75 Drawings

Acclaimed American artist Nancy Crow will be headlining The Festival of Quilts next week.  The exhibition, 75 Drawings: Explorations in Monoprinting, will be the largest exhibition of the artist’s work ever staged in the UK. She will also be hosting a lecture at the Festival’s Quilt Academy lecture programme. 

Interview by Julie Parmenter.

How did you get into quilt making in the first place?

I have a Masters of Fine Arts in Ceramics and a minor in tapestry weaving. When I moved to Brazil in 1969, I could not take my potters’ wheel but I could take a loom. And there I wove enough work to have a solo show in Porto Alegre, Brazil, one of the southernmost cities. I was 27 years old at the time. When I returned to the USA, I continued to weave. I began to make simple quilts as I found weaving increasingly frustrating. At the time, there was a “force of energy interested in contemporary quilt-making” moving across the USA and I got swept up in it. I come from a family of painters and working on the wall really appealed to me. When I sat at a loom I looked down all the time. But working on a wall I stepped back which allowed me to see what I was creating from a distance.

Why is 75 Drawings: Explorations in Monoprinting so important to you?

Mono-printing is a form of drawing. I like that! But learning to mono-print on fabric with thickened dyes takes a lot, a lot of practice, an enormous number of hours of practice. The dye can be very tricky to control in terms of its thickness as it wants to flow back into a solid surface almost as soon as one makes the marks in it. So one has to work rapidly which means making markings over and over and over until one has something that appears to be worth printing. I wanted to see the progression from Day 1 all the way to the last 4 tall mono-prints, work made over a two year period. I wanted to see how much I improved in technique and control. I have never, never had a chance to do this. So this exhibition means so much to me because of this opportunity.

As well as bringing your exhibition to The Festival of Quilts, you’ll also be be giving a lecture. Can you tell us a little more about what you’ll be sharing?

I will focus on my life as an artist and how that has meant so much to me. One of those things is the building of my “dream studio.” I began saving for this new space when I was 50 years old. Saved my teaching money and money from sales. I was religious about it. I wanted to have a serious space. By the time I was 68 I told myself, it is now or never. All the gods agreed and everything fell into place for my new studio to be built. But this will be covered in my talk with lots of photos. I will also include coverage of my machine piecing and other topics.

Do you think that textile art - and specifically quilt art - is undervalued as an art form?

YES! YES! YES! In fact, quilts are simply often dismissed. Strange when you realize that paintings are fabric with paint on them. By the way, I do not use the term “quilt art” as I think it very derogatory. After all, do we ever say “painting art” or “sculpture art?” If you want to insult me, call me a quilt artist…..horrid! I am an artist or quilt maker who makes quilts (my medium).

What projects are you working on currently and what’s next for you after The Festival of Quilts?

I am back to machine-piecing. When the weather gets just right, I hope to mono-print again working in colour directly. But meantime, I am working on a large solo show for The University of Nebraska that will open in August 2019. This exhibition will cover the last 10 years of my work.

See Nancy's exhibition at The Festival of Quilts, from 9th - 12th August 2018, Birmingham, UK.

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