Judy Gula invites you to join her on a journey of creativity, color and collaboration. She specializes in mixed media fiber arts, incorporating vintage textiles and materials from around the world. Currently, her passion is batik art panels from Indonesia (she wrote the book!), but she never met a fiber art she didn’t love!
Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
I am the creator and President of Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria, VA. We are a mixed media fiber arts store (both bricks and mortar and an online shop) and carry fabrics, supplies for fiber and mixed media art, manufacture our own textile paint, WonderFil Specialty Threads, Tentakulum Threads & Fibers, import fair trade items from Indonesia, India, Thailand and many other places around the world. We are also a BERNINA dealer.
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How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I have always been creative and it was always supported and encouraged by my family.
How important is Community – organizations, workshops, your store, family, friends – in your process?
Community is very important to me. Even at a young age I was a member of both weaving and quilting guilds. I learned so much from all these women who touched my life in more than just the arts. Here at Artistic Artifacts we have created a supportive, encouraging, creative environment that was built into the business plan. We have a group called Judy’s Altered Minds which meets monthly at the store to offer opportunity to makers to meet in a supportive environment.
What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work? Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
I am excited and inspired by materials. My true love is vintage textiles. So I am the orphan collector – I love photos, textiles, clothing pieces that tell a story of an older time. People bring me their treasured family textiles when no one wants them because they know that I love and cherish them.
Why did they have their photo taken that day, what did they do, was the family loving? I have been known to incorporate 3-D items within my quilts to help tell the story including vintage jewelry, framed photos, keys, charms and beads. I will also hand dye vintage textiles and use them in my work.
When my husband and I purchased Batik Tambal 7 years ago as a sister company to Artistic Artifacts, I began using the hand painted batik art panels we imported from Indonesia in a series of art quilts. I feel strongly that we create a partnership with the artists in Indonesia when we add their artwork to ours. These batik art panels are paintings on fabric of the highest quality. They are beautiful as is, and are an embellisher’s dream – I love to bead them and add hand stitching to my machine quilting. I have a passion for creating with the Batik Art Panels that resulted in my recent book: Colorful Batik Panel Quilts.
What is the greatest takeaway you want readers to get from your new book: Colorful Batik Panel Quilts?
To think of our artist drawn batik panels as quilt blocks that can be combined with other blocks to form a quilt. Most batik art panels are available in multiple sizes in squares and rectangles, from 12 inches x 12 inches to wall-sized panels.
The batik art panels play so well with other fabrics, colors, and patterns. Take what you already know about quilting and insert a batik panel as a block instead of a traditionally pieced block.
There is unique and beautiful art around the world, and when we use a piece of art from another country we are forming a partnership between that country and the US.
How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
I am always working on more than one project, and I organize them on serving trays.
I have a spark that ignites the creativity and then I begin pulling items and fabrics that will support the idea. Now that I have the demands of running Artistic Artifacts I have less time to create – so I have to take bits and pieces of time – first the idea, then a tray full of supporting items, then laying them out. And then another day assembling. While all along, the idea is percolating in the background of my brain.
When you begin to create, do you have a finished product in mind? Or does the work evolve? How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the art you produce?
No I do not plan. I let the idea flow and work intuitively. This style of working has evolved from years of practice.
Tell us about an artistic challenge. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
I have been interested in many creative techniques – weaving, dying, spinning, jewelry, and now quilting. As I dabbled, I would flit from one project to another, and thought this was a bad thing. Jack of all trades, and Master of none. Then I met a woman who operated similarly and she gave me permission to be Master of none. She told me that it would lead to my true creative love and then I would incorporate all that I have touched. And she was right!
What do you learn about who you are through your creative endeavors?
Creating is part of my soul.
Do you enter juried shows? Do you approach your work differently for these venues?
So far I have not entered many juried shows. But I hope to change that. My artwork has appeared in a number of books, and I’m thrilled to have had that privilege: Vintage Revisited by Mary Kerr, First Time Beading by Liz Kettle, Modern Hand Stitching by Ruth Chandler and Memory Quilts by Cyndi Souder.
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
I’m still working on this!
What is your creative space like? Are there indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
My creative space at home is wonderful. Many people assume that because I am the owner of Artistic Artifacts that I get to play with great stuff all day. I wish that were true! But it’s not possible due to the demands of a growing business. So my studio is at home, an extra bedroom in our house. I am grateful for the space that I have. My indispensable tool is my BERNINA Sewing Machine!
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
Mostly silence, because I am creating as I go – I am not one of those people who can work with a TV or even music most of the time.
What is your advice for someone starting out in fiber art?
I have received wonderful guidance and advice from many people. At one time I was selling my work – I began to create work to sell, rather than work for me. When I created work for me it actually sold better! So I would always advise artists to search for their own voice, their own likes and preferences, rather than imitating others.
Creating is for yourself – it is for you to enjoy the process, result, the feeling of accomplishment. It is for you the artist, no one else is more important.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
What’s next for you?
I hope more of the same!
Interview posted February 2019
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