Spotlight: Deborah Boschert, Textile Artist
Deborah Boschert combines fabric, paint and stitch to create art quilts with movement, color and texture. Her unique style comes from the freedom of a self-taught artist to test boundaries and her recognizable use of recurring themes and imagery.
How did you come to art quilting?
I was drawn to quilting in the early 90s when rotary cutting and strip piecing were trendy. I made my first quilt following an Eleanor Burns pattern from Quilt In A Day.
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After that, I made lots more quilts from patterns and eventually took a class from Melody Johnson who introduced me to raw edge fused appliqué which opened the doors to creating original art quilts. I really love combining fabric, paint and stitching. I think these materials create interesting combinations and have endless possibilities.
As a self-taught artist, do you approach your work differently than someone with formal training?
What an interesting question. I’m not sure. It would be interesting to work alongside an artist with formal training and compare notes. I think being self-taught frees me up from certain expectations which may allow me to focus more directly on creating what excites me rather than what I think would be objectively “good art.” (Whatever that means!?) On the other hand, I know I would benefit from more study of materials, techniques and history that could benefit my work.
Tell us about the recurring themes in your artwork. How do those ideas drive you?
I often use personal symbols in my work including houses, stones, chairs, bowls and ladders. I love them not only because of the ideas and themes that are infused in those recognizable images, but I also love the simple lines that can be used to create them. A ladder could not be a more simple set of lines, right? And yet it’s endlessly variable and fascinating to me. The ladders in my art quilts usually represent movement from one place to another and the reality that what’s at the bottom of the ladder may be just as important as what’s at the top.
Do you plan your work out all ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
I start with some seed of inspiration. It may be a focus fabric, an inspiring symbol or an image I want to interpret. Then I usually give myself some additional parameters like size and color palette. I may make some very simple thumbnail sketches to figure out the basic composition I want to work with, then I begin pinning fabric on my design wall. I fold, slice and scrunch different fabrics and shapes in different arrangements until I start to see an overall design which might work. Then it’s all about the details and making a million decisions along the way until it’s finished.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
I’ve been using empty toilet paper tubes for printed surface design patterns on fabric. The cardboard picks up paint really well and it’s firm enough to make a great print, but flexible enough to manipulate into different shapes. I also use toilet paper tubes and sticky back fun foam to create designs for rolling prints. You can see a tutorial of that technique on my YouTube channel. Everyone has toilet paper tubes, right?
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
I’m all about podcasts. I really love listening to stories and reports about interesting people and the world around us. My recent favorites are Ear Hustle, Habitat and The Sporkful.
You have a recognizable personal style. How did you come to it?
It’s always a wonderful compliment when people say they recognize my work even before they know it’s mine. I’ve developed my creative voice over the years by making lots of art — but also my thinking carefully about the art I’ve made and the art I want to make. It’s a process I’ve thought about a lot. In fact, I put together lots of ideas on this topic in a workbook called Head, Heart and Hands: Developing Your Creative Voice. If a person can maximize the ideas in her head, the passions in her heart and the skills in her hands, I think that results in the best work.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your book Art Quilt Collage: A Creative Journey in Fabric, Paint and Stitch?
I’ve been so thrilled by the reaction to my book. Several small groups have worked through all the exercises together and have told me it’s changed the way they think about the creative process. The Design and Composition chapter really seems to resonate with people. It includes “eight design guides” which can really help an artist get past that moment of paralysis looking at a blank canvas. The most important takeaway is that creating original work that you love is possible!
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I do! In fact, I love the creative process of developing programs and workshops almost as much as I love the creative process of making quilts. I have several workshop offerings and they are all designed to help students learn new techniques, work on specific projects, but each class also has lots of opportunity for creative expression and individuality built into the process. (No patterns in my classes!)
Do you sell your work? If so, where can people find it?
I do. I have some small pieces listed in my Etsy shop. Anything I share on my website or social media is probably also for sale. If anyone is interested, they should feel free to email me. I’d be delighted to hear from them.
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