To tie in with the release of our ‘Solids’ Issue of Fat Quarterly, we chatted to fiber artist and photographer Robin Ferrier of Simply Robin. Robin uses solids in her quilts in a way that will stop you in your tracks and say ‘Wow!’
RF: My name is Robin Ferrier; I live on Maui with my husband, three children and an assortment of animals. I come from a family that sews; my mother was a seamstress, my grandmother made quilts, and my aunts each sew as well. I learned to use a sewing machine when I was young, but it was not until college that I made my first quilt. I was longing to be connected to the women of my family and I wrote my aunt and asked her how to make a quilt. She said cut up a bunch of squares out of various fabrics, cut those into triangles and then rearrange the triangles into a pleasing pattern. After that quilt I was hooked! My artistic background consists of majoring in fine arts in college until the realities of living the life of an artist were revealed to me. I course-corrected and became a nurse, which was a good decision at the time. Now, I cannot help but feel blessed to be able to pursue my artistic passions without the stress of having to earn a living with it.
FQ:How would you describe your work?
RF:Currently, my work consists of two different styles. In my ?elements? series, I use my own hand-dyed fabrics to create original non-representational patterned compositions. These quilts are often saturated with color, which I suspect is a result from living in Hawaii where the sun is bright all year long and intense colors are a part of my everyday. I am working to tone things down and am introducing more neutrals into my work. My other style involves working with brightly colored commercial fabrics and large fields of white. I?m making a series of couture baby quilts that depict simple scenes and playful imagery. It?s a light-hearted diversion from my usual work. In both series I throw away the ruler and prefer instead the beauty of a hand-cut line.
FQ: Where does your passion to create come from?
RF: I?ve always known I have a propensity to create. It?s something I consider part of my personality. My father was a DIY kind of guy and my mother made things when we had very little. It was that early exposure to making things by hand that made me want to do things like that for myself. I?d like to think I take it a step further by having an intense desire to bring something new to the world of quilts. I don?t think I?ve actually done that yet, but I?m working on it!
FQ: Can you describe your design process with an example, from the seed of an idea to a completed project?
RF: Typically I start with an image in mind or an idea I?d like to expand upon further. With my elements series, I?ve generally moved from simple shapes to those that are more complex. I often make a bunch of fabric first by either sewing pieces together into assorted blocks, or larger pieces together to make panels, which can be cut into. At this stage I focus primarily on making the fabric. The composition of the quilt usually reveals itself to me when I have a pile of fabric to work with and feel ready to move on. With the baby quilts, I usually have a scene in mind and go from there. I?ll make a bunch of houses or stars and assemble them after I have a pile to work with. I strive to introduce something new with each quilt and am constantly pushing myself to up my game.
FQ: You work with solids a lot. Is this a favourite subject matter for you? How do you select solid colour combinations? Can you share a word or two on dyeing fabric?
RF: Yes! I love working with solids! I started working with them after I became frustrated with commercial fabrics. At that time, because I knew so many of the prints, I found myself focusing more on the fabric rather than the overall design. Commercial prints often date a quilt and I wanted my work to be more timeless than that. Also, because of my sensitivity to color, I found that many of the commercial prints seem to have a narrow range of value. It was hard for me to find fabrics that were either extremely light or extremely dark, so I began dyeing my own fabric and have pretty much solved those problems. As for how I select my colors, sometimes I start with a limited palate, sometimes I don?t. I tend to prefer quilts in which the colors all relate to each other in one way or another; sometimes are in the same color family, sometimes they are in a gradation from one color to the next, and sometimes they are a gradation across the color wheel. Having a large variety of colors to choose from helps, and dyeing my own fabric affords me that freedom.
FQ: Do you have a favourite piece that you have made that holds a special spot in your heart?
RF: Of course they are all special, but I?d have to admit my ?Shibori Sun?s? quilt is still one of my favorites. At first glance, it?s a simple quilt made entirely of circles, but when you look closer you can see that those circles were dyed and over-dyed using the shibori clamp technique in which I sandwiched fabric between two mason jar tops and secured it all together with string. The metal lids that I used were not perfectly flat, so what resulted were inconsistencies in the shapes of the circle, and the string created lines projecting from the circles, much like rays from the sun. It was the first quilt I made entirely from my own hand-dyed fabric, the first one in which I incorporated different sized blocks into one quilt, and the first quilt of mine that was accepted into a local juried art show. After making and exhibiting it I really started to look at myself as an artist.
FQ: Your blog is so full of inspiration and we love how you describe your processes and share insights, tutorials, introduce us to artists who inspire you and so much more. What is the best part about blogging for you?
RF: I?ve been blogging for almost six years now? hard to believe? and over the years my blog has morphed from a running commentary on my family life, to that of a more focused art blog. I almost quit for good several years ago, but then realized it benefits me immensely. The blog keeps me focused. I have a personal goal of blogging each weekday; so everyday I know at least some of my time is spent thinking about art. The blog keeps me connected. I have made many friends through blogging and feel like I have a host of like-minded companions sharing this journey with me. The blog keeps me current. I try to not repeat myself and am constantly working to create fresh new work. Finally, the blog is a way to give back. I do know I?ve inspired people with my blog, and sometimes someone will take the time to tell me how I?ve touched them in a special way. I?ve had many kind and gentle people guide and inspire me over my years of making quilts and I feel blessed to be able to do this for other people.
I?d also like to add here that I?ve set my blog up with WordPress and a special template that showcases my photography. I have a fondness for taking pictures and have invested in good equipment. Being a photographer helps me to develop my eye and it also offers a satisfying diversion from the non-representational work I do with fabric.
FQ: What?s next in the creative world of Simply Robin?
RF: I?m currently working on a ?slow cloth? in which I?m trying an assortment of surface design techniques as well as stitching. I?ve never quilted a whole quilt by hand, so this may just be my first. I also have a couple of couture baby quilts swimming around in my head and of course more ideas for simply solid quilts. This summer I want to play with over-dyeing as a means to create interesting cloth. Of course I have too little time to do all of this but perhaps that isn?t a bad thing after all!
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today Robin.