Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Meet Professional Member - Pamela Allen

Pamela Allen is one of those rare quilters that sticks with you.   We all have different tastes when it comes to quilts, but Ms. Allen creates such works of art that no matter your quilting preference, you can't help but remember her quilts.  That is a true gift.   Not only that, but this quilter can inspire her students.  Having been fortunate enough to take a workshop with her, I know that Pamela is a motivating and very patient instructor.  

Pamela Allen
Tell us a little about yourself. 
I live in Kingston, a small university city on Lake Ontario . Lucky me....I married my professor of painting when I had returned to university for a BFA in my thirties.  As a result, I have acquired 16 grand and great grandchildren which makes for a lively family life!  I am on the cusp of becoming a bona fide senior citizen next year. The most significant element of this is that I will finally have a small, reliable income in the form of old age pension.  Who knew I would welcome THAT particular milestone?  When I am not working in my studio, I am reading, or cooking/baking, or cycling, or tracking family members for our Family Tree.

My Town Markey Square

What got you into quilting?
Haha!  It certainly wasn't any skill I had as a seamstress!  As a full time painter and sometime collage artist, it occurred to me that some of my images would work well in fabric.  In fact a friend who IS a quilter, made a beautiful wall piece based on a collage I had done in coloured and patterned paper.  I was still hesitant because of my abysmal sewing, but at the same time discovered my hero, Susan Shie.  Her work was all about what fabric can do as an art medium, and not about perfect stitching, quilting or binding.  After spending a week at her Art Camp in Ohio, I was hooked.  I have been working in textiles exclusively since 2001 and loving it.

Is there a technique in quilting you are passionate about?
I am not so much a technique person, as I am passionate about creating FINE art in the fabric medium. To me that means taking advantage of all the characteristics of fabric to make a unique and recognizable art piece. Those characteristics such as the fact that it frays, it comes in delicious patterns and colours, you can scrunch it, pleat it, fold it, and dye it. You can cut it up and reassemble it into a new form or design.  The possibilities are infinite once you give yourself permission to try anything. This of course is the definition of creativity anyway, no matter what the medium.

What are some of your favourite things about quilting?    
Very quickly I discovered that quilting and particularly art quilting is a huge sisterhood (with a few brothers), who are eager to mentor, give technical assistance and offer  advice.  Furthermore there are many, many opportunities for a professional fabric artist to enter juried shows, international shows, and museum shows. As a corollary, becoming active in the shows brings offers to teach.  I love teaching, and find it stimulating for my own work as well as a way to meet and enjoy fellow companions in the field.  I was honoured this year to receive the Teacher of the Year Award by the International Association of Professional Quilters.  Although I am not a member of a guild, I do keep in touch with literally thousands of fellow quilters online by belonging to the quiltart list and Studio Art QuiltsAssociation.    I also offer three or four online quilt workshops each year
A Rather Attractive Prison

Does anything frustrate you when it comes to quilting?
Hmmm, alas it now seems I have a bit of a reputation about the issue of judging art quilts.  Many times I have posted or written letters about art quilts being judged using the same strict  criteria as bed quilts.  I believe the two are apples and oranges. Art quilts should be viewed and judged as would a painting for instance. Based on the artistic merit, design, composition etc., and not on whether the stitching is even, or if there are knots on the back! I liken it to an art judge criticizing a painting because the staples are not evenly distributed on the stretcher frame!  I'm not sure I have convinced anybody yet though!

Neutral Still Life

What is your next quilt related goal?
Well jokingly I refer to myself as a "quilt show slut" because I enter so many shows. There is some rationale to this strategy.  I make a lot of new work each year and want as many people to see them as possible. Also I am aiming for a higher and higher level of acceptance.   For years I dutifully try for Quilt National and Visions quilt shows, as they are considered the crème de la crème of fabric venues. So far, no luck with the former but I have had ONE quilt shown at Visions. So I guess one of my goals is to be accepted at Quilt National.

As an artist my ongoing goal is simply to get better, and not be satisfied with what has gone before. In some cases this has meant changing my style somewhat, or changing my palette, or subject matter, or even scale.  These experiments keep me on my creative toes so to speak, and interested in what I am doing. They are not always successful or even liked by some viewers, but art-making is risk taking and living with the consequences.  Otherwise work can become mundane and boring. Right now I am working in a limited palette of fairly monochromatic colours. Quite different from my usual in-your-face brightness. Also I am exploring landscape, cityscape, and interiors rather more than my former figure compositions.

What is your favourite food to eat while quilting?
What a great question. And furthermore, very a propos as I am a BIG food person. I snack on frozen treats, mixed nuts, chocolate, toast and cheese.  But never when I am working. My husband says I am an accident waiting to happen and if I ate while I worked, food spills would be part of the "surface design" on my fabrics.
Nocturne Brewers Mills

We certainly look forward to following Pamela's career as she continues on her journey!

1 comment:

  1. As someone who was dragged kicking and screaming into art quilting myself,(and am now addicted to fibre art), it is refreshing to hear from an art quilter who didn't start out loving to sew! I so enjoyed reading this profile.