Barbara Bushey took a textile class and knew she found her home. She is inspired by nature and the world around her, especially her time spent at Lake Superior, Barbara creates her art with fiber and textiles. She starts with an idea in her head, and then lets the piece unfold for her.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
Ha! I was always making something. I went to art school, and it was fun. Then I took a textiles class, and I knew I had found my home.
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Congratulations on having a piece in Quilt National! Tell us a bit about your piece and its journey to this prestigious show.
I had begun working with log cabin/bojagi, (see Spring Thaw and Gales of November below), and then we had a late spring ice storm. The neighbor’s magnolia tree had already bloomed, then ice came, and then we had several days of rain. The flower was brown and pink, and the grass was very green. I couldn’t resist. Then the piece got way bigger than I had originally intended, and I simply didn’t know what to do. When I folded it to put it away – magic! The two layers really add to the mystery and richness of the piece.
Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
Yes. What happens is that all of the ideas I didn’t use in one piece get filed away to try out in different situations.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
Well, I am mad for color (although SUBTLETIES of color really attract me) and for layers. I also always work in a somewhat clumsy or not perfect way, which I used to strive to improve. Then a friend described that clunkiness as part of the charm of my work, so I’ll go with that. (Although I do worry that I’m offending all the Koreans with my slapdash approach to bojagi.)
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
Well, I generally have an idea in my head; I find that planning beyond that is really more of a hindrance than a help.
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
The short answer is “not very well.” But I am just beginning my retirement from a full-time college teaching career, and right now, cleaning, organizing, and resting seems most important. I keep trying out different times of day or ways of keeping track of my studio time, but I haven’t settled on anything yet.
Are you a “finisher”? How many UFOs do you think you have?
Would that I were a finisher! Is a random bit to try out an idea a UFO or a study? Right now, I’m trying the idea of using some of my studies all together in another quilt, so maybe that will clean things up (for a while…)
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
Yes! I am very lucky! I have most of a walkout basement as my studio: I have two 4’ x 8’ tables, two sewing machines, what seems like never enough shelving, and many bookshelves. I’m trying to get rid of stuff I will never use again, but …. how can I be sure?
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I’ve never had the luxury of enough time to set such a schedule! I usually have at least one heavily hand-stitched piece in progress and one other. The hand stitching can be done in the evening, sitting with my husband (“TV art”).
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
I am mostly inspired by nature, and the rest of the world around me. I am usually inspired by one place, but once I start making the work, I am usually off and running. It isn’t that important to make a realistic view of a place. Most of my inspiration comes from Lake Superior: I have spent most of the last 34 summers on her shores.
Which part of the quilt design process is your favorite? Which part is a challenge for you?
The original inspiration and the beginning of actually creating is my favorite. Usually, about 2/3 of the way through, I am convinced the piece is just not worth it, and I should just stop. A good night’s sleep and a great cup of coffee usually provides the motivation to continue.
How do you know when a piece or project is finished and needs no additional work?
When I am just fussing. Not much is changing, I’m just picking away here or there. Another good technique is to look at the work in another room: setting can change your view.
How has your work changed over time?
It has, and it hasn’t. I look at very old work and see that I have always had the same interests. I’d like to think the execution has improved over the years.
Do you approach your work differently for juried shows?
No. If something I am working on fits for a particular show, I will send it in. I usually don’t make something specifically for a call for entries.
What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have as compared to people who are not creative?
They are happier, and less interested in making others miserable. They tend to be funny, and generally are good cooks.
Do you sell your work? If so, where can people find it?
These days, mostly from juried shows.
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
Ah, people can look at my work online at barbarabusheyart.com. That said, the site is in deep need of updating!!!
Interview posted June 2023
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