Most people fear rejection. Instead, Modern Quilter and Designer Yvonne Fuchs actively pursues it, pushing her skills to discover her strengths and the processes that best express her vision. The result is a cohesive body of work with a strong balanced voice.
What was your background BQ (Before Quilting)?
I have a degree in aerospace engineering and I worked as an engineer for 15 years. My specialty was as a structural analyst with an emphasis in composite materials, and the capstone of my career was working on the small design, build, and flight test team for the prototype of SpaceShipTwo.
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Tell us about your first quilt. What prompted you to make it? Is it still with us?
My paternal grandmother was a prolific hand quilter. When I was a sophomore in high school, she told me that if I were to piece a twin sized quilt top, she would hand quilt it for me so that I would have a handmade quilt to take with me to college to use in my dorm room. My mother had also made two scrappy tied quilts before I was born and was a garment sewer. Thinking this was too good of an opportunity to pass up and not knowing anything about it, my mom and I went to a local quilt store and purchased a pattern (Eleanor Burns’ Card Trick Quilt in a Day which is a 60-odd page book), a rotary cutting mat, a rotary cutter, and I picked out fabric to meet the fabric requirements.
I did use the quilt on my dorm room bed; I was so proud to have made it with the help of my grandmother. With no idea how to do it, I had to bind it. I cut 3″ wide strips of fabric and used them as a single fold binding that I hand finished. To the best of our knowledge, it was the last quilt my grandmother quilted before she passed away.
I still have the quilt and it is in pretty good condition except for an area that was bleached by the sun coming in my dorm room window.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I pursued a lot of different crafts growing up. I learned very, very basic crochet, made a slew of friendship bracelets using embroidery floss and cross-stitched to name a few. And I played the piano for 11 years, starting when I was 5, and I played the flute through college. After making my first quilt in high school, I made 2 others before graduating and started making larger quilts in college. I was delighted when my parents gifted me a sewing machine as a Christmas gift; I think my mom just wanted her sewing room back because I would take it over on long breaks from college.
Until fairly recently, I would not call myself an artist, let alone creative. I viewed the crafts and music as hobbies and emotional outlets. Once I began working full time, quilting really was therapy for me and something I enjoyed. Looking back now, I can tell that it all started to feel a bit more different to me the more I quilted. My personal quilting journey really began to evolve quickly when my friend group started having kids. I went from making 1 or 2 quilts a year to making 8 or more quilts. I stopped following as many patterns, and after attending the first QuiltCon in 2013, I began free motion quilting which really liberated me.
What inspires you to create? There are lots of ways to express your creativity. Why does quilting ring your bells?
There are a lot of different reasons I create, but what really inspires me right now is learning something new. I have realized that I tend to work on ideas in a series, granted that with quilts that means that they are spread out over years. In my current body of work, I have a series of transparency quilts, modern minimal quilts, and I am currently exploring curved piecing.
Quilting specifically appeals to me because in the end I have created a functional object that can be used, gifted, and is something tactile. My favorite part of making the quilt is hand stitching the binding on to finish; it gives me time to think about the journey I just took in the creation, or spend time thinking about the person that will be receiving the quilt.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I am definitely more of a planner when it comes to creating. I love list making, and I find that creating a quilt is full of satisfying “cross it off the list” moments: select fabric, cut fabric, piece blocks, piece quilt top, baste quilt, quilt, bind, label.
In addition, I also really enjoy creating improvisational quilts, but it is not my go-to method. Improv, and specifically making improv mini mini quilts (think mug rug size) are a great way for me to work through an idea, rut, or just have a satisfying and quick finish after a long project has come to an end.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I think my engineering background shows through in a lot of my designs. My designs are very bold, graphic, and linear. I am really drawn to working in monochromatic or analogous color schemes. Because I am technically minded, my quilts end up very structured. I put a lot of thought into color and value in my quilts.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Using a Hera marker has really changed how I approach quilting. I have tried many different tools to mark quilting lines over the years (markers that don’t fully erase, chalk, masking tape, etc.), but I find that a Hera marker works very well for me. I use the Hera marker to create guidelines for my quilting, and it’s easy to add more later if I change my plan.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
When I am designing, I listen to light background music. Right now, I’m listening to a lot of piano music while I do computer work.
When quilting, it really depends on what phase of the process I’m in. For instance, when I’m cutting fabric (my least favorite step of the process), I need to work in silence so that I can concentrate the best. When I’m piecing, I bounce between listening to music, which is usually either by favorite artists or curated playlists that my husband creates, or listening to podcasts. The podcasts that I’m currently enjoying are Radiolab, Sharon Says So, and Pantsuit Politics. Binding for me is a meditative process and either done in silence or during cozy family zoom discussions.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
To develop my skills, I like to try something new. When attempting something new, it usually causes me to appreciate the foundational skills that I have honed and think about them in a different way. I also know that teaching has helped me become a better quilter. When teaching, I’m always trying to think of another way to word what I am trying to explain and the act of thinking so carefully through the steps of a process helps me hone and appreciate my skills.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I believe that creativity comes naturally to children and that we often convince ourselves that we are not creative as we get older. I do think that creativity is a skill that can be learned, but I also believe that everyone is already creative. By making conscious choices and decisions, we can unlock the fear and mystique that we have placed around creativity and begin to embrace our inner creative spirit.
I have heard many quilters say that they are not creative, but there are so many creative choices that quilters make for each project. You can be following a pattern or using a fabric bundle and still be creative. Did you choose the quilting motif or collaborate with a longarm quilter to select the quilting motif? Did you pick the batting to use? Or did you select the pattern and put thought into what you were making because of the intended recipient? These are all creative choices.
How can people overcome the challenges they feel to their creative ability?
The biggest thing that helped me was the act of consciously seeking rejection. In order to grow or change, we have to feel discomfort. It can be very hard to know how to push outside of our comfort zones, and we can build up a lot of fear about trying something new and not being good or opening ourselves up to being vulnerable to something and being told no. By actively seeking rejection, submitting my quilts to shows and not having them accepted, submitting ideas to magazines for publication and not having them accepted, and sharing about not just the successes but the failures as I am going through my quilting journey, I have grown a lot both creatively and personally.
Seeking rejection doesn’t have to be about doing something big, either. It can start on a small scale. It can be as simple as taking a workshop about a technique that doesn’t interest you. You may learn that indeed, that technique is not for you, or you may be surprised. Maybe you will learn one nugget of information that will change the way you do something else.
Where can someone see more of your work?
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Interview posted November 2021
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