CAMDEN—Quilting as an art form needs an image overhaul. Most people associate quilting with dusty, old bed covers made by somebody’s grandmother. But, Carrie Connors of Camden joins a national society of quilt artists who use contemporary quilting techniques to create art.
Her artwork, which is rich in imagery, and features many of her original poems, hangs at Zoot Coffee Shop in Camden until the end of this month. She works from a largely neutral palette in many of her pieces, some tonal in black and white. Other pieces are washed in soft blues and reds and symbolic of both nature and women. Each piece is made of up three layers. There is a back layer, the cotton batting middle layer sandwiched in between and the top layer, which is a mixed media collage of shapes sewn together.
Quilt art is sewn intuitively, so there is not much room to make any mistakes.
“Some people have sewing machines that are computer programmed to make specific lines, but I do all the detail by free hand,” said Connors. “If I do make a mistake, I end up ripping stitches out, but I try not to do that if I can help it. Often, I’ll just go a different direction with it using another layer.”
Given that her mother and grandmother both sew, Connors was destined to discover this art form.
“When I was about to have my third child in 2004, my mom got me a sewing machine and helped me make a little baby quilt for my son,” she said. “By then I was hooked.”
A year after that, Connors attended a quilting retreat in Waterville Valley in New Hampshire with her mother. There, she discovered that quilting wasn’t just for bedspreads; there was a whole community making quilt art as wall hangings.
“I was so inspired by the work that was there,” she said. “I’d also done a little writing and drawing before, but once I saw this medium, I said, ‘Oh, this is it.’”
Working with fabric, and incorporating her poetry into it, became her new passion.
At first, Connors emulated the style of her mentors and worked out how to freehand “draw” with the sewing machine stitches, making fabric reproductions of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and painter Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, until she found her own style.
“After that first initial retreat, I went back several years in a row and since 2010, I’ve taken over the yearly workshop from the women who started it and now run it myself.”
Her inspiration often comes in waves—and at odd hours.
“Sometimes, after putting my kids to bed, I’ll go to my studio and sew into the middle of the night,” she said. “I work in creative waves and when I am in one, I will find any way to make my art.”
Connors has shown her artwork in libraries, local businesses and juried shows around New England and won several awards for her pieces. A mother of five, Connors, works several part time jobs in addition to her quilt art to make a living, but hopes to do this full time. When the artwork comes down at Zoot on January 31, those that haven’t been sold will go right back on her walls until the next show.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com