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What Does it Take to be a Maverick Quilter? An Interview with Alethea Ballard

Every so often you meet someone who just oozes talent and passion for her art. I knew the first time I saw the work of Alethea Ballard that she was going to go far. I admire her free-spirited approach to quiltmaking and her use of fabric, color, and design.

She's just as fun as she is cute!

I recently had a conversation with Alethea regarding her work and am delighted to share her responses with you today. When you finish reading this post, please take a minute to visit Alethea’s site and her blog as she has a special giveaway for our readers, as do we (details at the end of this post).

How long have you been sewing and quilting, Alethea?

While I made a quilt when I was ten, and a few more over the years, I got my first rotary cutter in 1992.  I was too frugal to get a cutting mat and quickly dulled my blade on a scrap of cardboard.  Over the years I have learned so much, but it was purchasing a long-arm machine in 2009 that really allowed me to explore my full creative potential.

Your dream chair designs are so unique. Where did you get your inspiration?

Blue Thistle Chair

Chica Chair

The inspiration for the arm-chair quilt series, and the subsequent pattern pack with all the different chairs, came first from my interest in making a quilt with a chair on it as a gift for my father.  He had been doing a series of paintings of chairs and I thought it would be a nice gift.  Alternating between chairs that I liked too much and chairs I wasn’t sure were Dad’s style, I made about a dozen pieces.  I continue to make chair quilts, as my students are continually inspiring me with their work.

Why do you consider yourself the Maverick Quilter?

For a long time I felt like an outsider to the quilting world.  Many visits to fabric stores made me feel that I was “different” than “most” quilters.  I was using strange and bright colors.  I didn’t create quilts that looked traditional. When I would bring works-in-progress to the store I got the strangest comments.  I heard things like, “You aren’t going to use THAT in your quilt, right?”  I was often asked what border I would add, when I had considered the quilt finished.  After a while, I kept my head down and just made up quilts in my own quirky way.

What would you like to share about yourself with our readers?

My working style and subsequently the Maverick Quilts book have come out of my love for fabrics.  When I find myself in a store hugging a bolt tightly to my body, I know I must buy a piece of it.  Once I have that fabric, I work to design a quilt that shows off the fabric in the size and shape that I want to see.  I let the fabric “speak,” and can often envision the whole quilt through to what it will look like finished, just by spending time studying the fabric. Other times, the design reveals itself as I work with the fabric.  One of the best parts of this process is the surprises that using the fabrics, cutting them up, pairing them with others, and sewing them back together can bring me.

I am especially excited about my newest work, which is taking the form of art quilts.  Layers of paints and stitching along with my cherished bright fabrics just make my heart sing!

Koi Pond Chairs

Laura here: Guess what readers? It’s another giveaway day–actually it’s a double-giveaway day–one from us and one from Alethea! C&T Publishing has generously donated Alethea’s book and pattern pack. Just leave your comments telling us why you would like to be a Maverick Quilter and we’ll pick a winner by the end of the day September 3rd and announce the winner on September 6th. You can read about Alethea’s books on  C&T Publishing’s blog. Be sure to scroll all the way to the end as there are several posts. For a special treat, watch Alethea on Wednesday Night Live as she shares tips for using paint to enhance her quilting images.

If you live near the San Francisco Bay Area be sure to visit Quirkology of Quilts: Warmth to Whimsy featuring Alethea’s quilts as well as that of other local quilters at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley,  205 Railroad Avenue, Danville. The show runs from August 25 through September 25, Tuesdays through Fridays, from 1 to 4 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with demonstrations.

Thanks to Alethea and all our wonderful readers.  Here’s to another week of creative sewing/quilting.

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