Twelve Days of Twelves: Part Seven

February 22, 2011, 08:55 am  Posted by needlearts

It’s day number seven of our celebration of Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge! For those of you just joining us, each day for twelve (business) days, we’re interviewing one of the talented quilt artists who contributed to the book. For more information on the book, click here. For more information on the Twelves, or to join them on their current group challenge, visit their website.

Today’s Guest: Helen Conway

Location: Merseyside, United Kingdom

How do you describe your own quilting? Has being part of the Twelves group changed your perspective on your own work?

I started quilting in  2006 and have moved gradually from saying ‘I make quilts’ to ‘I am a quilter’ to ‘I’m a quilter and I do sort of textile art kind of stuff’ to ‘I make art quilts’ to ‘I am an art quilter’. The group has been the sole reason I have made that shift in my perception of myself. The acceptance both from the group and from readers of the blog of my work has given me the confidence not just to call what I do art ( which for some reasons seems to be a word carrying more import than a ‘hobby). It has also helped me to understand the importance to me of quilt art to me and to enable to define myself as being a quilter rather than the more external explanation of quilting being something I do. I am no longer worried that  my colleagues and compatriots in the legal profession will think me very odd or rather deluded that my stitching constitutes art. Indeed, I was delighted when, at a local Law Society Black tie dinner I was introduced as one of the top table guests as a ‘textile artist’. I still find it hard to describe my own work though. I give woolly explanations that seem rather inadequate like’ Oh I make art quilts – they have kind of stories,  with an African link. Sometimes but not always, I like to have a theme but you might not always know what it is ….” I think this is because I am still working towards finding my ‘voice’ as a quilter and am still exploring where in the art quilt world I best fit and what I wish to say with my work.

You’re in the middle of the second group challenge, with a Colorplay theme. How did the first challenge affect the work you’ve done for the second one?

The first challenge gave me immense confidence as a new art quilter. It enabled me to realise that I like to make quilts with a theme and a message and, whilst that was to some extent accidental in the first series it has become more deliberate in the Colorplay series. The positive comment on the first series have also inculcated my habit for hanging weird stuff off my quilts. I loved the comment that Terri made on our blog. She started to read a blog entry  which showed two clues for a forthcoming quilt. Fabric and bathroom plug chain. She wrote of her reading experience:’ I am thinking “oh goodie. I wonder who is writing this!” Then I got to the bathroom plug chain. Helen–of course!’ Since then I have beenliving up to her expectations!

"Protected," from the Eggplant Colorplay Challenge

If you could have changed one of your quilts from Twelve by Twelve, which one would it have been, and why?


If I could have changed one of my quilts it would have been the Shelter quilt. Although I really like the way it opens out into an actual shelter, the quilt resisted being made every step of the way. I forced it through the machine cursing every snapped thread and skipped fabric. The result is some rather wonky seams and fuzzy zigzagged edges. I should have remade it but ran out of time before the reveal. And ran out of love for the quilt long before that. Plus the copyright photo I placed inside the shelter to add an extra dimension to my perceived meaning of shelter turned out not to be copyright at all and so cannot be shown in the book! And thinking about it, my Community quilt is not all that straight either…. I later realised that for such ‘structured’ quilts the use of Pelmet Vilene or the like for wadding is easier than a traditional wadding although the payback is that it is stiffer to stitch through.

Were you inspired to try a new technique that one of the Twelves used in their work? If so, which one?

I am constantly inspired by the use of thermofax screens especially by Françoise and by Gerrie. I have got as far as buying some at Festival of Quilts in August last year  but, as,  I have been in a constant state of house renovation ever since and currently work from a temporary studio  I have still not used them. I know its no excuse really…!

While working on quilts for the last challenge, I was in my dining room with storage split between cabinets in that room and a big cupboard upstairs. A virtual studio tour of that space can be seen at: http://downthewell.blogspot.com/2009/10/virtual-open-studio-tour.html

We heard there were “awards” given out to you all after the completion of the Theme series…what was your award?

Do you know, I had to look back and check if I even got an award at all! But I am pleased all over again because now I am reminded that I got two. Terry gave me ‘The Most Creative Use of Materials’ award and Terri gave me ‘The Most Humorous Quilt’ which was for my Blackpool rocks – which had an illuminated light wand on it. It’s interesting to go back and look at those wards having just written in answer to the question above that I am still searching for my voice. Sometimes you have been speaking all along and haven’t heard yourself! I guess my thing really is sticking all kinds on to quilts. Not for the sake of it but to get the message across. I learned to quilt all by myself so no one told me I couldn’t do that!

How was writing your portion of the book similar and different to blogging about the quilts as you made them?

Well, one obvious difference in my recollections is that I wrote all the blogs at home in grey England and I wrote the book chapters in a blazing hot Tasmania during a grand round the world trip! I have a freelance writing backgrounds so I found it very easy to sit down and write the book portion in one go and, as I was not working for three months finding the time was no problem. The blog is sometimes harder; it’s not always easy to think of something to say that is of interest as you go along and to find the time to take photos and actually write the blog. Either way once my fingers are on the keyboard I love the idea that someone somewhere thinks what I have to say is worth the time reading it.


6 Responses

    [...] One of the Twelves that I have met so far is Helen Conway and she is the feature Twelve over on the Twelve Days of Twelves series on the Lark Crafts blog: Share [...]

    Dolores says:

    I must say, for a relatively new quilter, she is certainly prolific. I love her style and her approach to her work.

    ~Kathleen says:

    I can’t imagine the inspiration one would gather from a grand trip around the world. Sensory overload!

    Corinne says:

    World tour, how wonderful is that. I am hoping you saw many fiber artists on your trip. You must have so many ideas to work with.

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