Interview with Maria Elkins and a Giveaway!

 I'm excited to be a part of Lark book's blog hop for Martha Sielman's book: Art Quilt Portfolio: People & Portraits.  Martha filled the book with the work of over 100 quilters.  There are also more in-depth features of 21 artists.  One of those artists is Maria Elkins.  I've been an admirer and follower of Maria's work ever since I first saw her on Quilting Arts TV in 2009.  She has inspired me in many ways through the years.  I am honored to be able to share my recent interview with Maria and then to give one lucky reader a copy of this book!
Many Art Quilters come to the medium through traditional quilting and as you like to reference traditional quilts in your art quilts,  were you a traditional quilter before you started creating art quilts and if so what led you to making art quilts?

No, I've only made two or three traditional quilts. I was first introduced to traditional quilts in the 1970's. There was a national renewed interest in quilts at that time, especially around the bicentennial. Traditional quilts appeal to the part of me that loves geometry, structure, repetition, and order, but there is another part of me loves curves. I think it is easier for me to be creative and original when I lean toward that part.

·         Have you had any formal training in art or are you self-taught?
It’s been a mix. Beginning in junior high and high school, I took as many art classes as I could. Even then, I was especially interested in drawing people (and horses). When I started college fresh out of high school, I began as a textile art major. During my time at San Diego State University, I took several drawing and design classes, as well as classes in the Home Economics department that focused on advanced sewing techniques and pattern drafting. However, I dropped out after a couple of years and didn’t earn a degree. For the next twenty years, I taught myself by spending considerable time in the library exploring various aspects of art, drawing, historical clothing, and just about every kind of needlework, including quiltmaking. Ten years ago, I decided to finish my art degree. In 2006, I finally earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a focus in printmaking.

·         You use family members and friends to pose for the photos you use to create your quilt designs but where does the inspiration for a quilt's theme come from?
Most of the quilts I’ve made have been in response to a quilt guild challenge or the theme of an upcoming show or contest. That’s actually the easiest way for me to be inspired. If I have a few parameters as a starting point, then my imagination takes off and I can fill in the rest.

·         When you first began making art quilts, did you ever feel discouraged and if so what helped you to overcome this feeling and continue creating?
I’ve struggled with the fear of failure most of my life. It took me several years to complete my first art quilt. I would do a little bit and then become discouraged and give up. Months later, I would take out my UFO and do a bit more, only to repeat the cycle. A few things have helped me. One is to view my art as a series of experiments. As such, some experiments are expected to fail. It’s all a part of the learning process, so I choose to embrace it. I have spent a lot of time experimenting with various mediums, especially through the journal quilts. Sometimes I purposely try to fail, just to prove to myself that it’s okay. When I work in a small format, I can worry less about “wasting” supplies, and I can just try anything. If I don’t like it, I can throw it away. But really, it isn’t a “waste” to use those supplies because I learned something in the process. Remember, an athlete might spend a lot of time doing push-ups or sit-ups even though he never competes in those events. Why do we, as artists, expect everything to be a masterpiece? Some things are just push-ups.

·         Have you ever had to ditch a piece because nothing was going right? And if so will you share a little of what you learned from that experience.   
Absolutely! The first time I painted “Windblown,” it was a complete failure! The paint was bleeding everywhere. The colors were dull and overworked. I decided to look at that failure as a warm-up. I took out a fresh piece of fabric and started again, using a slightly different technique. The same thing happened all over again on my latest piece. I even blogged about both of these failures because I think it is important for other people to know so they won't be so hard on themselves. Why do we set such impossibly high expectations for ourselves? It’s okay for things to not work out right the first time. The key for me is to keep trying, to keep growing, to keep moving forward; then I have succeeded. When I allow discouragement to paralyze me, then I have truly failed.

·         What was your reaction when you found out your quilt Windblown would be the cover quilt of Art Quilt Portfolio: People & Portraits?
Last August, Shannon Quinn-Tucker of Lark Crafts sent me an email and told me “Windblown” was chosen for the cover. In my response to her, my exact words were, “Oh my gosh! I can't believe it!!!”

I still can’t believe it! There’s really no good way to describe the feeling. I felt pretty much the same way when I heard that “Windblown” had won a big award at the Houston International Quilt Festival. It’s a sense of wonder and disbelief. I thought, “Did you call the right person? Are you sure? Did you make a mistake?” Like all of us, we see all of the faults in our own quilts (even if no one else does). We know all of the things we would change if we could, so we don’t quite grasp what others are seeing. We see all the imperfections, but they see it as “perfection.” I still do a double-take when I see the cover, and I feel a thrill each time.

·         You love to experiment with new materials, products, and techniques. What is the tool or technique that has you itching to try right now and why?
I tend to purchase any new art supply that sounds interesting, and then they sit in my cupboard marinating. I have a couple of different kinds of paint and a gel printing plate waiting to be used, but currently, I am more interested in studying color and design, so I’ve been collecting Kona cottons, too. This past year I had the wonderful opportunity to take several workshops with Nancy Crow. I hope practice some of what I learned from her so I can refine my use of color.

·         What is your favorite, go-to tool or technique?
If I’m painting, I most often use Tsukineko All-Purpose Ink. I like that it is transparent, so I can paint on commercially printed fabric, if I want, and the print still shows through. It can be hard to control, however, so I have been experimenting with different ways to handle that aspect of it.

If I want to write or draw on fabric, my favorite pen is Pentel’s Gel Roller for Fabric. It delivers a very dark, crisp line that is permanent and washable.

·         What piece of advice would you like to share with aspiring art quilters?
I once read a quote that said something like, “Quit listening to yourself, and start telling yourself.” For years, I listened to all the negative thoughts that rolled around in my head, and I let them paralyze me. I finally decided to purposefully ignore those pessimistic thoughts. Instead, actively tell myself that it’s okay to fail, and I push forward. Don’t let the naysayers hold you back, even if that naysayer is yourself.

Thank you Maria!  It was a pleasuring interviewing you!  If you would like to read more about Maria and her quilts as well as 20 other talented artists get a copy of  Art Quilt Portfolio: People & Portraits!  If you would like a chance to win a copy, leave a comment on my blog and then visit the other blogs participating in blog hop for more chances to win.  Good luck!

June 4th – kickoff 
June 5th – Sarah Ann Smith

June 6th – Maria Elkins 

June 7th – Laura Wasilowski

June 9th – Katherine McNeese

June 10th – Cheryl Sleboda

June 11th – Linda McLaughlin

June 12th – Kathy Nida

June 13th – Marilyn H. Wall

June 14th – Janice Paine Dawes

June 16th – Pamela Price Klebaum

June 17th – Deborah Boschert

June 18th – Lisa Chin

June 19th – Sue Bleiweiss

June 20th – Leni Wiener

June 24th – Cheryl Lynch

June 25th – Lesley Riley

June 26th – Stephanie Forsyth

June 30th – Pat Kumich


Wonderful interview. I too admire Maria's work and am happy to read that I am not the only one with a fear of failure. Thanks for being a part of this blog hop and giveaway.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for interviewing me, Lisa. It's been fun reading each of the blogs in the blog tour. Makes me want to read the book all over again, from cover to cover!
Christine L. said…
This was just what I needed to hear right now. I am going to put "Quit listening to yourself, and start telling yourself." up on my studio wall.

Thanks to both of you!
Diane said…
Great review. Love Maria's work as well.
krkerler said…
Thanks for asking questions which elicited thoughtful responses. RE: Wildblown--you can almost feel the movement in the piece.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the interview, and for the opportunity to win the book, which I have heard such raves about.
Tobi said…
I've admired "Windblown" since I first saw it, astonishingly good.
Quilter Beth said…
Great interview! I'd love a chance to win the book. Thank you for the opportunity.
I have been intrigued by Maria Elkin's work for some time, and had the good fortune to see "Windblown" at the Houston show. This book looks amazing, and all of the artists are world class. I would love to win a copy. Thank you for the chance! ~Marina
Ann said…
I am lucky enough to have Maria as one of our "local quilters" who has made the big time. : ) We are so happy for her; she surely deserves all the kudos she gets! She will be doing our quilt guild's August program and a Making Faces workshop - we're so excited! Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this awesome book. : )
Unknown said…
Thanks for the interesting interview. It helps us all to know that some of the artists that we admire, are out there working, failing, learning and succeeding, just like the rest of us.
Unknown said…
Great quote; "Quit listening to yourself and start telling yourself", really need to print that out and hang it up where I will see it everyday!!! Thank you for a chance to take home this great book.
Nancy B.
Unknown said…
Great interview, inspiring. Sure would love to have that book.
Dina said…
As a recent career changer, I've been struggling a bit with the challenge of becoming an artist. I'm used to being the knowledgeable one, not the beginner, and it can get overwhelming to admit that I no longer know what I'm doing half the time! Maria's advice is right on target, and I'd love to learn more from all the artists in the book...
WP in VA said…
Great interview thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of this beautiful book
B J Elder said…
Really enjoyed the interview. I have been following Maria's work and blog and am so inspired by her.
Andy said…
What a great interview! Thanks!
Unknown said…
Thank you for sharing the inspiring interview with Maria! It is great to read her encouraging words about allowing ourselves to make mistakes.
sue in NZ said…
I too have followed Maria and admired her beautiful work for a while - I was blown away by Windblown! I should love to receive this book and hope that you ship to NZ, but will understand if you don't. Thank you for this lovely opportunity.
Emily C said…
Great review. So interesting to read about an artists history and what inspires them.
Kathy said…
Great interview. Would love a copy of the book. Also enjoyed your Gelli video. Great ideas!
Unknown said…
Great job Lisa! And what an inspiration. It's encouraging to know that other people struggle with mis-starts too!
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. Lots of good info.
Terry said…
What a good interview! As I kept reading, it not only encouraged me, but I want a particular friend to read the interview because I know, as an artist, it will also encourage her. My favorite line, 'Stop listening to yourself and start telling yourself.' So good! Thank you for the giveaway and next I'm going to the other bloggers' sites to read more!
Unknown said…
Great words of wisdom "Quit listening to yourself and start telling yourself" Now if we all can only do that. Love your work.
Judy Rys said…
Good interview. I would love a chance to win the book.
Kit Lang said…
Great interview, Lisa. :) Thanks for the chance to win!
Thanks for the great interview. I'm just learning about art quilts, boy are they gorgeous! It's nice learning about the artists. This book looks awesome!

Thank you and Lark Books for a super giveaway and a chance to win.

KT said…
What a great interview!
Brenda said…
"Quit listening to yourself, and start telling yourself."

This could change my life. Good timing, Maria. Thank you for your inspiration, once again!
Barbara said…
keep up the good work. Thank you for this wonderful blog and the chance to win this great book.
Deborah said…
Love the advice to stop listening to stories. Thanks for the opportunity to win a book of inspiration!
Janet said…
I've followed Maria's blog for several years, and love her work and her stories. Thanks for doing and recording this interview; all quilter are inspiring! Hope to win the book...
Great interview. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of the book.
Great interview! Thanks for the chance to win this book.
Candy said…
Just found the blog hop so trying to go back through and read/view. Thank you for a thoughtful interview. Candy
Unknown said…
Thanks for sharing Maria's interview. I really identify with the fear of failure and thinking I'll be wasting supplies. From now on I'm going to think of my work as an experiment and hopefully I'll be successful more times than not.
Gill said…
Great interview! I'm going to start telling myself too!
Thanks for a chance to win this fabulous book!
Sylvia said…
Wonderful interview! Thanks for the chance to win!
Peggie said…
Wonderful book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

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