Pam Morris embarked on her quilting journey when she was gifted a red, white, and blue rail fence quilt kit by her mother-in-law. Since then, she’s continuously evolved her quilting style, developing her own patterns. She finds inspiration in the vibrant colors of her Southwest Florida surroundings.
How long have you been quilting and designing? How did you get started?
This is a trip down memory lane for me. I was married in 1972 and had my first child in 1975. Somewhere during that timeframe, my mother in law gave me a birthday present, a red white and blue rail fence quilt kit.
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I was surprised, people made quilts? I had been sewing garments.
I decided to give quilting a try several years later. I have quilted for about 40 years beginning with that birthday gift.
What inspires you to create?
I do not use other peoples patterns at all. I cobble together my own geometric patterns. I suppose I have to say my need to express something. Is it the beauty I see every day living in SW Florida? Is it a comment on society and our ills?
Often it is a deadline for a quilt show I hope to successfully enter.
For several years we lived on the water and I was heavily influenced by sailboat masts, boat docks, boat hulls, mangroves, and birds.
Most of all I’m inspired by color. In SW Florida, the sun is so bright and brings out the clarity of colors. It also fades out anything but the strong. My palette is so different from the “old white men on the Mediterranean” colors we are often used to seeing in art museums.
What different creative media do you use in your work?
This is a very timely question for me. As an official old person, I am 76, I am beginning to turn my back on dabbling and playing.
I always dyed my own fabrics. I realize how much yardage I have. I’ve ceased dyeing fabric just this month. I often painted using a gel plate and I decided to forgo this, too, giving my paints to my 6 yr old granddaughter, with supervision!
I often dyed up pearl cotton threads to do handwork, but have such an amount of arthritis I am giving those lovely threads away, too.
This brings me back and down to my true love which is piecing. I have a box full of found objects from collecting bits and bobs over the years. The most unusual being dyed cod skin I picked up in Iceland.
I do still add Inktense pencil and paints to my new works.
I have changed piecing styles over the years.
I also have a nice collection of 12 weight machine threads. Each year my Bernina has become more a part of my creative work, and hand work is less.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I am an improv quilter!
However, this does not extend to my prep work for a new project. When it is anything more that a giving quilt for local children charities, I do use the “dreaded” sketch book.
I do outlines, occasionally watercolor, pages of new designs. These can be simple 2” square quickly drawn sketches, or those that I add to for a few days until I feel I am ready to get started.
Some people put something on the design wall and can just improv an entire quilt but I find taking the step of doing a few quick sketches solves a lot of construction and design issues for me.
After all, what is the rush? I sew or create every day, although down time is very productive also.
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
In the past I had to just grab time here and there. I raised 4 kids as a stay at home mom while the Dad did his dad thing.
Now I live alone and am able to plan my days. I do know the day before I will have chunks of time and this is when I am in my studio.
This room is a spare bedroom and while small it meets my needs. I keep my hand dyed fabrics in here. I have a larger closet to store my commercial solid fabrics. My sit down Q20 is in the other spare or guest room.
So my space is downsized from the past but I am more focused in my materials and techniques so this space is perfect for me.
I can, and do, sew every day. If not on a creative endeavor, you’ll find me working on a giving quilt.
Are you a “finisher”? How many UFOs do you think you have?
Unlike the past, I have no UFO’s. I bundled up fabrics and directions for my past UFO’s one year and vowed to never do it again. As I do not store what I will not use, I now have no UFO’s.
I know myself and what I wish to do. That is to make bags and to piece quilts. Big quilts or wall quilts.
Describe your creative space.
I am lucky to have a talented grandson nearby and he set my space up. I have an 8 foot design wall, thread storage cabinets under my cutting table (an old Horn table) and my Laura Star Iron system under a window.
In this room is my favorite machine, my Bernina 770 .
My other favorite machine is the Bernina 570. It sits in my living room where I can sew with my back to my TV.
I put several cans of daylight bulbs in my ceilings and I put film over the windows to block out harmful parts of the sun.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
The can lights in the ceiling give me beautiful light that is not harmful to my fabrics and they are daylight range so my color sense is great.
My old cutting table allows other cabinets to be under it for quick access. I do make bags and they require a lot of small fiddly things plus different fabrics.
I keep my cutters and marking tools in a basket on my large table next to my cutting mat.
I spent the money on a great self healing mat (Alvin self healing) and this adds to my accuracy.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I love to start a new project! Just yesterday I whipped up a little project carrying bag as I love an occasional quick project.
For a big work it can be every couple months. I am finishing up 2 pieces right now. One I consider a minimal piece, although I added so many 1/8” lines it is beginning to look maximal.
In the past I dye painted fabrics. This is intense fun but then what? I like to work with solid fabrics so I have a hard time using the prints. My latest competition quilt “Curtain Call” was made exclusively with these printed fabrics plus some embellishing threads. It is my final printed piece using my fabrics. They are nearly gone and I am relieved and I can go back to solids.
I will work on more than one project. I like having one being quilted, one in a sketch book, and one on the wall. In between or in times of less concentration I do my giving quilts.
I will often have a bag in progress at the same time as a competition quilt.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
Because I live in Florida on the coast most of my works relate somehow to either bright colors or lines. I love lines, usually vertical but sometimes not. I even did a 100 day challenge of lines.
I enjoy doing a guild challenge but my works still related to Florida. I might add a sail or a mast, I especially like mangrove roots.
I spend a lot of time day dreaming colors and how to add more or to take away so there are less.
I am enjoying a more minimal phase on my work now, but I don’t know how long it will last.
Take the dark blue 24” square piece. This is a challenge in my local quilt guild. We have to make a piece for the Happiness Challenge, this size and we must add apricot. This is a work in progress and is NOT finished.
It has my blue water pieces glued to crinoline, then it was quilted enough to hold it together. Then washed. Now I will add more dark quilting but then I will add 12 wt threads in oranges. I will heavily quilt my boats/triangles.
I wanted this happiness quilt to remind one of the peace and beauty we have here when we are in a more natural environment.
How does a new work come about?
I will start a project often only based on “I want to work in red” or some color or combination of colors. I have a piece I am ready to start sketching now using mostly reds, and a funky little 4 sided shape. I saw a fleeting image in a British movie of a red art piece on a wall and got an idea and will roll with it.
I will cut about 8” by 10” strips of 60-70 reds of my hand dyes, soak and then re-wash them. When I first started dying I had little concept of how much dye, how many washes etc. I worry about my old fabrics to where I wash them in hot water again.
Then I will free hand cut my shapes, I will add purple or gray lines and start putting shapes on my wall.
This is my favorite part. Of course the facing and sleeve, are the least interesting aspects of this project but they do mean the piece is finished!!!
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
Traveling down that memory lane again I believe I was about 7 yrs old.
I always had a crayon and paper around me. I never understood the need to stay in the lines or to use realistic color. As if to prove my point, I won the school art contest in 2nd grade!
Now, I need create but I am limiting this to piecing now. If I can.
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
I really believe creativity is part of the human psyche. We all have it.
From the low life who can figure out a grift to provide the necessaries, to a scientist imagining germs, to the people who defied all reason and physics to get an airplane up that did not fall from the sky. The list goes on from I am cold let us get warm, and proceeded to light that first fire to medical advances to photographs and art canvas etc.
Yes, in a defined medium like science, it must be learned. So, obviously if one wants to advance in art they take art instruction.
I’m fortunate to have taken from the best the quilt world has to give and then to live almost next to an an art center with classes.
Where can people see your work?
People can see my work on Instagram at pam223p.
Soon Florida Studio Art Quilt Association will have an art website and I will be there, sometime in January
Interview posted November 2023
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