Kimberly Rado of Starry Night Hollow is a fiber artist who gravitates to whimsy using the richness of color, texture and dimension in her work. She is inspired by all the beauty around her – literature, music, and things that tell a story or touch one’s soul.
How long have you been quilting and designing? How did you get started?
I really have been quilting since I was a teenager without knowing that I was a quilter!
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My mother is a very talented fine artist, and I grew up following in her footsteps but have more of a creative flair than she did. I took all I learned from her and expanded into different medias. In sewing, she would sew clothes using patterns and I would sew all kinds of crazy things.
I really made things up as I went without patterns. I was always improvising. I also loved ceramics and did a lot of improvising there too.
I designed a line of jewelry that became a business for me. I sold to high-end retailers and was a featured artist at Neiman Marcus in the early 80’s.
At that time I was working, acting on television (theatre was really my other great love), and creating. Theatre eventually brought me full circle to quilting formally.
I was the director of the Rancho Santa Fe Community Theatre where I would direct, design and built sets, design and make costumes and act. I was making costumes for a play called Dark of the Moon which has wonderful witchy characters for whom I make velvet patchwork capes.
A quilting friend of mine told me the capes looked like crazy quilts. I had no idea what she was talking about! She brought me to her quilting class and I never looked back.
Are there recurring themes in your work? What is it about a subject that inspires you to continue exploring it?
There is one funny recurring thing. A very good friend of mine, also a quilting instructor and artist in her own right, has red curly hair and is always telling me that I have to have a red head in my quilts with people, to represent her. In many of my quilts she and my other bff will somewhere, somehow be included. Kind of a ‘where’s Waldo’ thing.
Recurring is not a word I would really use to define patterns in my work. I suppose that mixing media would be the closest I would get to recurrence. I love adding multiple layers of texture and color but also think I can stop myself when it gets too much!
My inspirations come from all the beauty around me, literature, music, and things that tell a story or touch one’s soul.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I believe that my point of difference is that I try to simplify complexity so that the process makes gratification more attainable for people who don’t believe they have the talent or skill set.
I truly believe that we all have talent and skills, but we need people who know they do, to show the ones who don’t think they do, how to find it. I hope that makes sense! What makes my work stand out is my gravitation to whimsy and richness of color, texture and dimension.
What inspires you?
Simple answer. Everything!
I can shift gears and go from traditional to modern to classical to abstract. I love it all!
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
I feel very blessed that I never have ‘writer’s block’. I can find inspiration in anything from a piece of metal to a leaf. I will then decide how to showcase or weave that piece of inspiration into a story that will become a quilt.
I have so many things in my studio enable me to just dive in and play with all sorts of things and outcomes.
I often tell my students that the idea in my mind at the beginning is never remotely close to the finished project. They are all works in progress.
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
This is such a great question. Throughout my life, I had to learn to manage time. I had my own business (a Public Relations Agency), raised 2 children, worked with my husband, showed horses and played tennis. A lot of juggling! I believe that all of the juggling made me appreciate my creative time more.
I was able to share it with my children and now my grandchildren, and it was and is my therapy! Now, it is also has been my business for the last 16 years and it is the business I love.
I can go into my studio and create, and come out feeling blessed that I can do this thing that I love. It is also something that I can share with so many people on so many levels. I will give myself some breaks, sometimes though, but always look forward to getting back to it!
Are you a “finisher”? How many UFO’s do you think you have?
I am a finisher, but wasn’t always.
I am a type A personality and need instant gratification. This means that I need to see things to the end and in a timely fashion. Because so many of my pieces have intricacies that require more time, I will start other projects that I work on concurrently.
I am pretty quick at finishing though, and will work long hours to complete what I am working on so I can move on to the next.
Describe your creative space.
My studio is a casita with a mount wall and tables. One day a week, my closest friends and I will meet to sew together.
In my studio, I have an industrial machine, an embroidery machine and a machine that does a little of everything. There is a children’s table with a children’s sewing machine for my granddaughters. It is my happy place!
Part of our garage is converted to a warehouse for all the fabric and notions that are on our webstore. It is also the home of my longarm machine. In the house, I have an office where I keep all the patterns and pattern originals. It is also where I keep my keyboard, guitar and thimble collection!
How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
Another great question! Because there are so many facets to what I do, the way I have everything set up makes it easier for me to focus on one thing at a time. If I had the design and sewing area with the art and marketing area, I would be bouncing all over the place.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I do sketches on whatever paper is available—depending on when the idea comes, it could be a napkin, a piece of newspaper, a scrap of freezer paper, notebook or art pad.
I will work off the sketch to create the design, then transfer it onto freezer paper. I write down step by steps of what I do, making changes as needed until I have a finished design and pattern ready to publish.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I do work on multiple projects at a time. Most of the time, I will have an appliqué project at the same time I am doing a pieced project. I will also have projects that get inserted, for example a block of the month and any projects being featured in videos, classes or workshops I am doing. I work on the pieced projects in the studio and the hand appliqué and embellishment in the evenings while watching TV or while I am traveling.
I tend to only work on two projects at a time unless there is a time issue on any inserted projects.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
The inspirations can hit me anytime. Unfortunately, it frequently happens when I am sleeping and will wake up and need to put it on paper!
Other inspirations would be people. My husband is a big fan of the Beatles. Particularly John Lennon. I decided to make him a quilt of John. I did my research and found images of John, his art work and things he has written in addition to his song lyrics.
I transferred the images, art and handwritten things onto fabric by adjusting the size on a copier then tracing them onto fabric with a lightbox and sharpie. I then hand embroidered and appliquéd. I chose a famous photo of John to appliqué and embroider using mixed media. I pieced together the borders on all the individual blocks and sewed the quilt together. I went on Ebay and found the Elvis pin John was wearing in the photo and ordered it. After quilting I added the pin to my finished work. That quilt now hangs in his office with another quilt of all four Beatles that is completely pieced.
Which part of the design process is your favorite? Which part is a challenge for you?
I love the whole process.
The design, the engineering, making and longarming. The thing I don’t enjoy is binding! Too boring for me!
What’s the best piece of advice you’re received?
There are always people telling you what you should do, techniques you should try, ways to improve your art. I was once told to stay true to my path and the quote that means the most to me is “you be you”. I repeat it all the time.
How is your work different than it was in the beginning? How is it the same?
In the beginning I hadn’t learned all the wonderful techniques, fundamentals and history of quilting. I have become quite the student of the art and have found that all I have learned has contributed to more comprehensive versions of my work. I am still telling the same stories, just better.
When was the first time you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
When I was very young my father, who was an executive at a top toy company, took me to work with him one day when school was off. He plopped me in the art department with a team of staff artists. I fell in love with them all! He left me to design toys.
The art department was Disneyland to me—drafting tables, tools—I can still remember the smell of the thousands of markers! Two of the designs I did that day became actual toys for the company and the artists were always asking my dad to bring me back!
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
This is a question near and dear to my heart.
Technique can be learned but the magic lies within each of us waiting to come out.
Creativity lives in all of us. It doesn’t always manifest the same way, but it is inherently there.
I truly believe that people who will tell you they aren’t creative, had someone in their lives at a young age, that for whatever reason, discouraged creative thinking.
Creativity most definitely must be nurtured.
People can be guided to finding it within them. This is what I teach people of all ages and what I strive to help them do.
My children went to an amazing elementary school but they had an art teacher that made many of the children hate art—mine included. She was very regimented and judgmental. She taught to a rigid plan instead of nurturing the joy of creative discovery. She also unfairly critiqued and graded the work. I started volunteering at the school to undo the damage she had created.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Yes! I most recently taught a miniature art quilt workshop at Visions Museum of Textile Art in Point Loma, CA. It coincided with an exhibit of my work that will be on display until September 30, 2023.
I have taught in Nantes, France at a show for the launch of my book “Whimsical Journey” published by Quiltmania. I will likely be teaching again at Visions in January and also do guild workshops, lectures and trunk shows. For more information, email me at [email protected].
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is our store and by visiting, people can not only purchase the fabrics I use but can also purchase my original patterns and a decorative thread line I designed for Wonderfil Specialty Threads call Starry Night Dazzles.
We are adding instructional tutorials and videos all the time and send out emails when we add new things like our annual block of the month. The website is www.starrynighthollow.com.
Interview posted September 2023
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