Thursday, March 29, 2012

Artist Interview, Quilter Iris Sonnenschein

How did you get started doing sewing and designing your Quilts?
I was introduced to quilting in Vermont, where my husband's co-worker's wife makes incredible (hand-pieced and hand-quilted) quilts. Fast forward to Boston in 1990 where a friend started a quilt group to teach us traditional blocks and techniques. Fast forward once more to 2003 when my daughter became a Bat Mitzvah and I quilted her tallit (prayer shawl)...and IrisQuilts was started!

By the way, our original quilt group still gets together every month - just about 21 years of friendship! What inspires your designs? Art, nature and music - in any order! I get all my creativity flowing after being at an art show, or museum, any time I travel and any time I am moved by a piece of music - usually classical.

Do you like working on smaller or bigger designs? 
It's not that I like one more than another. I love working on my larger pieces because I get to really fill the quilts with my inspiration and take my time in the approach as well as the execution of the design. My smaller quilts feed my instant-gratification need - I get to finish much faster and have a completed project!

Where do you buy your fabric?
The short answer is anywhere I can.... I do some shopping online although it's always iffy because I can't be sure the color on my monitor is actually the color that will show up on my doorstep. I LOVE Fabric Corner in Arlington - nicest people and amazing fabrics. When I'm lucky enough to get to New York I hound the fabric stores there....

Are you self taught or did you go to school to learn your craft?
Much to my dismay I did not have any formal training. I do take classes here and there, read a lot about techniques and approaches in various quilting magazines, and ask questions every time I see another quilter's work. When my kids finish college I will go back and take all the art courses I wish I had taken when I was in school!

You also make scarfs, what techniques do you use to make the kimono and hand painted scarfs? 
The painted scarves are done with silk paint and a "resist" which keeps the paint within the borders (basically it makes sure you're staying inside the lines). The Kimono scarves started with some vintage Kimono fabrics I bought on eBay, and then added to them with incredible silks I found at Mood in New York (where the Project Runway contestants shop). I really wanted to combine the old: vintage fabric, patchwork style, with the new: buttons and trims sewn in random patterns. I backed those scarves with silk that I is an incredibly time consuming creation that's difficult to sew (silk moves around a LOT when you try to sew it). I don't think I'll be making any more of the Kimono scarves...

 Where do you show your work besides Dedham Square Artists guild? 
 I have several quilts hanging at Children's Hospital in a few locations, and a couple of quilts at the Yawkey Family Inn in Brookline.

Iris's new bags for Spring and Summer. Perfect for a gift or vacation

Do you do many open studios and craft shows? 
I've been showing at Roslindale Open Studios for years, and last year was at Dedham Open Studios. Unfortunately I'm away for it this year, but plan to return in 2013! I've also had shows in Worcester, Newton, Brookline and Albany NY.

Do you have any advice for people who are just starting to show their creations?
You have to develop a bit of a tough skin. Showing your work is kind of like standing naked in Central Park... you know how much of your heart, time and effort went in to a piece, but the person on the other side doesn't - and that person might not be as interested in your work (or your prices, or your medium) as you would wish! But if you believe in your work, keep producing it (practice makes better even with art); eventually you will find your creative voice and will be able to match it with shows or exhibits that attract people who will want to see your work!

Any future Projects you would like to share with us?
 I'm very excited about a new series of small quilts, Charmed Ladies, which have a bit of my Wild Women feel, but I've added text and charms (get it...Charmed Ladies) for a real mixed media piece. I'm also going to put out a new set of silk scarves which I'll dye in the Shibori style, which is a Japanese folding and tying technique - kind of like tie-dyeing, but much more subtle. I'm still trying to put out quilts for the Israel series and want to start a new series of quilts based on pieces of music. So many little time!

You can see more of Iris's work at the Dedham Guild and her website

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