Let’s get to know the author of Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting a bit better, shall we?
What was your career prior to being an artist?
This sounds weird, but my husband and I were commercial dairy farmers. After 10 years, we sold the farm and he went on to become an airline pilot while I became a stay-at-home mom. The long years when he was away for four days of each week gave me a huge amount of time to devote to quilting. I spent 25 years honing my skills in quilting before I became a crazy quilter in 1999.
What was your first experience as an artist?
Making collages as a 5-year old with wonderful materials and supplies provided by my grandmother. My crazy quilting is a direct outgrowth of that.
How has your artistry changed over the years?
Because after all this time I am deeply familiar with my materials, I can approach my work quite intuitively at this point. I am enjoying using fabrics, supplies, and techniques that are way outside the range of traditional cotton quilting now, too. All the genres of quilting that I have passed through over the years—bed quilts, Broderie Perse, stained glass quilts, and landscape quilting—are now finding a new synthesis in my crazy quilts as well. I think that is what makes my work unique, this deep “sane” quilting background combined with breaking out into this rich and complex format: crazy quilting.
What do you love most about your work and your community?
I just love working. Being in the sewing room, engaged in the design and execution processes, bringing a project to fulfillment–this is supremely wonderful for me. As they say in baseball, “I live for this!” Crazy quilters are extraordinarily kind, generous, funny, and warm people. I love them, and getting to know many of them has been one of the joys of my life.
What is your favorite project?
Probably Summer Lake Day, a large crazy quilt completed in 2003 (it’s in the Gallery section of my book). The reasons for this are:
1) This quilt came from very, very deep in my bones; the subject was hugely meaningful for me.
2) It was a major stretch artistically, my first attempt to combine both abstract and representational imagery in a crazy quilt.
3) I got to use a really wide and whacky combination of fabrics, and this was the first time I sewed rocks and sea glass to a quilt. I discovered that I love doing that, finding inventive ways to incorporate necessary objects and strange fabrics.
4) I had done long term projects before, but the intensity of my relationship to this piece was way beyond anything that came before it.
I got two responses to it early on that I still treasure. One was from an architecture professor who, when examining it, said. “It’s all there….everything…this is surface sculpture, you know.” What a thrill that was! I’ve thought of crazy quilting as three-dimensional work ever since. The other was from a pastor, who started crying as soon as she saw it. I truly believe that she could tell where it came from in my soul. Also, the fact that it won First Place in the 2003 AQS Crazy Quilt competition was very validating for me.
Do you have a ritual for starting new projects?
I let a piece gestate in my unconscious for quite awhile, sometimes years. Gradually it surfaces, coalesces in my conscious mind, and then I’ll start designing it in my head. When it has to finally come out and get made, much of the work on it is already done. Then I completely clean the sewing room, start assembling my materials, and begin the discovery of how it will take physical shape. I am a serial monogamist, only outwardly involved in one project at any one time. I’ve learned to trust this process and stay sharp as a listener within.
What happens when you finish a project – do you celebrate?
I celebrate for about 10 seconds. Then I start immediately on the next project, which by then is ripe and ready to get made.
What memorable moment can you share from your travels?
When I was at the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska (in my capacity as a board member for the Alliance for American Quilts), we were given a tour of part of their storage facilities. There was a huge rack of shallow drawers for quilts that could not be folded. Our guide pulled out one of the drawers randomly and the quilt inside it was My Crazy Dream, a very famous and inspiring quilt which is on the cover of Penny McMorris’s legendary book on crazy quilting. So there it was, a quilt I had studied minutely for hours and hours on the page, was now right in front of me, in all its glory. I just about died.
What makes you really happy?
Color, love, friendship, fiber, flowers, family…oh, and strong hot coffee with pain au chocolat.
Have a peek at a few more images from inside her book in our Flickr gallery.