Debbie Maddy discovered her passion for quilting and later discovered her love for indigo dying. She has now designed her 10th line of fabrics based on her indigo dyed fabrics for Moda fabrics. Debbie teaches her techniques for indigo and Shibori around the world.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I have been a maker all of my life. I started sewing as a very young child. My grandmother taught me to embroider when I was preteen. As years passed, I dabbled in all things fiber and branched out into pottery making and jewelry.
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You have designed quilt patterns, become an Indigo and Shibori artist and now designing fabrics for Moda. How did these leaps happen?
For years I had wanted to make a quilt, but had no one to teach me. I took my first quilt class when I was teaching at a junior college. I was hooked immediately and I took time to learn the craft from some amazing quilters. Eventually I started teaching in quilt shops, began designing my own quilt designs and branched out into lectures and programs for guilds.
All of this time I was testing the waters in fabric dyeing. I took a one-day indigo class in 2014 and again I was hooked. I love the color; the process and I can incorporate my love of stitching in the resist process.
After learning and practicing my skills, I approached Moda Fabrics about reproducing my fabrics so everyone could play with Shibori style fabrics even if they cannot dye their own. They said yes and I am now working on my tenth line of fabric.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
After falling in love with indigo, my thirst for knowledge took me all over the United States, England and Japan twice. I continue to read everything I can and take workshops from others. This year I hope to take classes with teachers from Mali and Japan.
How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
Sometimes I am not very organized, but I try very hard.
Are there any other creative channels you use to express your creativity?
My second love is jewelry making. I especially like working with sterling silver and will be taking a new class this spring.
How do you balance your personal life, work and creative endeavors?
There have been times in the last few years that I have not balanced my endeavors very well. I was working too hard and did not have enough time for fun things. Covid and some other issues made me slow down and I love the feeling.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
That is a difficult question for me. I have had people tell me for years that I was creative, but I felt like everyone could do what I do. It has only been in the last few years that I really feel like a creative person and an artist.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I think I am an improvising planner. I plan what I am going to do but sometimes end up on a different path.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
My most indispensable tools are needles, thread, fabric and my indigo vat. I can not work without them.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
My secret repurposed tool is a slinky. A friend taught me how to use a slinky for a most beautiful Shibori design.
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
The most challenging thing for me has been time. There is never enough time for me to do all the art that I have in my head.
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
I really believe that creativity is a big part of human nature but I also feel strongly that it must be nurtured to bloom and education is always a plus.
Do you have great bursts of creativity or does your creativity flow continuously?
When I get excited about a project or I have a deadline then creativity will burst!
Do you have daily creative rituals in your studio?
I really don’t have any rituals; every day is new.
Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you feel compelled to achieve in the future?
I am working on becoming more adept at Katazome or rice resist paste on fabric for indigo dyeing. I want to learn more techniques and design using the stencils.
How do you keep all the balls in the air? Is there one you wish you could drop? Which one will you never give up?
The paperwork that is part of being an artist to make a living is one thing I would love to give up. I do have help but wish sometimes that I could just create and teach. Creating and teaching are both things I will not give up. I adore meeting new people who are yearning to learn what I can teach.
Tell us about your website and opportunities for classes with you.
You can see my classes on my website calendar: https://www.debbiemaddy.com/pages/calendar
I will be teaching at some very fun places this year. Mackinac Island in May, my studio in Graham, Texas also in May, Sanborn Mills Farm in New Hampshire in September and central Texas in October at Creations of Kerrville. I also do some private group classes.
Interview posted February 2023
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