Fiber artist Cindy Grisdela presents her colorful portfolio, and talks about the unusual approach she takes to creating work.
ABI: As an artist, what inspires you about working with fiber?
CG: Fiber inspires me because it is a medium that we can touch and feel. I’m intrigued by the chance to create an interesting composition with color, line and shape, and then enhance the design by adding texture with stitching lines.
The color is the first step. Putting colors together intuitively, I use fabric the way a painter might use paint to create a canvas that engages the viewer from a distance, yet invites a closer look. The texture is the second step. The stitching lines provide textural contrast and integrate the different block elements into a cohesive whole, like a riff on the piano or guitar running through a favorite song, rewarding the viewer for stepping closer.
ABI: How would you describe your artwork and what makes it unusual?
CG: My contemporary art quilts are designed improvisationally without a formal pattern, a little bit like jazz music. Each decision about color and shape influences the next as I cut directly into the fabric to create the composition.
What makes my work unusual is the dense texture that I add with freehand stitching. All my stitching is done on the sewing machine, but it is completely hand driven. There’s no marking ahead of time and no computer program to engage. I’m stitching the motifs in my head directly into the fabric as though I had a pencil or paintbrush in my hand, rather than the needle and thread of my machine.
ABI: How have you translated what is often considered a traditional craft medium into fine art?
CG: I began my artistic journey nearly 30 years ago as a traditional quiltmaker, using the same patterns and techniques that have been in use for hundreds of years. While I value the traditions of the past, over the years it became vital to me to be creating art that is uniquely mine and reflects my own contemporary voice.
I travel extensively all over the US showing and selling my work at fine art and fine craft shows such as the American Craft Council shows in Baltimore and Atlanta, the Palm Beach Fine Craft Show, the Northern Virginia Fine Art Show, Chicago’s One of A Kind show, and the Washington Craft Show. I do about 12-14 shows each year.
I present my quilts as art. All but the largest pieces are mounted on artist canvas that I paint with black acrylic paint. The pieces are standard sizes ranging from 6″ x 6″ to 24″ x 24″ and can be purchased singly, to accent a small space, or in groupings, perhaps to decorate a staircase wall or hang over a bookcase.
ABI: You teach workshops in quilting, with a twist. What is your approach?
CG: My strong belief is that we all have the capacity to be creative in some fashion. I teach my workshops to give students the building blocks they need to create their own unique quilts and to encourage them to embrace their own artistic journey.