Fiber artist Rosalind Daniels caught the quilting bug in a typical way – to make a quilt for her first child. Her quilting journey continued, but her work took a creative path that is anything but typical. Years of living overseas exposed Rosalind to rich and varied art and textile traditions that sparked her original quilt designs. The fabric speaks, and Rosalind listens.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path?
I took the long path to my current work that has been a real surprise to me. I started with a college art class, but back then, studying art meant painting. From my first childhood experience with flour and water paste, I disliked working with liquids, so I went no farther. About 40 years later I attended the Vermont Quilt Festival for the first time. I noticed that the works I admired most were made by trained artists or architects. So I began taking one art class at a local community college every fall when my children were in school. Over time, these classes gave me tools and, most importantly, the confidence to do what I want in my work.
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How did your quilting journey begin?
I had Rose Kretsinger’s The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in my bathroom for about 10 years before attempting a quilt. I think I was attracted by the graphic quality of the designs. Like many of us, I put interest into action when I was expecting my first child. My mother, who had taught me to sew, took me to a quilt shop; I bought a pattern to make a baby quilt. The woman at the shop sold me the pattern, but informed me I needed to take a quilt class before I could make a quilt. I knew how to sew and read a pattern, so I figured I’d show her! And I did. I made the quilt and a similar one for the next child. But she had been correct that I wouldn’t know how to begin my own journey by working from patterns.
A few years later when we were living in Pakistan, an American grandmother offered to teach quilting in her home once a week. I eagerly jumped in. We began by cutting cardboard templates and sewing and quilting by hand, an experience I’m really grateful for. There were no quilt police in Pakistan and no “quilting fabrics” available. So I experimented with all the gorgeous fabric that was available in small local shops and bazaars. There were very few solids available in cotton, but lots of bright prints which appealed to me. I experimented with my own designs right from the beginning. I had lots of failures, but I found that I really enjoyed the process of creating with cloth.
How has your time overseas impacted your art?
Though my math background is fundamental to my work, I think my years living overseas have had the greatest impact on my esthetic.
I lived in England in the late 60s during the Op Art era and have been working with Marimekko fabrics ever since.
Later, during my first months living in the tropics, I walked around checking out the clothing thinking very western thoughts like, “You can’t wear that with that!” But after a few more months, I began to think “Well, yes you can. And it’s stunning!” The bold and exuberant fabrics worn in the tropics have colored my palette ever since.
And my years living in Sweden made me appreciate spare modern design, even though I often fill spare designs with bright prints.
How do your photography and fiber art influence each other?
I studied photography many years ago and have only picked up a camera again in the last 5 years. In spite of urging from a friend to try combining my fiber and photo work, I resisted for years. I thought of them as separate practices that inform each other. Only recently have I begun to have my photos printed on fabric to be used in quilts. I’m still surprised that it took me so long to understand that what appeals to my brain in fabric would be similar to what appeals to me through the camera, particularly in abstract shapes and color. I call my new series of photo-inspired work ‘Judy was Right!’
Do you have a dedicated space for creating?
I do have my own studio with a view of the mountains. And it’s always a mess. I love to go into it to wallow in fabric! The studio has most of what I need to create quilts. But my cutting and ironing table is down the hall in the laundry room; I have to get up and “exercise” to iron or cut. My favorite piece of furniture is the ironing table that I had built. It’s the size of a yard of cotton.
Can you share a bit of your process of bringing a new idea from glimmer to reality?
My goal in my work is to find fabric that I love and to honor it by putting it in conversation with other fabrics. So I usually begin by gathering hunks of fabrics that grab my attention and pinning them on the design wall. Then I find the one piece I like best and cut it bigger than I think I’d like it to be. I think of my process as Square it Up Later. Just go ahead and cut some pieces and see what happens as the fabrics begin to talk to each other on the wall. Hopefully, I can go back later and make the pieces fit together, though I’m not always successful at that.
But from time to time if something is bothering me I will change this process and choose fabric to illustrate a particular concern. In these cases I’m trying to get my worry or anger out of my head and onto fabric. This fabric therapy has resulted in what I now realize is a series of protest pieces.
What inspires you creatively? Does your environment make a difference?
I think it’s impossible to live in Vermont without being inspired by the environment’s beauty. Living in the woods, I’m very much aware of the changing seasons and landscapes. I have made quite a few abstract pieces about Vermont, including my longest series that includes eleven Mud Season Nine Patch quilts. Two of my Late Winter pieces currently hang in the American Embassy in Djibouti at the request of an Ambassador from New England who wanted to take a bit of winter to his home in Africa.
If you could interview a creative person who would that person be?
The person I would most like to talk to is Dianne Firth who teaches Landscape Architecture and researches landscape heritage at the University of Canberra in Australia. The minimalism and graphic qualities of her work are such a powerful force in speaking about the landscape that I am overwhelmed by every piece she makes. Plus, in my experience, Australians tend to be a barrel of fun to talk with.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people? Or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
Based on my personal definition of creativity, I believe everyone creates every day in some way. And I think that it’s possible to learn creative skills and continue to improve creatively with practice because I feel I have done that. What I really do wonder about is where the urge to create artistically comes from. I need to do some research on that one!
Interview posted March 2022
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