UNION—Linda Shepard doesn’t consider herself an artist, yet there is no denying the beauty and craftsmanship in her quilted fabric tapestries hanging at the The Art Gallery at the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge until the end of August.
A traditional quilter, Shepard never considered her sewing skills to be an art form until she took a class by fabric artist Susan Carlson. It all started with a piece of muslin and an outline of a turtle.
“We glued hundreds of little pieces of batik onto the muslin, like a mosiac and put a layer of black tulle over that, some cotton batting for the filling and then a back piece,” she said. “Then I just free motion stitched over the four layers.”
Every person’s attempt came out differently, but Shepard really liked how hers turned out, spurring her to make more.
“Because I had no training of any kind in art, it was quite a journey of exploration and facing layers of doubt, self-criticism, and judgment,” she said. “It took a lot of inner work, self talk and self acceptance to get to the point where I realized it only mattered what I thought of the piece. I had to love it and please myself and give no thought to outside opinion. That is what finally let me feel free and truly enjoy the process. That’s when it became fun and more self expressive.”
Her subjects range from animals to insects and even a mermaid, but her deep rich blues and purples, greens and reds are the result of careful choices. Hundreds of choices—each time she lays down a piece of fabric to complete the fabric “painting.” But what’s even more remarkable is how she has been able to free motion stitch, swirling patterns into the quilts.
“It just takes a lot of practice,” she said as it takes somewhere between 60 to 100 hours to make each art piece.
The stitching also creates almost a topographic map of texture within each mosiac. Her art is one of those enigmas where looking at it far away produces one response and much more information is learned once it is viewed up close.
Astoundingly, once this show and one at Camden Library is over, Shepard is putting her sewing machine away. Every seven years she ends up exploring a new art form, then lets it go in pursuit of another art form.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org