Spotlight: Kathy Doughty, Applique Artist and Quilter
When Kathy Doughty found quilting (or it found her), the floodgates opened. She hasn’t stopped loving, designing and making colorful quilts ever since. With a knack for finding ways for a variety of prints to play nicely together, she encourages students all over the world to find their own creative voices.
How long have you been quilting? How did you get started?
I have been quilting since 1993. I got married, started a family and migrated to Australia. The combination of all the changes in my life left a gap that I filled with learning crafts. A friend gave me a quilt when I had my second son. I’ll never forget holding it in my hands and falling in love with the idea of making quilts. It started then and has never stopped.
How do your American upbringing and current life in Australia complement each other?
I am not sure that they do! Although I spent time living near the Amish in Ohio and can remember brushes with quilts and quilters it didn’t take hold until I left behind all the things that had previously defined me…family, friends, and career. I started over moving here as a new person. I will say that my career in marketing included working for Swatch Watch and that colourful lifestyle product gave me an attitude for making traditional ideas more contemporary. When I found quilting, I wanted my quilts to be colourful and easy to make.
How do you balance your personal life, work at your shop, Material Obsession, and creative endeavors?
I have decided that I am pretty disciplined about the spaces in my life for creating, working and family. Each day has segments dedicated to participating in all aspects of my life. I do my computer/media in the early morning when my mind is fresh while I have a coffee. That is often followed by yoga, and then work. On the weekends I do the preparation and planning of my projects so that there are things to do during the week when I don’t have as much ability to concentrate.
It isn’t always easy to keep the balance. Sometimes it is overwhelming and stressful. Deadlines, travel and distractions interfere with my plans all the time. However, I always remember that I love what I do and that motivates me to get through the hard times.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your books, especially your new title, Organic Applique?
Organic Appliqué is all about taking creative control of your projects. I designed the quilts and then went back and wrote 40 pages of instructions, tips and advice for working with colour and managing the techniques. It is about using the ideas as a springboard in order to maintain creative control and being able to personalise projects.
Tell us about your studio. Where does the magic happen?
My studio is not very flashy but I am lucky to have a studio and space. I have what I need and a bit of space to work but it gets crazy in there. Regularly, I throw everything in the middle of the room and rearrange all the components. I love it when it is tidy, but as soon as I start working it becomes a fabric tornado!
Are there indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
The magic happens on my cutting table and design wall!!! I love cutting fabric and throwing the shapes up onto the wall to see what happens. And I am a big fan of templates and rulers. I like to know I am cutting accurately all the time. I love Eleganza perle 8 threads for quilting and stitching.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
Triple J radio is my soundtrack. It’s the “Australian youth network radio” and I listen to it all day long. Recently I have started using Spotify as well. Music is critical for my process. I love how it sets the mood and turns off the background ideas that interfere with my process. Listening to musicians talk about their process is always interesting and this particular station plays a lot of interviews.
When you travel to teach workshops, do you stitch on planes and in waiting areas? What is in your creative travel kit?
I always have a stitching project for travel. At the moment I have discovered embroidery and stitching but I also often have a small project to quilt. So… my kit has needles, thimbles and threads.
What inspires you to create?
Everything. My mind latches onto ideas from patterns, textures and images in my day to day life. I have always stopped to pick up seeds and stems, to photograph scenery, collected photos and things that have good colour combinations…ideas abound as long as my eyes are open.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time? How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
I always have lots of projects going on at a time. I like to sew during daylight hours on my machine. At night I like to sit and quilt or stitch. I start a new project as soon as I get an idea. My desk is covered with sketches and drawn up ideas. It can be overwhelming, especially when I am busy traveling. Staying organised is a constant effort. However, I work with an open plan and oftentimes different projects will merge into one or affect each other. Many of my projects are geared toward the shop and encouraging others to try things. That means that I have to stay organised with deadlines on many projects. If I have a deadline it gets done! No choices there…
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I just do what I like. My signature is using a lot of print fabric combinations. I hear that people often think my work is busy but I see that as a true and honest reflection of who I am as a person. I believe that if I paid more attention to trends and fashions I would have a more popular business, but I am not interested in doing what sells for the sake of it. It’s important to me to encourage people to listen to their own motivation and to be proud of their work. This isn’t always easy and sometimes I feel sad that not everyone loves what I do, but in those moments I dig deep to find the confidence to stay true.
Who are your greatest influences in the quilting world? How have they inspired you?
Kaffe Fassett in regard to colour. He is the master and has given me so much. Gwen Marston was a huge style influence. Her books and quilts gave me the confidence to believe that what I was doing had a place. Rosalie Dace, an art quilter, taught me how to think with my soul.
I am also influenced by my good friends at the shop. We talk, share ideas, and assess each other’s work. It is wonderful to work with like-minded people. We have a variety of different styles that creates a mix of talents and design inspiration. I surround myself with honest people whenever possible.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people – or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
There are those that are born with a creative spirit for sure. Some of us need help getting the doors open! I was one. I always knew I wanted to be an artist but I didn’t know how to use my hands to make the ideas come out. When I found quilting it started to flow and all my impulses and ideas had a path to creative freedom. I have watched people develop a path to creativity. For some it is easier than for others but I believe we all have it in us if we can just listen to our own thoughts and feelings.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
I have always known I was creative. It was a bit of a joke in our family that I was “different” from everyone else and they gave me a bit of space for that.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
Just do it. Just start in a direction and eventually the path will show itself. When I am stuck I play the music louder first and if that doesn’t work I walk away and come back with fresh eyes.
When you teach, how do you help students find their own creative voices?
I hope that by giving reasonable language to the processes I use helps people to understand where I am leading them. By that I mean that I used to do what I do without thinking about it. When I realised it was different, I started thinking about the words that describe the actions so that I can open up new paths of thought. I feel confident that I can offer observations rather than judgements when working with students that might help them to make decisions with more confidence.
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope visitors will gain by visiting?
I am active on Instagram at Matobsgirl. There I post images from my life as a quilter, teacher, shop owner, mother, friend, wife! I have a blog but haven’t written much lately. We have a website www.materialobsession.com.au that offers all the treats we work with and links to our Facebook page as well. I hope people find ideas there to springboard their own projects.
What’s next for you?
Lots of teaching around the world. I just released my book and plan to teach from it for the next two years. I also have a collection of fabric, Seeds & Stems releasing soon and am working on the next collection for FreeSpirit fabrics now. Next week we are headed to Melbourne for an event and then we head to L’Amour du Fils in Nantes, France with a shop. This is a first for us as we test the European quilting community.
Interview published April 9, 2019.
Browse through all of our inspiring Spotlight interviews on Create Whimsy.