Spotlight: Judy Coates Perez, Mixed Media Textile Artist
The color and texture that Judy Coates Perez achieves in her mixed media textile art begins with a blank canvas of plain white fabric. With paint, print, collage and stitch she transforms the plain cloth into complexly layered fiber art, often incorporating found objects and materials not usually associated with textiles.
Why textiles? Why mixed media? How did you get started?
I always sewed and made things, and in high school my favorite classes were art and home-ec, so working with textiles and paint media is like the perfect marriage of the two. I began making art quilts soon after I graduated from art school with a degree in graphic design.
What role does your formal art training play in your work and creative practice?
I think it opened my mind to greater possibilities, and knowing that there are always multiple solutions to a single problem or idea.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people – or do you think creativity is a skill that people can develop?
I believe creativity is a combination of having an idea and problem solving. It is something that most people possess whether they realize it or not, and that it can be continuously developed over a lifetime.
You describe yourself as a “creative alchemist”. What does that mean?
The practice of alchemy is making gold from base elements. As an artist I take common items, sometimes things people would throw away and incorporate it into my art. All of my textile work begins with white fabric that I paint imagery or ‘color’ and apply pattern on by choosing from a variety of paint media, and/or printing and collage techniques.
Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your art practice?
In 2005, I used Mistyfuse fusible web to baste my 7’ x 5 ½’ Primordial Sea quilt made from hand-dyed and painted silk charmuese with wool batting. Mistyfuse was a fairly new product at the time that I thought might be the perfect solution to my basting problem, because I was afraid pins would put holes in the silk, the close to 8 foot long top was too big to needle baste by hand on the floor, and I dislike and distrust spray baste since I have seen the damage that spray mount has done to old assignments from my art school days.
I don’t own a long arm and I quilted most of my work back then on a domestic Bernina 1630. The Mistyfuse held the layers together beautifully and kept the soft drape of the silk. Every quilt I’ve made since is done the exact same way, and now this is becoming a common method for basting.
In 2008 I used tea bags, dress patterns and dry cleaning tags in my quilt Illustrated Document No.1. That led to a number of other pieces over the years incorporating other paper imagery that I print on paper that they make tea bags out of as well as stamping and thermofax screen printing.
And I make a lot of work that has metal sewn to it, from 3-dimensional houses to fiesta ornaments.
What inspires you?
Nature: plants, birds, and insects inspire me most often. But I have also created work that has been cathartic in nature while going through difficult emotional times.
Do you create with the intent to send a message?
I have often created work that tells a story, or expresses an idea that has been on my mind.
Where do you feel most creative, and are there any environments which lower your productivity?
I probably work best at home when I’m alone with minimal distraction. But we homeschooled for many years when my kids were with me 24/7, and I was still very productive.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
Usually I create in silence when there is a lot of calculating or design involved where I’m making decisions. When I’m painting or in the process of quilting, I will often listen to audiobooks or NPR radio.
Technique(s)? What do you do differently? What is your signature?
I love to paint and create my own unique imagery. It can be an image that tells a story or a printed colorful fabric for piecing in a modern quilt.
Do you have bursts of great creativity or does your creativity flow continuously? How do you work through creative blocks?
Yes, I definitely have peaks and flows. I never worry about not having an idea, because I know that I always need a break after creating something large and that inspiration will strike again when I least expect it. When I’m not dealing with the business side of teaching, I always like to create and make things, usually working in a different medium or type of art such as painting on canvas, working 3 dimensionally with textiles or paper, working in clay, carving stamps, knitting, cooking, making books…. one idea leads to another, so my art constantly evolves. I may grow bored working in a particular way and go in a whole new direction. I think it’s important to change things up, to keep things fresh and new.
How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
As a kid I remember my dad would come check to see if we had cleaned our rooms. He always said mine was organized chaos, and unfortunately I don’t think much has changed, lol.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Yes I give lectures and teach workshops nationally and internationally. You can find a brief description of my workshops at https://www.judycoatesperez.com/take-a-class-with-me/
What’s next for you?
In between my quilt related workshops, I’ve started teaching small workshops in the makerspace at my local community college. It’s very different from how I’ve taught over the last 10+ years, but I’m really enjoying introducing this younger audience to a wide variety of art and textile processes. Very few of these students have ever been exposed to them since our schools have dropped so many of the arts and textiles classes. I’m thrilled to see the number of students interested in learning how to sew. I look forward to seeing how they respond when I teach them to create their own painted and printed fabric.
Find Judy’s books on Blurb.
Browse through more of our Spotlight interviews on Create Whimsy.