Art quilt pioneer Katie Pasquini Masopust is always on the hunt for her next challenging series of work. And when she finds it, she perfects it, then shares her colorful insights with quilters around the world.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
Since I was a little girl I have always done some kind of art. I painted when I was little and my parents enrolled me many after school or weekend art classes. In high school all of my electives were in the art department. I enjoy calligraphy, jewelry making, oil painting, pottery – anything that they offered in the art department was great for me.
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First quilt: when and what was it? Why did you make it? Are there pictures?
My first quilt was made of denim scraps recycled from jeans and fabrics from my sewing projects. It was tied. The first quilted quilt was for my sister’s wedding and was made of half square triangles from the scraps of our sewing projects.
It seems you have come full circle, incorporating painting into your art quilts. What triggered the evolution to new mediums/kinds of work/ways of working? Do you get much push-back from the painting and quilting communities for mixing the mediums?
I often take classes outside of the quilting medium. Just to keep myself sharp and to keep my right brain working and coming up with ideas for my quilts. I took a class where we had to paint in acrylics on stretched canvas. After several weeks of class I told my teacher that it was stressful to paint on stretched canvas because every bit of the painting had to be good. Before, when painting with watercolors, I would always crop the larger painting to the best part and cut away the not so good stuff.
The teacher inspired me to get raw canvas and treat it, then tape it to a foam core board to paint on it. Then I could cut the painted piece to the best part and stretch that on a frame. Excellent, but when I started to cut up the painted canvases they were just like fabric, so I started to sew them together just like a quilt. I started quilting these, then stretching them on a frame and the stitched paintings were born. Then I liked one of my stitched paintings and I wondered how it would be as a quilt, so I made a quilt that looked exactly like the painting and had a flash to put the painting onto the quilt. Very Exciting!!
What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work? Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
I have always worked in series and find it a great way to explore an idea or theme. My paintings and my photographs of nature inspire me. I generally work on a specific series until I exhaust my ideas, then I can develop the series into a book and or class. Fractured Landscapes, Mandala, Ghost Layers and Color Washes, Still Life, Watercolor quilts. etc. Now I sometimes go back to an older series and revisit it with a new inspiration for a quilt that would work with it.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the art you produce? Are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I work everything out on paper first. If the inspiration is from a photo, I will draw the design including all of the color and value changes, then enlarge that drawing to use as templates. Sometime the inspiration is one of my paintings and I will do the same thing, then copy the colors and values from the original paintings.
Do you critique your own work? What is your process?
I critique my work first in the drawing stage to see if there is a good strong composition with contrast in design, such as contrast of size, different sizes to the shapes or objects in the piece, contrast of shape, contrast of density. Some areas are very detailed, while other areas are not so. That gives the eye has a place to rest. Then I check out how the visual pathway will work – how will the viewer move around my piece. Color and value choices influence this pathway, so that I critique it when I start using the fabrics.
When you are not making art quilts, what kinds of quilts do you make?
I make a lot of log cabin quilts. My sister and my cousin and I get together twice a year to make red, white and blue quilts for the veterans at the Veteran’s Center at the College of the Redwoods in Humboldt County, CA, and baby quilts when family members are bringing a new baby to the family. So I have a lot of log cabin quilts for my beds.
When you teach, what is your goal for your students? Do your online classes require a different approach?
My goal when teaching is to open up the students’ eyes and minds and hearts to the talent that they have and show them how to use that to make one of a kind quilts. The same thing is true for the online courses.
How can students/organizers get in touch with you to sign up for a workshop or schedule an event?
The best way to contact me is through my email [email protected]. They can check on my website to see where I am going to be or to see all of the classes that I teach at www.katiepm.com, or they can just call me at 707-725-7852.
Where did the idea for Alegre Retreats come from? How does the first retreat compare with the most recent?
I started Alegre Retreat many, many years ago when I first moved to Santa Fe, NM. I wanted to educate the huge art public there that quilts were art, so I started with a few classes and a large quilt show of quilts from the top quiltmakers. Successful retreats happened for 14 years, then the resort closed for remodeling for a few years. One of my faithful participants was very upset and asked me if when she got her resort built would I teach it there for her!! Well, that was a question that knocked my socks off. So thinking that I would never hear from her again, I said yes, and, lo and behold, in three years she had her resort and we have done the retreat there for her for over 10 years – Alegre Retreat Gateway Canyons Resort, Gateway Colorado.
What is the most important takeaway you want quilters to gain from your books and DVDs?
You can do it!!
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
The top floor of my home is my two studios. Originally the two rooms were for the children of a large family, with two rooms on either side of a full bathroom and a little hall with a storage cabinet.
One room has a double bed and can be a guest room when needed. There is a dormer and my table and easel are there to be my painting studio.
The other room is my quilt studio with another dormer with my sewing table so that I can look out on my little creek and the forest around my home. The sewing side has a huge 4 x 8 foot table that I do all my cutting and creating on. Then drawers take up two walls to store my fabric.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
The table is an important tool and the heart of my studio. It is custom made, so it has storage underneath for all of my rolled up quilts. Then I use the typical tools of the trade. Of course a good BERNINA sewing machine, the Horn of America sewing table, all my rulers and marking tools, rotary cutter and the big 4 x 8 foot mat. Plus a good light table for some projects, a Rowenta Iron or two, storage. etc.
How do you organize your creative tools and supplies? How does that system contribute to your work process?
I organize my fabric by color, then by value, in open wire drawers. This is what I call my palate of colors which I then draw from to realize my design. Everything is in order so I know where to find my colors and the proper value needed. My thread is in boxes that used to hold embroidery thread, with marking tools and my Gingher scissors in coffee mugs.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? What kind?
If I am designing I like to listen to right brain music, music without words, mostly classical, and when I am sewing, rock and roll!!
Very few quilters receive the Silver Star Award from the International Quilt Association. Did you have to submit work for consideration? Or did they just call you out of the blue with, “Hey, Katie, guess what?” What do you have to do when you accept the award?
At one of the spring markets for the Quilt Festival, I walked into a restaurant and was waiting for a table when one of Karey’s (Karey Bresenhan, founder and CEO of Quilts, Inc.) staff came over to me and asked it I could speak to Karey after she was finished with her dinner. So after we had finished dinner they met me at the front of the restaurant and asked me if I would accept the Silver Star Award!! Well, it took me all of two seconds to say yes!! That had always been a fantasy of mine and it was coming true. I was so excited and my whole family came to the award night. It was a highlight of my career. No, I didn’t submit any work, they just picked me.
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
I challenge myself constantly in my creative journey, trying to discover ideas and designs that are new and fresh and exciting to work on and hopefully exciting for the viewer as well. I have always worked in series, so coming up with a new idea for a series that will take me years to complete is very demanding but exciting.
Interview published August, 2019.
Browse through more inspiring art quilters and projects on Create Whimsy.