family. It's fun that even though the boys are grown, they still want to finish the quest--we'll be off on another adventure next week.  

2) You're one of the first art quilters on FriYAY Friends-- What makes an art quilt unique? How do you approach art quilting differently from other types of quilting? Do the same things inspire you in your art quilting as might inspire you to make a more utilitarian quilt, or are those influences different?

This is a good question. Art quilts are unique because they don't use patterns as traditional quilters understand them. Most are original, one of a kind works. Art quilts are meant to hang on the wall, so utilitarian considerations like washing or heavy use don't come into play. Many art quilters also use unusual fibers or embellishments that you wouldn't want on a quilt that was meant to be slept under or wrapped around. 

I am inspired by color and texture, and I think about simple principles of artistic design as I'm creating. In my work, I primarily use hand dyed cotton fabric, variegated thread, and improvisational piecing techniques. Like most art quilters, I don't use patterns, so concepts like balance in the composition, where the focal point is going to be, how to use repetition and variety to enhance my design, and when it is unified and finished are all up to me. I dedicate a couple of chapters in my book, Artful Improv, to helping other art quilters think about and use these simple design ideas to create their own original work. 

My book, Artful Improv: Explore Color Recipes, Building Blocks & Free Motion Quilting, was published last fall by C&T Publishing. The main point of the book is using simple principles of design to create original art quilts. It isn't a pattern book per se, more of an inspirational guide for how to move beyond patterns to do your own work. I offer five different units that I use in my work, tips about color and design, and lots of pictures for ideas on how to put them together. 

I want to encourage all quilters to explore their own creativity and have fun in the process. Artful Improv is like having a trusted friend or teacher by your side as you do this. It offers friendly guidance as you work through exercises to come up with original work that reflects your own tastes, experiences, and personality. Whether you're a novice quilter or an experienced artist, traditional, modern, or art quilter, you'll find something here to make your next quilt better. 

3) Art quilting exists in this beautiful in-between space. How do artists react to your work? How do quilters? How do you like to tell people about what you do?

I like to tell people that I'm an artist--period. I paint with fabric and draw with thread and a sewing machine. I travel all over the country showing and selling my work at fine art and fine craft shows, so I meet a lot of people. It's fun when someone stops in front of my booth and says "Wow"! Artists are often attracted by the color and composition of my work, and are surprised that it's created with fabric. Quilters are usually drawn to the dense free motion stitching that I put into each piece, because that takes a lot of practice to do well. 

4) You mention on your about page that you use fabric much like a painter would use pigment. Then, of course, you add texture with quilting. Can you tell us more about your process and give a few tips for using color and texture together to create a beautiful, cohesive whole?

I almost always begin with an idea about color, and I pull out all of the fabrics from my baskets that might fit that idea. I cut lines and shapes from the fabrics improvisationally, without using templates or rulers. Then I audition the shapes I've cut on my design wall until I have a composition that's pleasing. This is not a quick process. Since I don't have a pattern to follow, I often have to let the piece "marinate" on the wall while I work on something else. For this reason, I usually have several pieces in different stages of development at once. 

Once I'm satisfied with the design, I sew it together, sandwich it with batting and backing, and add texture with free motion quilting. The texture is an important component of the composition of my work, and I moved to using solid fabrics several years ago because the stitching lines show up so much better on solids than on prints. 

When I'm putting together a composition, I use lots of different fabrics. If I'm making a quilt that's primarily green, for example, I'll use a range of values--from lighter mint green to medium kelly green to darker turquoise. The variety makes the eye move around the design. And I'll often throw in what I like to think of as "the spark," which I think of as a small piece of a contrasting fabric--sometimes a lighter or darker value, or a complementary color--maybe a touch of red to accent the greens I'm working with. 

Think about the texture you want to add as you're creating your quilt top. If it's a linear design, maybe organic swirls would be an effective complement. Or if the top has lots of curves, maybe you want to accentuate them with horizontal or vertical lines for the quilting design.

5) How is creative community important to your work?

I think creative community is very important, whether it's on social media or in person. I love Instagram, where I'm active as @cindygrisdelaquilts, and I've met some wonderful artists and makers there. I also belong to an artist group in my community that's made up of about 100 artists in all different media. I share studio space outside my home with nine other artists from the group, and even though I'm the only fiber artist there, they have been incredibly important to my artistic journey. And I belong to Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), which is an international group dedicated to promoting quilts as an art form. 

6) What advice to you have for other makers and artists along their journeys?

Keep making, keep practicing, keep trying new things. Believe in your ability to create and trust your own instincts. Enjoy the creative process!

Thank you for sharing your beautiful work and yourself with us today, Cindy!!

As Cindy mentioned, you can find her on Instagram @cindygrisdelaquilts. You can also find me on Instagram @stringandstory. We'd both love to hang out with you there! I would also love to see you for Saturday morning coffee as part of my Newsletter! Remember, this amazing interview was requested by a reader and newsletter subscriber, so if you'd like to tell me about a creative person I should interview, responding to my newsletter is a fabulous way to do that! 

See you Monday for the #MachineQuiltingBlogHop! 


PS All of these lovely photos were provided by Cindy. :-) 

PPS Remember that you can read previous FriYAY Friends by visiting this handy dandy index! 

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