Modern Red (2014)
90 x 96 inches
Quilt (photo John Polak)
Ann Brauer has had an impressive quilting career for over 30 years. Based in Shelburne Falls, USA, her quilts are a celebration of captivating colour and immaculate technique. Her style constantly evolves, often reflecting the landscape and seasons around her, yet her enduring use of colour makes her work both recognisable and timeless.
What are your first memories of quilts or textiles?
When I was born my grandmother made a postage stamp quilt from feed sack cloth. I slept under it for years and always found new fabrics and designs that she had incorporated into it. She had made quilts for years as her expression of beauty and self against the life of a farm wife. Indeed one of her quilts was for the closet of the guest bedroom of her house. It was too good to ever be used but was brought out to show her accomplishments.
Tell us about your background in textiles.
I am a self taught quilt maker although I grew up doing lots of sewing. As a child, I never thought I could make a quilt until eventually I had a friend who made quilts and I realised if I made quilts I could buy fabric.
What is it about quilting that appeals?
I love working with the different colours and fabrics. I find it so exciting to think of a design and see it evolve.
You have a beautiful use of colour. Do you have any rules or does it come naturally?
My colours are intuitive. I do experiment to see what is the right colour for the particular quilt. Frequently the colours that I use change with the season. For instance in January I am drawn to bright reds and greys that are the colours of the sun against the greys of the hills and forests around here.
How do you describe your style?
My style is modern but with a personal element and a hint of the self taught artist.
How do you design your quilts?
When I get inspired I make very rough sketches of the thoughts that come to me. I am particularly interested in the movement of the colour and the elements of the design. Then when I am planning the next quilt I may flip through my notes to see if there is any quilt that beckons me to make it.
I noticed on your website you make wall hangings as well as art quilts. What is the difference?
I use the two terms almost interchangeably although some of my art quilts may be used both on the wall and on either a bed or as a table runner. I like making work that can have more than one use. I think it is important that the objects we use on a daily basis are also beautiful.
As well as your textile art you run your own gallery, can you describe a typical working day?
I try to get to the studio about nine and get ready for work. I spend most of my day creating the quilts. However because my studio is open to the public, I never know what may happen. Will a customer walk into the studio and engage in an interesting conversation? Will I have an order to ship out? Will I get inspired and start a new quilt? I try to have a variety of tasks that need to be done so I can take a break when I get stuck on a particular project but still be productive. At five I leave for the day. I also do a number of fine craft shows where I am not in my studio.
What have been your career highlights so far?
My most recent accomplishment is to rebuild my studio after Tropical Storm Irene and push my style into a new and more organic direction with the curves, flames and circles. Before that I created all 12 quilts for the new Federal District Court House in Springfield, MA. In 2006 I received an award of Excellence from the American Craft Council at the Baltimore Fine Craft Show. My quilts have been included in Quilt National. I received a fellowship from the New England Fellowship for the Arts. Perhaps my most important accomplishment though has been supporting myself making quilts for 34 years.
You’ve been making art quilts for 34 years. How has quilting changed over that time?
Quilting has changed substantially through the years. When I began, the art quilt movement was just starting with the exploration of original patterns and colour combinations. Later there was an awareness of the freedom and life of the African American quilts. Right now there is modern quilt movement with the fresh colours and designs. There has also been a change in the tools used to create these quilts. The accessibility of the quilting machines has also changed the look of the quilts. Yet despite all these changes quilts have retained their popularity in part I believe because everyone has a memory of quilts and knows the feel of fabric. While I do not study these different changes deeply, it does affect my work.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to make a career as a textile artist?
My first piece of advice is to take a couple of business courses. If you want to make a career it is important to have the background that will allow you to make decision both as an artist and as an entrepreneur. It is important to listen both to the marketplace and to your heart. The second suggestion is to create your own “brand” or style. How is your work distinctive from others? What is uniquely yours? Experiment and have fun. Make quilts. When I began I was making a baby quilt and received orders for six every month in reds and blues—each one as different as possible. This let me teach myself colour theory and helped me establish my own style. Finally I suggest having fun while this is your career. If a direction becomes tedious then it may be time to switch. For instance I quit making baby quilts when they became work.