I (Corrie), often wish I had TraillWorks' guest artists in the gallery to pick their brains about their creative process. So, I conducted a little interview with two of our most recent artists. This month we'll be featuring fabric artist, Martha C. Hall. Stay tuned for next month's interview with Brenda Decker. Here's what Martha had to say:
Corrie: Do you have any formal training in the arts, specifically fabric arts?
Martha: I have a B.A. in Studio Art from Montclair State University. While there I studied Textile Design and Painting. For many years I have taken workshops at Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, NJ. I try to take one each summer and I am always at the Fiber Studio! I’ve studied with some wonderful teachers there, exploring various techniques, among them paper making with natural plants. This summer I’ll be taking “Wired Once More” with Lindsay Ketterer Gates.
Corrie: When did you first learn to use a sewing machine?
Martha: I was around 9 years old when I first started using a sewing machine. Our first sewing project in third grade Home Ec. was to make an apron. That was to prepare us for the cooking segment. I wish I still had that apron! I also learned sewing with the Girl Scouts.
Corrie: What other machines do you use, and when did you first learn to use them?
Martha: In addition to my “regular” sewing machine I have what is called a “longarm” quilting machine. It’s a large industrial machine that is mounted on a track system on a 14’ long table. I pin my quilts on to rollers and hand guide the machine over the surface of the quilt to stitch it. Another tool I love is the Dremel. I did a mixed-media quilt a couple of years ago where I shaped and drilled holes into pieces of plastic credit cards, which I then hand-stitched onto the quilt surface.
Corrie: Do you always use a machine, or do you hand stitch anything in your work as well?
Martha: Nowadays most of my work is done on a sewing machine, even the quilting. Years ago I used to do a lot of hand work; growing up I did lots of embroidery, needlepoint, beading, and some knitting. When I started with traditional quilting I used to hand quilt my quilts, but that takes a long time. Although I have always done most of the piecing by machine, I also did some hand piecing. It was convenient and manageable to have as take-along work when my kids were young and there were many hours spent at soccer games and music lessons. I like to keep productive! I moved toward almost all machine work for two reasons, 1. For the speed of getting things done; hand-quilting, especially, takes a long time. And 2. Because of the physical strain on my wrist and thumb joints. About the only hand sewing I do now is the finish sewing on a quilt binding or facing. I do enjoy that process; it is calming and meditative to sew by hand.
Corrie: Where did the idea for the “Circle Chain” pieces come from?
Circle Chain 1, 4" x 6", Fabric Art, framed in 8" x 10" shadow box frame, $125. ©2011 Martha C. Hall
Martha: The small “Circle Chain” pieces are an offshoot of my larger “Split Circles” series of quilts. I was carrying through the idea of using the circle in the smaller piece. In the larger works in the “Split Circles” series the linear element is a narrow strip of fabric that I piece in. In the smaller format I adapt to the stitched line as the linear element. For added interest I decided to use a decorative machine stitch – and of course I used the one with circles! – hence the “Circle Chain”
Corrie: What gave you the idea to start making the bird pieces? Will there be more?
Eastern Bluebird, 4" x 6", ©2011 Martha C. Hall
Martha: The small bird pieces were so much fun to make. The whole thing got started when a pair of cardinals started making their nest in a tree right by our back door. It was fascinating to watch their activity. I was working in the small 4” x 6” format at the time and of course it seemed a perfect subject. I definitely want to make more of the birds and nests. Other people seemed to like the bird images as much as I liked making them. I started tagging my “Bird Guide” with the various birds I see in the yard and on my walks, and I want to chronicle more of them. I have been learning a lot about birds this Spring! Our cardinal family has flown the nest now and I miss their coming and goings.
Corrie: What are you currently working on?
Martha: Making the smaller framed fiber art pieces was a little break after I had completed a large quilt. Next up I will be returning to the “Split Circles” series and another large quilt.
As part of our interview I asked Martha if there was any additional information she would like to share about herself or her work. She told me about some upcoming exhibits that her work will be a part of. Her quilt, “Heaven and Earth” will be included as part of a show with Fiber Revolution, titled “Visual Thoughts” at the Morris Museum in Morristown NJ, from June 23 – October 16, 2011, with an opening reception on June 29th. Also, another one of her quilts, “Laundry Day” which made its debut at TraillWorks last fall will get another “airing” from October 7 – November 13, 2011 in the juried show “New Legacies: Contemporary Art Quilts” at the Lincoln Center Gallery in Fort Collins, CO. Thank you Martha for taking the time out of your busy schedule to satisfy my curiosity about the wonderful artwork you make that hangs here at TraillWorks! I'm sure I'm not the only one who will enjoy this interview. You can find more of Martha's artwork as well as her blog, on her website, Marthahallart.com.