Taking a cue from the Bauhaus movement, modern quilter and collage artist Sarah Hibbert designs with bold colors and striking geometrics. Like many modern quilters, Sarah began quilting classic patterns, but couldn’t resist tweaking and asking, “what if”, sparking twists on the traditional. Her unique design process starts with small paper collages, freeing her to experiment. Then she translates her vision into fiber art on a larger scale.
How did you start designing quilts? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
I have been quilting for over 30 years and I so enjoy the style I am now creating. I am purely a part time quilter using my kitchen table as my studio and the floor as my design wall. As I work full time, I find I must snatch time slots to create my quilts; this can be extremely early in the morning or late into the evening. But when I am working on a piece it can take over my thought processes and home/work life takes a back seat!
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What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
Depending on the time of day, I work in silence, except for the odd comments from myself. Occasionally, I like to listen to audio books; I feel the hum of a speaking voice just helps me carry through a project. Music isn’t so good as I end up singing along and cut my fabric pieces wrong!
What inspires you to create? Why textiles? Why quilts? How did you get started?
From the beginning I mainly reconstructed traditional patterns and made a twist in the colour combinations, placing a block the wrong way or carrying a piece into the border. I love this combination of old and new; of the traditional and contemporary – patterns passed down through the generations and my personal contribution bringing something new. I feel that the piece I’m working on tells me when to stop and step away; fabric has a feeling and knows when it’s been worked enough. The Quilters’ Guild acquired my Reflections quilt in 2019 for their permanent collection to represent modern quilting. I created this quilt with many Japanese linen prints mixed in with neutral lines.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
My choice of fabric is mainly linen because I love the feel of this when quilted and the subtle shades of colour. It lends itself very much to hand quilting, softening whilst stitching. My main go to fabric colour is indigo blue, either commercially dyed or if I am lucky enough to find, hand dyed. I enjoy matching this with a bright spark of colour to lift the palette.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
For several years, I have created a paper collage which I use as a basis for a quilt design. On a number of these collage quilts, I have been lucky enough to have the beautiful quilting services of Christine Perrigo. Her magic really does lift the design. One of these pieces, Macaroons, was chosen to be the main poster and advertising image for both 2020 and 2021 at Festival of Quilts UK. I am extremely excited about this quilt being shown in so many places.
How do you make the leap from the idea in your head to the art you create? Do you visualize your finished work before you start it?
When creating a quilt, I have a brief outline in my head of the design, but I very much let the idea evolve as I am creating, and sometimes it is completely different from the initial format. I so enjoy where the fabric and ideas take me. I bounce between machine quilting in straight lines or densely hand quilted pieces, and I try to have a couple of projects on hand to suit my mood.
The turning point in my quilting journey was visiting QuiltCon in Savannah in 2017. It opened my eyes to the freedom and impact of design, taking an idea to an art level. I will always be thankful for that experience and very much enjoy the friendships I have made during those exhibitions.
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
The artist I would so like to interview and get to know her work from the initial design to finished project would be Gunta Stolzl from the Bauhaus School of Design. Her colour palette and strength of some of her pieces are just so visionary, even today, some many years after they were first created. Her weaving designs and initial sketchbooks have so many amazing layouts that are easy to transport to a quilt design.
I took one of her designs and replicated in plaids and plain linen, and I have been slowly stitching into it over several years. In a funny way I don’t really want to finish this piece as I enjoy “talking” to her whilst stitching.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I do envy Gunta and many other artists for being able to create sketchbooks, as I am self-taught and didn’t have the discipline to work like this, instilled when you attend college. I have never got into the habit for creating one.
I have lots of notebooks, as I adore stationery in any form, but they only have the odd page drawn on. As I said before, my work starts at the fabric pile and cutting table. I really can’t tell which comes first, the fabric choices or the design – it changes with each project. It may be that I have purchased a bold piece of fabric which I really need to share or just saw some pavement layouts, from walking, which spark an idea.
What is on your “someday” creative wish list?
For the past year I have been working on a book, From Collage to Quilt, which Lucky Spool will publish in late October. This is taking a simple paper collage through the design process to a finished quilt. I am so thrilled and excited to share this book concept. It totally stretched me as a quilt designer. I chose 14 different paper collages that I’d created over a period time. I then scratched my head, reached for the coffee pot and figured out how to translate an 8” square design into a 50” square quilt.
To help readers along with the paper creations, I included some coloured paper and a collage design to follow. The book includes some fabulous photography taken at my home, local to me and London. From this great learning experience, it is a direction I would like to take further. Paper play is freeing to create design elements that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily do with fabric. Why not grab a magazine today and start cutting!
Interview posted July 2021
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