The name Kathy York is becoming forever linked with fabric art described as 'extraordinary' and 'unique' and of course 'awesome' and 'beautiful.' Her work also receives awards accompanied by the question 'wherever did she get that idea?'
Kathy asks a bit different question and takes a few minutes here to share some insight into her rich art and embold us with her infectious energy and sense of humor.
Along the way we get the idea that whatever we can imagine -- we can do.... Dawn
From time to time, I will get a wild hair of an idea for a quilt, usually one that is huge in scale. Unfortunately once it takes hold, it is hard to shake loose. I frequently want to kick myself for taking on such a monstrous project.
Oh WHY did I get THAT idea????
I have heard the perspective that who cares how long it will take. The time will just pass anyway, whether you do it or not. So, why not just do it?
The first really big project was Little Cities. [First photo]
It started out as a bit of a joke. I made a tiny little log cabin block, 1” in size, and a big log cabin block, about 15” in size. I wanted to try to make a quilt out of very different sized blocks. I took the blocks to my quilting bee and announced my intentions. My friends looked at me with surprise and incredulity. I didn't have any idea of what I was doing, but had a palette of colors selected and I was just itching to get started. I knew that I was ready to revisit the log cabin block and that it needed to be BIG, as it was for my king sized bed.
I had many false starts on the project, including altering the color palette to include some warm colors. I learned a lot about color values while making the blocks. I also learned to paint dots on fabric to alter the values. That's when I had the idea to put the little 1/2” satin stitched circles in 1” blocks. The more I made, the better it looked. Then I realized how many I would need to make the vision a reality. It was overwhelming to say the least and I got that need to kick myself again.
Something made me do it anyway.
Maybe it was persistence, maybe it was a need to prove something, maybe it was just obsessive? But, when I finished the quilt (2 years later) and stepped back to look at it, it was so incredibly satisfying. I was really pleased with it and proud.
This is when I realized that my art is bigger than myself. It affects other people and that is a great, great feeling!And I don't remember now why I needed to make 3D fish, and embellish them with beaded costumes swimming in patterns like synchronized swimmers, but on about the 200th fish, I started asking myself the same old question, why? Why so many fish?
(There are over 400 of them on the quilt.)
Why did they have to be three dimensional? Just because.....
I begin to see a theme emerge, 3D fish in a 3D city world, and you have Little Fish in a Big City. [See photo. 60x60-inches]
I had the idea for a futuristic city partially submerged by the rising sea levels of global warming. The fish would be the taxis. I already knew how to make the fish, but the buildings were new. And I had no idea if they would stand out properly or sag. In fact, I made all the buildings before sewing them on to the quilt without knowing the answer to that question.
And looking at all those buildings (whose fabrics were all created with batik, bleach discharge, and over dyeing), and all the fish (whose fabric was a screen printed thickened dye), and the quilt (all hand batiked fabrics, densely hand and machine quilted)...you probably know EXACTLY what I was asking myself about half way through!
A small comfort, but at least now I know the reason I am an artist.
I get ideas, and I take risks!
Note: Little Fish in a Big City was Kathy's Quilt National 2009 entry.
Little Fish is all about global warming and the where will I fit in? Sea levels rising, engulfing cities, the new transportation, fish carrying all the people. Look closely at the bottom right corner for the little fish for whom the quilt was named. This quilt is dedicated to environmental refugees everywhere.