Spotlight: Kim Ritter, Quilt Artist

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Kim Ritter

Spotlight: Kim Ritter, Quilt Artist

Kim Ritter loves computers and quilts and has created her unique style of art quilting by combining the two. Kim’s quilts are full of color, humor and a little something to make you think.

Kim Ritter headshot

What was your path to becoming an artist?

Born in 1956 and raised mid-century modern, I was destined to be an artist.

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I always had the big box of 64 Crayons, huge pads of paper and parents who valued creativity and a sense of humor. Daddy was an IBM executive who broke out of his dark suits and white shirts on the weekends to don Ricky Ricardo shirts,then jump in his latest sports car and wield his latest camera in the search of some artistic outlet in his corporate life. Mother dabbled in numerology, painted, longed for clothes straight from Vogue and made them all herself.

My first job was painting rocks in 1978 at age 12 for a local gift shop in Westport, Connecticut. They then hired me to make Christmas ornaments. At age fourteen, while other girls were babysitting, I was teaching art and crafts courses to the kids in the neighborhood in my basement.

Wild Women of the West quilt by Kim Ritter

Why textiles? Why art quilts?

When I moved to London in the early 90’s I signed up for what I thought was a little quilting class. But it turned out to be a City and Guilds very serious class that taught me everything I know about quilting, except digitally creating work.

How has your creativity evolved over the years? What inspired the evolution to new mediums/kinds of work/ways of working?

I am half geek, half art quilter. My love of computers and quilts has led me to be one of the leaders of digitally printed art quilts. Using a large photographer’s 44-inch Epson printer and specially treated cotton fabric, I create unique art quilts.

Mother of Dragons

What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?

When we took on 5 feet of water during Hurricane Ike and much of my studio and home were damaged along with my first art car, I was devastated. But adversity created opportunity and what was a disaster became a silver lining. So we moved out of the suburbs into Houston.

Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?

Both! All peoples make art or decorate their lives in some way. Of course, all talent must be nurtured and valued.

Dawn of Dragon

When you begin to create, do you visualize the finished piece, or does the work evolve?

I start with lots of sketches which eventually evolve into the final piece.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Sometimes it is fun to be the bad guy…or girl!

“Girls Just Wanna Have Funds!” was inspired by my family history. I grew up in the cowboy culture of Oklahoma. Grandmother Hendricks loved to tell the tale that she was a child in the back of a covered wagon during the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. My great-grandfather McKinney was a US Marshall in Arkansas Territory and was later a deputy sheriff in Manfred, OK and a sheriff in Sapulpa, OK.

My great-grandfather Ralls was a pony express rider, and later a sheriff in the Indian Nations. He was only 5 feet two inches tall and was so small, that in later life he became a professional jockey. As a sheriff in the Indian nations, Great-Grandfather Ralls claimed to have taken men before the hanging judge Roy Bean. He also claimed that he was put on the trail of the infamous female outlaw, Belle Star. I was researching Belle Star when I created this quilt. Starr was a notorious American outlaw associated with the James–Younger Gang and other outlaws. My title is a twist on the song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!” This stagecoach robber is just looking for some bling, accompanied by her bored wolves.

Kim Ritter with Beading by Kay Hendricks

How do you get unstuck creatively?

I am never really stuck. My problem is on the other end of the spectrum, editing down all my ideas. I start by deciding on a theme. I do lots of brainstorming, then research and sketching.

Do you focus on one piece from start to finish or work actively on more than one project at a time?

I can literally have 10 or more pieces in various stages of completion at
any time.

Dragon Twins

Are there recurring themes in your work? Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?

My work is almost always about women and their lives. I create all of my work in series, though not in a linear fashion.

Garden Dragon

What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?

My weirdo sense of humor is my signature and what makes people recognize my work.

Dragon Squadron

Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work?

Yes, my titles are often referencing some subtext in the work. When I see someone smiling, I know they got it, a laugh out loud is even better!

How does your studio organization contribute to your work process? Has it evolved over the years?

I always have a mess in my studio. I try to keep things straight, but it never lasts long.

Dragon Keep

What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?

My 44 Epson printer and my Handiquilter Sweet Sixteen are my babies.

What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?

The printer I use to create my colorful quilts is a photographers printer. I buy specially treated paper backed cotton or silk on a roll.

Dragon Flys

What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?

I usually listen to the news on TV while I work, might re-watch an old show while I do the hand binding or sketch while watching old westerns.

Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?

I work on 8 ½ by 11 card paper because I can’t bear to keep things all locked up in a sketchbook or journal. So I have TUBS of drawings and I go through them from time to time to see what ideas I started and never finished or look for an element of an on-going project.

Dragon Diamonds

If you had the opportunity, what creative person, past or present, would you like to work with and why?

Because I think she has a weird sense of humor like me and because I admire her creativity, Whoopi Goldberg would be perfect!

Kim Ritter Quote

What’s next for you?

I have a new studio on the Silos @Sawyer Yards here in the creative heart of Houston. I will be meeting other artists and hopefully creating new people who want to collect art quilts by educating the public about my work.

See more of Kim’s work on her website.

Interview with Kim Ritter posted November 2019

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