Spotlight: Linda Cantrell, Fiber Artist
Every picture tells a story, and Linda Cantrell’s pictorial quilts use humor to make you smile, guaranteed! Not only do her quilts tell stories, she loves to talk about the stories behind the quilts. Inspired by travel, her four Boston terriers and current events, Linda appliqués so much detail into her quilts, you will see something new every time.
How long have you been quilting? How did you get started?
My first “attempt” at making a quilt was in 1977. We needed a new blanket. I went to the store, looked at the price of blankets and thought to myself, “I’m not going to pay that much. I’ll make a quilt— how hard could it be?”
Never having seen a quilt, or touched one for that matter, I jumped right into making my first quilt, without lessons of course. I guess you could say I did not have a clue about what I was doing.
Back then, I thought you quilted the quilt before you put the backing on it. I have that first attempt, quilted, but it still needs a back!! Making that first quilt gave me the quilt-making bug. I consider myself self-taught, mostly by trial and error. Lots of trials and errors!
Were you always creative? When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
When did I realize I’m creative is a hard question. I’m dyslexic, and I had a hard time keeping up in school, so to make it seem like I didn’t care I spent a lot of class time drawing. My 5th-grade teacher encouraged me to draw, and she also gave me a lot of praise. This helped to make me feel that I was good at something.
Also, my grandmother did sewing in her home for other people, and she let me play with her fabrics while she sewed. She always made me think the doll clothes I made were wonderful, even if it was just a scrap of fabric with holes cut for the doll’s arms to go through.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people – or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
No, I don’t think that creativity comes naturally to people, but I do think it is a skill that can be learned. My Mother never let me say, “I can’t.” She said if you think you can’t, you can’t. If you think you can, you can. It’s the same with creativity. You have to want to be creative to be creative.
What part of your creative process do you enjoy most? Why?
Going through my fabric looking for the right piece of fabric, and thinking up things to put on the quilt is the part I enjoy the most.
Lecturing about my quilts may not be part of the process of making quilts, but it is an outcome. My favorite thing is doing programs at quilt guilds. The first time I did a guild program, I was sitting there, waiting for the guild business meeting to be over, scared to death, wondering what on earth I’ve gotten myself into?? Then, they introduced me and handed me a microphone, and I said something…they laughed, and I thought, “Wow, I like this”. Now it is hard to get that microphone away from me. I love talking about my quilts so much that I need a T-shirt with the saying “I’m talking, and I can’t stop”.
What inspires you? Do your quilts have stories to tell? Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
Most of my quilts are pictorial, and they do tell stories. I’m inspired by watching people in everyday life. Current events also inspire me. (I could never make that stuff up!) I always try to add something that is going on the news at the time I‘m making a quilt.
My four Boston Terriers do things every day that inspire me and make me laugh. I always try to find a way to add a Boston to my quilts. All of the above helps to bring out, some say, my seriously twisted sense of humor. I do try to make what I call a pretty quilt now and then, to prove that I can, but the pretty quilts are harder for me to do because they are just not fun – I labor over these.
How do you make the leap from the idea in your head to the art you produce? Do you plan your work out all ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
If it comes into my head, it comes out in my quilts…(it also comes out of my mouth, but that is neither here nor there). I never plan ahead. If I have an idea for a block, I make that one, and the next block feeds off the first and so on. My quilts seem to tell me where to go next.
Techniques? What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I guess my signature would be the tiny pieces and most of my quilts are humorous pictorial appliquéd wall hangings.
How do you get past a creative block?
I wish I knew the answer to that one! I’m in sort of a block now. I’m really into gardening and making hypertufa pots for my plants right now, but I know when a new idea hits me that I’ll be back making another wall hanging.
If we asked a good friend of yours to describe your style, what would they say?
They would say that my quilts are story quilts that are full of humor. You have to study them because there are lots of hidden things that you might miss at first glance. They would also say that I’m a bit obsessive!
Have you had to adapt your working style over the years? How so?
I have had to change the way I work because of arthritis in my hands. I did all hand work for years, but now I do machine appliqué and machine quilting.
What does your studio look like? Where does the magic happen?
What does my studio look like? You don’t want to go there…no really….you don’t want to go there! It is a big mess, but I work best that way. Maybe you could call it organized chaos, but the word organized may be a stretch!
What is your favorite storage tip for your fabric and creative supplies?
I can’t give any tips on this, because my fabric lives in a state of chaos, but I do know where things are.
Are there indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I could not work without a design wall…this is must. It would be hard to do a pictorial wall hanging without it.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
When I’m working, audiobooks are playing in the background. I’m a voracious reader. I listen to books when I’m working on a wall hanging, or anything else I’m doing by day, and then read in bed at night.
When you travel, do you stitch on planes and in waiting areas? What is in your creative travel kit?
When I travel, I mostly knit socks, and people-watch. (Socks are the only thing I know how to knit). I try to read, but people are much more interesting.
Which current fiber artists do you admire? What draws you to their work?
Which current fiber artists do I admire is hard to answer. I can’t name just one – there are so many!
What is on your design wall right now, and what is next for you?
Right at this moment there is nothing on my design wall. I do have a wall hanging in the back of mind. It is working on getting out and will be on that wall as soon as I get this gardening thing out of my system!
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