Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lesley Riley, up close and personal

Lesley Riley sees art as more than the result of creative urges. When speaking of art she uses words such as 'magic' and 'eternal longing of the soul.' When looking at Lesley's art, you will find her there. You'll learn about her life and get to know her family. Her self and family twine in and out of the fabrics, paints, transfers and photos that make her work unique. Once you've seen some of her work, you'll be able to recognize her style. She has graciously agreed to tell us how her fascination began and how it grew. Sit back and enjoy the photos of her Angel in the House series as well as a look inside of Lesley Riley -- in her own words. -- Dawn

People who are familiar with my quilts and mixed media work associate me with photos on fabric. Where did my fascination with photos on fabric come from? I am so enamored with them, that I find it hard to make any fiber art that does not include a photograph. It just doesn’t seem complete without one.

I majored in Woman’s Studies, so I feel right at home here on the Subversive Stitchers Blog. We’re women armed with needles. I like that. When I went back to school in the 90s to complete a degree I started in the 70s (yeah, life got in the way), I was looking for a major that would accept my disparate accumulated academic credits (computer programming, accounting, systems management, interior design, art & design). The Women’s Studies department welcomed me with open arms and the requirement that I complete 30 credit hours in their program. Perfect, I was 30 hours short of the 120 required for a degree.

I am not a very political, radical or subversive woman, so I was worried about finding my place in this major. The University of MD has a very politically oriented and active program. The Women & Art class hadn’t been offered for years. All of my professors were just about my age, but they knew little about the art side of the women’s movement and even less about quilting. So I became their teacher. It was a wonderful experience. They taught me about being subversive and I taught them about quilting.

While I was in the woman’s studies program, I became interested in women’s untold stories. How lucky we are to be able to communicate our ideas and our passions, create the art we want and now, thanks to the Internet, show it to the world. For the most part, the women that came before us were silenced…except for the needle!

I have been collecting photographs for most of my adult life. Since the beginning, I’ve been drawn to photos of women – cabinet cards, daguerreotypes, snapshots of everyday life, from graduations to babies to dishes. When I finally picked up my needle again after traditional quilts and a slew of babies, I wanted to work with these photos.

My first efforts were done with rubbery T-shirt transfers from the local copy shop. My world changed when the inkjet printer was invented and I, along with everyone else, had access to color printing at home. Eager to tell the stories of the women whose faces stared back at me (some so very sad), I began creating quilts and Fragments to honor these women. And thus began my interest and drive to find the best way to get my photos onto fabric. The photos here are from a series I did while in school. They are based on a Victorian era poem, Angel in the House, by Coventry Patmore, but I discovered the poem through a CD and a song of the same name written and performed by Jonatha Brook. I used photos from my antique cabinet card collection, old aprons and laces, to portray a woman escaping from repression.

But back to photos on fabric. I’ve tried all methods – Bubble Jet set, various paper-backed inkjet-ready fabrics, direct printing with archival inks, transfers using everything from acetone to matte medium. They’re all good to varying degrees. Each has a unique look and many times I will prefer one over the other when it comes to the overall look I am working towards.

But while they all may have some good features, none of them has all the features I am looking for. Color brightness, image sharpness, washability, durability and fade resistance. And then one day, I found it; or rather it (and the manufacturer) found me – an iron-on transfer paper that gave me all the results I was looking for, and then some. As with everything I “discover”, I wanted to share it with my fellow quilters and artists. I named it Transfer Artist Paper and then one of my early testers gave it the nickname TAP.

I’ve only been using it for a few months and selling it since October 2008. I love what I’m doing, but the business side eats into my art time. The packing/shipping became so time consuming that I had to hire help (my daughter). There’s still a lot of time involved in the promoting and business side but with any new endeavor, the start up and learning the ropes is the most time-consuming part of starting a business (I hope).

I’m excited to see what effect the addition of TAP has on my art. But more importantly, I am eager to see what it can do in the hands of others. From memory to art quilts and all that’s in between, I hope to get everyone TAPping.

Visit Lesley's blog for more tips and insights. Or check out her book, Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur, published by C&T, and her Quilting Arts video Transfers Tried and True that highlights three kinds of transfers. The video has been reviewed on this blog.
NOTE: Visit Judy Perez's blog to see what she's doing with TAP and what she discovered using organza and TAP.


Fulvia said...

Nicely done, Lesley!

Pam said...

Great blog entry. Interesting to read your story. I've purchased many of your books and your Quilted Memories got me started in art quilting. Thanks for the inspiration.

Lesley Riley said...

Thank you Pam. I'm glad I have had a part in your journey.

Nice to hear from you Fulvia. Thanks for visiting the blog and leaving a comment.