Q&A from Craft Shows: How'd You Get Started?

Flowers in Pockets Quilt.jpg

On Thurdays, I've been posting updates about shows. My next one is June 17, 2017 at the Greater Gardiner River Festival. This week, I thought I'd talk about one of the questions that comes up often at fairs: How did you get started?

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The short answer is I've been exposed to arts and crafts all my life: knitting, macrame, crochet, drawing, painting, model train building, card making, ornament making, sewing--we even made our own book covers out of paper bags and paints.

A defining moment for me was making Ukrainian-style eggs (pysanky) at my college roommate's house in a small village in Maine. We sat around the table decorating eggs while her dad told us stories of learning how to make eggs from his parents. Her mother kept us fed all weekend with hearty, homemade meals. It's the first time I thought consciously of how art making can be a lifestyle.

 Acadia Mountain. (2000?). Hand-pieced quilted fabric wall-hanging.

Acadia Mountain. (2000?). Hand-pieced quilted fabric wall-hanging.

Years later, I started playing around with fabric. This is a black and white photo of my first art quilt. I can see influences from the egg decorating in the repeated patterns and small work. Nature also influenced my quilt making. For a while, I had a quilting business, selling online and at craft shows in Maine.

 Forest Path (2008?). Machine-stitched quilted wall-hanging.

Forest Path (2008?). Machine-stitched quilted wall-hanging.

I left my quilting business to collaborate on a screen-printing business. I'd never screen printed before and it opened a whole new world to me. I especially liked the process of drawing screens by hand.

 Me drawing a fern design on a screen (2010).

Me drawing a fern design on a screen (2010).

Drawing a screen and, then printing it for the first time reminded me of melting the wax off the final layer of pysanky to reveal the colors underneath. Magic! We sold online, at retail shows, and wholesale throughout Maine and New England.

 Ferns (2010) - screen-printed fern on linen.

Ferns (2010) - screen-printed fern on linen.

From there, I started playing with cutting my own stamps and doing some block printing.

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 Leaves (2012?) block print with ink on paper.

Leaves (2012?) block print with ink on paper.

I missed working on my own artwork, so I left the screen printing business after 4 years. By now, I was less interested in fabric (though I still adore quilting and textiles) and more enamored by learning where paper and block printing could take me. This discovery process took a couple years. I ended up combining quilting techniques with my own hand-stamped paper and swapping out machine and thread for glue and canvas. Here's one of my first fully formed collages:

 Forsythia (2015). Layered paper collage. Hand-stamped paper with acrylics cut and adhered to 11" x 14" canvas.

Forsythia (2015). Layered paper collage. Hand-stamped paper with acrylics cut and adhered to 11" x 14" canvas.

I continue to experiment, learn and grow as an artist. Collage, for me, is a culmination of all my favorite creative activities: photography, egg decorating, quilting, drawing, and painting. Everything I've done before influences the work I am doing now. And, with each collage, I think about the people who've helped me learn and grow throughout the years. It's no small thing to have been surrounded by such creative people.

Have questions of your own? Please let me know and I'll do my best to answer them!

Cheers!--Janyce

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