Deb Berkebile designs detailed art quilts inspired by satellite imagery creating ‘false-color’ artistic depictions of remote-sensed images. She has worked with textiles her entire life, she now uses surface design techniques such as hand-dyeing, ice-dyeing, painted fabric, eco-printing, and digital manipulation of images printed on fabrics to create her art.
How did you get started making fiber art? Why did you choose that medium?
My mother, Ruth Kleve, was my mentor throughout my sewing career. In the second grade, I began sewing doll clothes. I sewed my clothes in high school and quilt-making came later in life. My mother loved watching me quilt on my long-arm machine and always told me that my grandmothers would be so proud of me!
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.
“Serious Thoughts in Strip Quilting,” is a quilt that she and I put together while she was suffering from dementia. My mother would sit and sew the strips together, calling me a strict taskmaster for making her work so hard and long at the sewing machine, although it might have been only a matter of minutes. Time would sometimes stand still for her due to the debilitating disease. When she had finished sewing strips, I cut them into blocks. After some collaboration, she would sew the blocks together.
I have fond memories of my mother’s sewing abilities and her love for creating. At times when she was sewing, it seemed she was back in her element. It made my heart sing to know that I captured one last sewing adventure with her.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I am an artist with an extensive background in textiles and quilt making. Recently, I have been exploring surface design and multi-media in my artwork.
I am a naturalist and environmentalist at heart. My signature body of work explores satellite imagery and creating ‘false-color’ artistic depictions of remote-sensed satellite images (Geographical Information Systems).
The vivid colors and their outstanding variations are what first drew me to representations of these particular incredible earthscapes. I also use other remote-sensed imagery taken from our National Parks in my art.
I started a new series of work combining natural dyes and Shibori techniques. I have used rusted hand-dyed fabric dipped into an indigo vat. Manipulating the fabric with lots of Shibori techniques has led to a series with Sashiko hand stitching finishing many pieces.
I am also interested in political activism. I have prepared a series of works juried into the “OurStory” traveling exhibit about civil rights. My pieces feature quilts celebrating the contributions of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Sitting Bull “Lakota Warrior”.
I create the fabrics I use in my design process. I use surface design techniques, hand-dyeing, ice-dyeing, painted fabric, eco-printing, and digital manipulation of images printed on fabric. I enjoy the challenges of creating original artwork that combines my passions and interests.
What inspires you? How does your environment influence your creativity?
I discovered these amazing satellite images while in a Remote Sensing class I took as I was pursing my degree in GIS (Geographical Information Systems). The vivid colors and their outstanding variations are what first drew me to these representations.
A naturalist and environmentalist at heart, I greatly appreciate the advantages remote sensing offers our society to help us combat our contemporary environmental issues, especially in the wake of global climate change. Remote sensing provides a means for creating solutions to fighting forest fires, planning for and monitoring natural disasters, and developing a comprehensive geographical plan for the sustainability of our natural resources.
Tell us about the images that inspire your quilts.
My images for my GIS quilts are found through National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA.gov) and Earth Resources Observation and Science (eros.usgs.gov). These images are in the public domain.
Once you find an image for inspiration, how does a new work come about?
My research actually begins when I am drawn to the “false-color” satellite images first. Then I research that specific area of interest by reading all types of data sheets, books, and website information on the specific subject.
Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
My “Earth in Three Bands: R, G, B” Series includes 11 quilts that all use remote sensed satellite images from different NASA satellites i.e. 2009 Landsat 5 and Galileo to name a couple.
The quilts include The Painted Desert, Eye of Sahara, The Great Salt Desert, Susitna Glacier, The Grand Canyon, Galileo Inspiration, Rocky Mountain Trench, Lena Delta, Ribbon Lake, Meandering Mississippi, and The Great Lakes (which now resides in the GIS classroom at Lakeland Community college).
I also have started a series of National Park art quilts. They resonate with me because the inspiration for these comes from my own photographs; Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, petroglyphs from several parks, and Chaco Canyon with small encaustic pieces with the different pueblos on them.
Describe your creative space.
I have turned my whole house into my “studio”. I have a longarm quilting machine set up upstairs. My sewing machine is always on my kitchen table, and I have several tables set up in the kitchen and front entryway when I am in the throes of creativity.
In one weekend, I might be rust dyeing, deconstructed screen printing, and encaustic work. I work full-time as a Mechanical Engineer, so my time is limited to nights and weekends of getting my “work” done. There are times my house looks like a disaster area, but I know in the end there will be some creative work out of all the mess.
How have other people supported or inspired you?
Actually, Barbara Beasley and I grew up in the mountains of Nederland and went to school together. She has been an artist for a longtime. She and I reconnected and went to the International Quilt Festival in Houston together. She has been a major professional inspiration to me along with Jamie Wallen a quilter from Indiana who I took classes with for my longarm.
Barb and Jamie, both gave me confidence in myself and my work. They gave me great ideas of how to put my art out into the world and enter exhibitions. Denver Quilt Festival was my first exhibit and I’ve had two quilts displayed at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. I have been in several solo shows and collaboration exhibits with like-minded textile artists. My quilts have also been featured in traveling exhibits and published in their corresponding books. Recently, I was juried in the Excellence in Quilts III published in Fiber Art Now Fall 2023 issue.
Which part of the design process is your favorite? Which part is a challenge for you?
I love picking a new image from NASA to become one of my new creations. Then I love to start dyeing my fabrics to be used in this process. All my work is a raw edge appliqué, and all quilting is done on an APQS Millennium long-arm quilting machine.
What is on your “someday” creative wish list?
My someday creative wish list is to be able to teach or exhibit in Taos and/or Santa Fe, New Mexico. These places are just so artist-rich. The inspiration and admiration of all of the artists in these communities are beyond my worldly aspirations.
Where can people see your work?
I teach classes in a few venues around my community. Classes include Hand Dyeing for Quilters, Eco Printing, Stitched and Itajime Shibori techniques, Dyeing with Indigo, Rust Dyeing/ Dyeing with Tannins and Rust, Monoprinting with Gelliplate and Encaustics.
Follow Deb on Instagram.
Interview posted November 2023
Browse through more art quilt inspiration on Create Whimsy.