Cynthia Jarest discovered art quilts and that opened a new world for her. She creates intricate and colorful pieces inspired by her hikes and walks in the mountains nearby. Through her exploration of mixed media she has added new tools and techniques to use in her fiber art.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
The artist’s path was found purely by accident. I have always been a crafter, and loved making things for the home, gifts for friends and family. Beginning with a baby gift, I started down the path of traditional quilt making. I made a LOT of quilts and gave most away.
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It was through a color theory class at a local quilt shop, that I stumbled on art quilts, and the Front Range Contemporary Quilters association. What an eye-opening experience. The ability to make gorgeous art using cloth was going to be my next love.
Traditional quilts have rules and patterns, so what a freeing idea that I get to make the rules for art quilts. As a fiber artist, I am always evolving. Art quilts opened a new world to me that included exhibiting my work at galleries and other venues.
Are there recurring themes in your work? What is it about a subject that inspires you to continue exploring it?
Most of my work has centered around landscapes, particularly the Rocky Mountains where I hike and camp. The subject of the great outdoors is always inspiring, and there are endless possibilities from trees, rivers, sky, animals, and fungi to explore.
I start with a traditional view and a representational execution; my work reflects the photos I take while hiking. Using a combination of commercial and hand-dyed fabric I create mountains, streams, trees, and flowers. Sometimes my work will be an abstract version of a particular landscape.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
My inspiration comes from hiking and the sense of wonder and beauty that I find along the way. I hope to give the viewer the same sense of wonder that I see. Occasionally, I will create work about a political or personal situation, but my work always returns to nature.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
My work is detailed, colorful, and textural, and hopefully provokes a sense of curiosity about how it was created. I spend a lot of time on developing individual trees and/or flowers, cutting tiny pieces then using fusible web to hold all the bits together. These elements become part of a forest, grove, or field, eventually becoming part of a cohesive landscape.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
In the beginning of my journey, I took many workshops with fiber artists who pushed boundaries and taught new techniques that helped to expand my knowledge and skill level. Techniques such as hand-dyeing fabric, eco dye, reverse screen printing, marbling, painting, and appliqué have all found their way into my work.
During this exploration I discovered mixed media and art journaling. Mixed media has added new tools to explore and use in my fiber art, such as paints, markers, pens/pencils, paper, and miscellaneous materials like dryer sheets and cardboard. From starting with just fabric, I now use multiple materials in my work.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
I have an idea of what I would like to do next while I am working on my current project.
When is your most productive creative time?
The morning is the most productive time for me. It tends to be less hectic, before other demands take over.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I have a very small studio in which I work, I share it with my husband in the attic of our house. My work has size limits for that very reason. However, I find my size of finished art works well for me when it comes to time spent and attention to details.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I usually only work on one project at a time given my space limitations. I keep a running list of projects and what I want to do next, the projects are not always art quilts. When I finish an art quilt, clean up takes place, then I usually take some time to work on mixed media projects such as journals or watercolor.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
A couple of years ago I started on a lunar series in response to a Call for Entry for Studio Art Quilts Association (SAQA) that lead me down a path of abstract work that is still evolving. The call was titled Ebb & Flow, and I created a piece around the lunar cycles and the changes that occur based on the pull of the moon. My piece did not get in the SAQA exhibition but was later accepted at a gallery and sold! Now, I am enjoying the process of creating new work from my imagination and not from a photo.
How has your work changed over time?
Over time, I have worked more on abstract pieces that let me use more of my imagination and put my creative spin on the work. It is still, maybe will always be, a work in progress. As my knowledge and confidence in myself has grown, so has my work.
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
Some days are better than others, but not daily. I find if I put time on my daily calendar, I am more likely to hit the studio and work on my current project. Even if I schedule 30 minutes to an hour, I can lose track of time and feel like I’ve accomplished something. I just need to set that time up on my calendar!
Do you critique your own work? What is your process?
Oh, yes, I critique my own work. It is that inner critic that can really create stumbling blocks and halt work. I find encouragement and help with a critique group that may see things I have missed or ideas on how to overcome those stumbling blocks.
What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have as compared to people who are not creative?
I think everyone is creative in some way, as we are all problem solvers, explorers, inventors, etc. It is a question of putting in the time to improve on skills or abilities with practice. I put in the time, more than others, less than many.
Interview posted May 2023
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