When textile artist Lorraine Turner discovered she had a gift for communicating with animals, her art took a dedicated path that has sustained her ever since. Lorraine maintains a consistent meditation practice that guides her work. She didn’t set out to work with fiber, however. As an Emmy award winning graphic designer, she was at the top of her game. But when wild horses appeared in her daily meditation sessions, she was inspired to render their story with textiles. Animals – and working for their benefit – have guided her practice ever since.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I’ve always been an artist and only realized it was something that came more naturally to me than my peers, when I won an art contest at age 7.
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Why fiber art? How does that medium best express what you want to communicate through your art?
Aside from being a textile artist I am also a professional animal communicator. While working with a white lion in South Africa in October 2015, he showed me images of my own art created with textiles. Every artist knows their own work and I was astounded. He told me I would be creating this to support endangered animals. I had been a graphic designer for many years, however had never attempted this medium. So, in May of 2016 I began experimenting with fiber art.
What was your background before quilting?
I am a graphic designer and have worked as the lead designer for a National Basketball team in the US for ten years, as well as a two-time Emmy winner for my television graphics. I studied at the Philadelphia Art Institute.
What inspires you to create?
All of my work begins with meditation, and my meditation book describes this process. I go to a quiet space and meditate in silence fifteen minutes, twice daily. During my meditation, I ask if there is an animal who wishes to have me create their portrait and they continue to come forward. They bring many images, thoughts, feelings, sounds as well as tastes. I next illustrate everything that is shown.
How did you come to name your creative venture Calico Horses?
In 2010 wild horses began appearing daily in my meditations. They were all covered in calico fabrics as well as the landscape of trees, mountains and shrubbery. The horses were galloping, panting and snorting, very much ALIVE and yet covered in patchwork fabrics. This went on for months as if telling me their story. I did some research and found that a recent roundup of wild horses in the US took place in Calico Mountains in Nevada. The horses were named the Calico Horses after the colorful mountains. I believe they were calling out to me, so from this connection I have written a book, Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail. I had no idea that seven years later I would create one of my first textile illustrations, “Calico Messengers,” which is also the cover of my book.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
Each illustration is an animal speaking to me. So I do my best to recreate the conversations brought to me in meditation. I believe the animals are assisting me and this is why my art may appear to stand out with a “spiritual” quality.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I work intuitively. I feel and sense each illustration and I don’t have any UFO’s because I have made a commitment to each animal that has stepped forward to tell their story. People ask when I will do a certain species…my response? When they appear in meditation.
What are your preferred methods and materials for creating?
I have never met an embellishment I didn’t like. Therefore, I use vintage linens, doilies, denim, lace, dyed cheesecloth, sari silk, buttons and lots of hand embroidery.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I live beside the Clearwater Bay in Florida, and its name rings true. I am a BERNINA ambassador and have two machines set up facing the water. The natural lighting in this open space is something I truly treasure.
What are the indispensable tools in your studio? How do they improve your work?
My absolute must and GO TO tools are the 270 colors of Aurifil 100% Egyptian cotton threads. I use many weights of thread in my work. They allow me to create stunning textures and I can blend easily when thread painting. When I first began, I used cheap threads, and they added too much lint in my pricey sewing machines. After switching thread brands, I noticed a huge difference and especially love the SHEEN achieved with this medium.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
After the animals appear to me in meditation, I quickly sketch and note down anything that they gave to me. I note the feelings, time of day, sounds, and even the mood of the animals. Gracious nature photographers who understand that the purpose of the art that is sold supports endangered animals have given access to hundreds of photographs. I gather many photos to help me capture what was shown to me. However, I am an impressionist, so I’m never trying to make the art photo-realistic. I am “implying” from the images and messages that were shown to me.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
Silence, as the animals often speak to me during the process. For example, I might hear, “That doesn’t look like my ear, my muscles are larger, my haunches have more fur, etc.”
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I have taught many workshops with people from all walks of life. Creativity may seem more natural for some, but I find that once I encourage them to give themselves permission to simply PLAY it flows more easily. My motto is, “No mistakes, only life lessons.”
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
Hopefully it reflects who I am. I strive to have a glass half-full of attitude. I not only have art, classes, fabric and patterns to purchase, but I offer FREE humanitarian projects. My GLOBAL PEN PAL project helps many who have felt isolated during the pandemic. Quilters and artisans around the world are connecting and creating an exciting community. You can learn more about this here. I am offering Calico Horses for Kids where I am leading a team who are producing quilts from my pattern for children in need.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I offer lectures as well as live and recorder webinars. I am currently busy creating my next line of fabrics for Benartex as well as a solo special exhibit in 2023. In 2024 I will resume personal appearances. Organizers can contact me to schedule an event.
My website https://calicohorses.com/
Interview posted November 2022
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