I am constantly reminded about how many wonderful people I have met along the way over the many years of facilitating workshops and sharing knowledge. Kristi Farrier is a friend I met ten years ago. She participated in a one-day workshop during a retreat in Alberta just prior to us moving to Saskatchewan.
We connected, stayed in touch via email for a little while and then we both got busy with life and work until 2013. In January Kristi sent an email sharing that she was registered for my workshop in Italy. Exciting news… and a new beginning! We have stayed in touch ever since and Kristi has been a loyal participant and supporter of my annual event, Art Quilt Campus.
Kristi kindly agreed to share a little about herself and her creative process. Enjoy her story!
A Creative Life: By Happenstance or Design? By Kristi Farrier
I’ve dreamed of a creative life involving textiles for a long time. I’m slowly making this life my reality; initially by happenstance but more and more by design. A lover of sewing and traditional quilting since my youth, about ten years ago at a weekend workshop the seeds of passion for art quilting were sown. From there I dabbled with art quilting off and on when I could squeeze time out of my days while raising my children and pursuing a professional career in public administration.
When 2012 brought me to a crossroad – one of those now or never moments – I decided to radically alter the trajectory of my life by stepping away from a job and career path that had dominated the previous several years. While far from easy, the shift brought fresh perspective and freed up some of the precious commodity of time. With that I started dipping more regularly into the creativity pool, doing a bit of this and that, but gravitating continually back to textiles. The seed sown in the workshop sprouted.
~Find Teachers and Mentors Who Inspire and Encourage You~
I began taking more classes with established art quilters and artists, including an annual week-long studio session which offered an uninterrupted block of time dedicated to exploring and creating textile art. I came away from each course, encouraged, inspired and full of ideas and energy, and understood that I needed to be deliberate about the work of creating but lacked a structured approach at home. Thinking formal education was the answer, I investigated a few art programs but going away to college or university wasn’t a practical option. So, I decided to take things into my own hands.
~Believe in Yourself~
I figured nothing was stopping me from formulating my own systematic approach to becoming a practicing textile art. My “program” was based on advice from trusted instructors and artists, things I’d read, and my gut instincts about how I learn and work effectively.
~Set an Intention~
In February 2016 I made a deliberate statement of intention. Here is part of the first paragraph I wrote in my notebook: I have taken it upon myself to create my own textiles and art quilt training program. This will consist of readings, artist interviews, technique sampling and creating, creating, creating my own work. It is going to evolve and will undoubtedly be iterative and messy but it is a dream of mine. It will be just what I want it to be and will fit my life circumstances because I will create the program as I go…
~Have a Plan with Some Specific Actions~
Also from my notebook, my initial plan was to take the following concrete actions:
- Commit 2-3 hours a day. This could be reading, interviews, stitching, sampling, cutting, thinking, gallery visits, etc.
- Find a group of supportive artists.
- Document the process of my own work including materials, time, concept, progress (photos), etc.
And so my somewhat structured journey began. With a conscious effort to be in the studio several hours a day I forged ahead, finishing pieces I already had on the go and starting new ones. It was invigorating to see my intention taking shape. Getting into the studio on a regular basis changed how I perceived myself. I began to take myself seriously as an artist and to see elements of my style emerge.
~Be Open to Opportunity~
Of course, life offers up opportunities all the time and last fall, I found myself, preparing to spend the winter at our property in Cape Breton where my husband and I are planning to move for a slower lifestyle. Realizing the incredible gift of quiet time that lay ahead launched me over my apprehensions of knowing few people and facing a blustery winter in a “well ventilated” old farm house. It would be the perfect time and place to explore and create while grounded in an experience stripped of pretense and embraced by a permeating sense of place shaped by warm and engaging people, rugged natural beauty, at times ferocious and unpredictable weather, vibrant history, and a cultural scene that celebrates fibre and textiles arts including weaving, rug hooking and quilting.
~Surround Yourself with Positive Influences~
The stars aligned as I settled in at the farm. Through a friend and mentor in the art quilt community I connected with Hélène Blanchet, an amazing folk art quilter, and Anne Morrell Robinson, renowned for her incredible traditional quilts as well as rug hooking and art quilts. Both of these artists instantly welcomed me along with a larger group of women from the Celtic Quilt Guild. Hélène and Anne encouraged me to join them in attending the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA)-Atlantic retreat where I met more vibrant and welcoming artists. The weekend with the SAQA-Atlantic group was a turning point. Exchanges about art quilting with interesting and committed individuals settled me further into my conviction that this was my medium. It also gave me the boost in confidence to begin showing my work.
~Show Your Work~
Showing my work beyond my immediate family and close friends meant moving past strong feelings of vulnerability but it was exciting and encouraging to receive positive and constructive feedback from other textile artists. I also learned encouragement comes from unexpected places, this being the case when neighbours from up the road stopped by and introduced themselves. As we chatted about possible future undertakings in Cape Breton, the visiting gentleman saw one of my pieces and his reaction was a clear and resounding, “Keep doing this.” It was a powerful to watch someone I had no previous connection with respond so intensely to the art I had created. Late in the year my work was included in two Cape Breton shows highlighting the work of Celtic Quilt Guild members and one of my pieces was featured in the Cape Breton Post newspaper.
I started into 2017 motivated to continue working by the positive responses and encouragement and at the same time feeling more secure in producing “my work” and worrying less about what others would think of it – a strange and seemingly double-sided contradiction to my drive to create. I also continued reading on art and design and started to submit my work for shows through SAQA and other organizations.
Working to deadlines proved an effective motivator for me. In early April I learned that Testing the Water #1, the small art piece had I donated for a SAQA fundraising auction, would be displayed in the SAQA booth at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago. I also submitted Three Fridays Collide for the SAQA-Atlantic trunk show and When March Dreams of July is part of the Art Hits the Wall 2017 “Under the Influence” show hanging at the Rug Hooking Museum of North American.
I’m back in Ontario now preparing to sell our home and although I’m not getting into my studio regularly I’m keeping the creative juices flowing with a weekly drawing class and will soon be meeting with a group of SAQA-Central Region. I aim to settle into a studio routine again in the coming weeks to prepare for the week-long art quilting session (Art Quilt Campus in Saskatchewan) I’ll attend in August.
In reflection, the months in Cape Breton allowed me an extraordinary opportunity to step out of my everyday circumstances but I’m convinced it was fruitful because I had previously set my intention and committed to making time to create. I’ll soon re-evaluate my self-directed program based on the past year’s experiences and will confirm or identify new actions to take me forward. I have miles to go but the path is clearer and looks wonderfully inviting.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the constant loving support of my husband that has enabled me to embark and continue on this journey to live a creative life. Also, you may well have guessed that my first art quilting workshop was with Anna Hergert. I thank her for that initial inspiration and for all of her subsequent instruction, encouragement and mentoring, and for this opportunity to be a guest blogger.
Thank you, Kristi! Can’t wait to follow your progression and I look forward to seeing more of your work!