Aled at the March (2013)
23 x 25 cm
It isn’t often that the military and nature are exhibited side by side, but for Austrailan quilter Lucy Carroll these are both strong themes in her life. Relatively new to quilting, these drastically different topics are both depicted in a painterly way where she hand paints the fabric before piecing it together and quilting it. While the image is often simple the layering and stitching offer depth and texture drawing the viewer in.
What is your background in textiles?
My Mum taught me to sew when I was little, I’ve been playing around with fabric and thread since I was four. I love all forms of hand embroidery, but I found there were more opportunities in quilting.
When did you make your first quilt and what was the theme?
I made my first bed quilt when I was 11, but I only started making art quilts in 2012. My first quilt was called BarkLife, and it’s a quilt inspired by tree bark and the creatures that live on old trees.
Your quilts have a beautiful painterly quality. How do you achieve this?
I use a few different techniques depending on the effect I’m after; I often use acrylic paint watered down which acts like watercolour on the cotton. I always paint before I stitch, I will paint huge pieces of fabric then cut them up and stick them back together using raw edge applique. This lets me use big brushstrokes and I am able to vary the texture I use without having the colours bleed into each other.
Your lines of stitching look like contours on a map. Why do you sew these lines?
I love free motion quilting, it allows me to follow the lines of the quilt and add subtle movement to the panels. I have a fantastic Bernina 720 machine which lets me do precise work on the large quilts; I call what I do echo quilting as I follow the contours of the image.
Can you describe the process of a quilt such as ‘On the Train, Anzac Day 2014,’ ?
For the painted pieces, I start by creating a full scale template from my source image. I do this on the computer, and use a projector to trace the full size version onto brown paper. Once I have a template I can work out roughly how much of each colour fabric I need and I paint each panel individually. To do this I use acrylic paint (archive standard) watered down to the strength I need, and I try to paint all the shades in a colour-way at one time.
When all the panels are painted and dry, I use the template and heat-bonded adhesive to cut out the shapes I require for each layer and then stick it all together like a big puzzle. I make sure everything is stuck down really well then I free motion quilt everything together.
How long does it take to create a quilt?
It varies depending on the size and complexity of the quilt, and I also tend to work quicker with a looming deadline! For example, On The Train took me about six weeks start to finish but I worked solidly on it during that time.
Why did you start working with the Women in Defence theme?
I served in the Royal Australian Air Force before I had my children and I have many friends who are still serving; I wanted to present a different view of what it is like to be a woman in the Military, one which I feel is more accurate.
You seem to have two favourite topics, butterflies and military. Both hugely different themes, is there any link between them, or in the way you approach them?
The two types of quilts look very different but everything I do is drawn from my life and environment. We are a military family, and while we love our life and how we live many people don’t understand what it means, so I like making quilts that create awareness of our lives.
I started making bark quilts because we’ve lived in lots of different cities and houses and each time we move the kids and I spend time getting to know the grand old trees in our neighborhood; I feel that preserving old trees in new housing developments is really important to ensure our children grow up in an environment which isn’t sterile and concrete. Each time I make a new bark quilt I draw inspiration from one of the trees near our house – right now I’m working on a bark quilt from Cairns and the colours and textures are very different than the South East Australian bark quilts.
Where do you work and how do you balance time intensive work with having young children?
I have a studio in my home, it’s not huge but I can spread out if I need to! The kids have grown up with me working from home and they are great with respecting my work space and tools. They all love seeing what I’m up to, ‘helping’ on occasion, and playing with the fabric scraps.
To manage my time I work a lot at night, when they were younger I worked during their nap time but my youngest is too big for that now. I think being consistent is the key, trying to work as often as possible and being dedicated to getting things finished on time.
Is there a big textile art scene in Australia?
There is a vibrant, growing textile art scene here. Many of the worlds’ top quilters are in Australia, such as Helen Godden and Jenny Bowker. The Australian Tapestry Workshop is a cooperative weaving association which produces amazing world-class work, and some of the best young Australian artists are working with textiles.
Are there any quilters or types of quilting that inspire you?
I am inspired by quite a few different artists, there are some brilliant quilters worldwide and seeing what other people come up with for textiles motivates me to keep trying new things. I love seeing what others are doing with raw edge applique and free motion quilting, breaking down those traditional barriers and pushing the fabric.
I also love contemporary artists such as Greyson Perry, with his epic tapestries and use of craft and kitsch to get his message across. Chuck Close is another of my favourites, he has this uncanny ability to use colour in small sections to create an incredibly photorealistic image which is totally different when seen from a distance.
Where do you sell your work and do you take on commissions?
I love taking commissions and seeing my work find new homes! I have work in public and private collections around Australia, and this year I undertook a commission for a public hospital redevelopment in Sydney.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to be textile artists?
It’s not something I set out to do, but I think when you have a passion for something and work hard at it then anything is possible. I’m still technically an emerging artist, but to others who are interesting in entering the textile art world I would suggest entering as many competitions and exhibition calls for entry as you can, and being proactive about putting your work out there. Feedback is invaluable, and even the rejections can teach you more about what needs improving or where your work will be best appreciated.
Lucy Carroll Textiles
Lucy Carroll Textiles
Lucy C 84