As an architect, Valerie Goodwin is well-versed in key design principles. Bringing this formal training to her work as a fiber artist, Valerie creates art quilts inspired by maps. Her complex compositions weave narratives about a deeper sense of place.
How do the design principles of architecture relate to maps and art quilting? Do the two fields face any common challenges?
The principles of design in architecture and other design fields share the same fundamental concepts. In my way of thinking, it boils down to seven key principles: Balance, Movement, Rhythm, Contrast, Emphasis, Pattern, and Unity.
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Architecture differs from art because it must be functional and pay attention to the interaction between built spaces, human beings and being good to the planet. While map as art, architecture and art quilting are visual arts that have the ability to inspire, bring pleasure and enrich our everyday experiences.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your book, Art Quilt Maps: Capture a Sense of Place with Fiber Collage – A Visual Guide?
I hope that people reading my book understand my journey and my passion for fusing the artistry of maps, architectural thinking, and the craft of creating with fiber. Most of all I hope that people will want to find their own voice, despite the fact that it takes courage and hard work.
How did you find yourself on a fiber artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
At present I consider myself a bit of a juggler, trying to manage the different creative avenues in my life as both a professor of architecture and a fiber artist. While the juggling is challenging for me, the two avenues for creative expression inform each other in exciting ways.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people – or do you think creativity is a skill that people can develop?
My answer is yes and yes! We all have our own perception of the world, we all have ability to find its hidden patterns, and to make connections between seemingly unrelated things, and to create solutions.
How do you find a balance to make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
I wish I could make more time for creativity. Perhaps that’ll happen once I’m retired at the end of 2020. It’s definitely something I am looking forward to!
What does your studio look like? Where does the magic happen? How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
About a year ago I combined two bedrooms and created “my space”. It’s a bit narrow and long but I love the fact that I now have a table that runs straight down the middle. This means I can work from all sides.
How do you store your fabric and creative supplies?
I have converted two bedroom closets into storage areas. One stores my supplies and equipment, while the other houses my fabric. All the shelves were custom built by a contractor my husband and I use in our architectural work.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
My very favorite tool is the Epilogue Fusion laser cutting machine that we have in our architectural program. I learned how to calibrate the machine so that I can cut intricate and precise “map laces”. This tool has completely changed my work! One day I hope to offer workshops for other fiber artists. So stay tuned!
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
I love listening to books on tape, Sirius progressive radio and Spotify, but no TV allowed! Right now I am listening to “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read this book many years ago, but am enjoying hearing it read to me. The book’s poetic language and the stories that spans many generations are quite beautiful and have so many layers of meaning.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the art you produce?
I love to sketch out my ideas after searching for maps with beautiful lines. I go back and forth from working by hand and digitally. This is a new approach for me and I think the digital advances in architectural design processes have had something to do with this way of working. I am very excited!
Do you focus on one piece from start to finish? Or do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
Usually, I work on a few pieces at a time. This is mainly because I have time to work when I am on summer break from the university and I want to be as productive as possible.
How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
I think architects are trained to multi-task and work extremely hard. This way of working carries over into my fiber art work.
Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work? Explain.
Some of my work has a personal connection to community and history. African Burial Ground II tells the story of New York City’s African Burial Ground National Monument. This piece juxtaposes the role of the Dutch settlement in 1775 and the discovery of the grave site in contemporary lower Manhattan. My goal was to convey the area’s complex history while allowing room for the viewer’s own contemplation.
What is the biggest challenge to being successful in a creative field, whether architecture or fiber art?
Well, figuring out how not to be a poor Artist or Architect is certainly a BIG challenge, lol! In school, the artist and architect are taught design as mostly a solitary activity. However, when working in the field, one needs have business savvy and excellence at networking to succeed.
If you could interview any creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
I love watching documentaries on art. A few weeks ago, I came across one about Chua El Kay known for his East Asian ink-and-wash paintings. I have since become fascinated with his work and his design approach. The ambiguous use of abstraction and reality is of particular interest because it is something I strive for in my work. So I would love to have a very long chat with him.
Do you enter juried shows? Do you approach your work differently for these venues?
I do enter juried shows from time to time. But lately invitational exhibits have come my way.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Yes, I really love giving lectures and doing workshops.
- A Dialogue between Quilting and Architecture
- Mapping Narratives Using Fabric, Paint and Thread
- The Complex Composition
- Cutting Edge Explorations
- Favorite Place
- Map Play
- The Complex Composition
- Map Haiku
Interview published February 2019
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