With a love for bold color, graphic design and an urban esthetic, modern quilter Sophie Zaugg creates eye-popping visual art with needle and thread. Like many modern quilters, Sophie began quilting traditional patterns, then just had to add her own spin. Before long, she was creating original works of fiber art and creating her own rules in the process.
What inspires you to create?
Graphic design and contemporary art influence my work. Though I live in the countryside, with nature all around me, my quilts reflect the inspiration of urban art and architecture. As for my improvisational quilts, they are about exploring simple shapes and traditional quilt patterns.
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Why textiles? Why quilting? How did you get started?
I learned sewing and knitting basics at school, but an aunt I was close to was the person who gave me the taste for needlework. Actually, I don’t know exactly why I came to quilting. I was knitting for a couple of years when I came across a book about traditional quilt blocks and decided to give it a go. Quilting is not a part of the culture in Switzerland and I didn’t know much about quilts and didn’t know any quilters before starting myself.
Have you always wanted to do what you are doing? If not, what made you decide to start?
I have been quilting now for about twenty years and first began with more traditional patterns. I had always been attracted by graphic design and abstract art but it was only when I discovered the Modern Quilting movement that I realized I could use that in my quilts. Around the same time, I also discovered Gee’s Bend quilts and they have been a source of inspiration since then.
Did you start quilting with patterns, or did you create your own designs from the start? What is it about the Modern Quilts that attract you?
After an unsuccessful attempt to learn on my own how to piece traditional quilt blocks by hand, I took a few classes in a local quilt shop to learn the basics and how to use modern quilting tools. I started working with my own designs early though since I wanted to explore the design and creative process.
What else do you create?
For years my craft projects were exclusively quilts. Then I decided to quit my job as a computer programmer late 2015, and that gave me time to try new things. Now I love sewing accessories like pouches and bags. Actually I worked mostly on these kinds of projects in 2020 (a side effect of the pandemic I think).
Do you have a mentor?
I don’t have a specific mentor. But there are many quilters and artists I admire and I refer to.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
Well, I go from one to the other. I would say I plan more at the moment, but I like both planned and improvisational quilts.
I design my planned quilts completely on the computer before I get start piecing. Usually I choose the fabrics or colour palette during the designing step.
When I begin an improvisational project I set a few rules for myself as a starting point and then let the design evolve and change as I go along. My design wall allows me to lay the pieces out and arrange them until I find the right balance in my composition.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I focus my design process on the visual impact and so usually my quilts do not tell stories and have no particular meaning.
Working with solids and very graphic prints allows for clean lines and bold designs. So I tend to work with a limited number of prints for a project and combine them to matching solids.
I prefer simple geometric shapes to intricate blocks and love playing with the interaction between shapes and background.
All my machine quilting is a straight line type, done on my domestic sewing machine. I think straight line quilting really fits the aesthetic of my quilts. It adds interest, texture and dimension to the quilt without outshining or detracting from the design.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
Yes and no. I have a dedicated sewing space which is in a family room we use for working on the computer and watching movies as well. So it is the busiest room of the house at times!
What is your favorite storage tip for your fabric and creative supplies?
I sort all my fabrics by type (solids, linen, prints…) in transparent plastic boxes which I store in a closet – because I am a bit picky at protecting them from sunlight and dust! In addition, I have a very practical furniture with drawers for all other supplies like threads, zippers, ribbons, etc.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
Using a sketchbook is in my good resolutions every year. But I often take notes on the medium I have on hand. This means I have to deal with several notebooks, sticky notes, not to mention files on my computer!
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I love listening to music or radio when I am working on something that requires focus. When the task is a bit routine or repetitive I appreciate listening to audiobooks or podcasts. My favourite are thrillers and crime stories!
Tell us about a challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
I think the most challenging thing for me is working on a custom order or for a specific recipient. Actually on a piece that has to please someone else.
How many projects do you have going at once? Or do you focus on one creative project at a time?
I am not able to focus on only one project at a time. I need to go from one to the other following my whims and despite that, I know that I will lose interest on some of them.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think you can develop your creativity by practicing. Adding a personal touch to a designer pattern is a good way to start and gain in confidence. Working on mini quilts also helps to try an idea with limited material and time involved. But trusting your own choices and tastes is the most important I think.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
I have learned and still learn a lot from other quilters whether online or in person. So as a kind of contribution to the quilting community I hope people get inspired and find tips in my blog posts as well.
Follow Sophie on her blog Luna LoveQuilts.
Interview posted with Sophie Zaugg posted December 2020
Browse through more modern quilt projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.