On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about building a career as an artist who makes quilts with my guest, Jane Sassaman.
After a varied career in the design world, Jane Sassaman began to quilt in 1980. She found that these “soft paintings” satisfied the draftsman, the craftsman and the artist in her. Consequently, she is now a dedicated (some say “obsessed”) quilt artist and fabric designer.
Her art quilts have been shown in many national and international exhibits, including Quilt National 1989 through 2005 and Contemporary American Quilts, the first major exhibit of American art quilts in England. Her quilt “Willow” was named as One of the One Hundred Best American Quilts of the Century. Jane is also the author of The Quilted Garden (affiliate link). The book includes twenty years of her work and exercises for making nature-inspired quilts.
Jane’s love for historic decorative arts can be seen in all facets of her work, but it is especially evident in the exuberant fabric she is currently designing for FreeSpirit. Her designs are oversized and colorful and have been coined as “William Morris on anti-depressants”. They are created for quilts, wearables and home decorating. Her latest book, Patchwork Sassaman Style (affiliate link), beautifully illustrates her fabric “in action.”
“Willow” by Jane Sassaman
Jane has always known she wanted to be an artist. We begin the conversation by talking about how she describes her work today and then tracing her development as an artist from childhood. Jane talks about spending time with her best friend, Ruth, and an eccentric neighbor who introduced her to a variety of art materials.
After graduating from Iowa State, Jane and her husband moved to Chicago where she went to work for Crate & Barrel. Realizing that she wanted to become an expert at an esoteric craft, but not sure which one, Jane explored a variety of different art mediums before seeing a quilt by Nancy Crow on the cover of American Craft magazine in 1980. She’s been making quilts ever since. Her practice evolved from piecing to an applique technique she developed that allows her to cut fabric like paper and create almost any shape she desires while still maintaining crisp edges.
Jane Sassaman at work in her studio.
Jane is a fabric designer for Free Spirit. Her surface designs are as bold and graphic as her quilts and she describes her fabric as “art by the yard.” In the interview, Jane talks about the challenges that creating such large scale prints can present for quilters can feel hesitant to cut them up. Her second book, Patchwork Sassaman Style, is all about how to use her fabric in patchwork.
In our conversation we reference:
- Objects U.S.A.: Works by Artist-Craftsmen in Ceramic, Enamel, Glass, Metal, Plastic, Mosaic, Wood and Fiber (affiliate link)
- quilting books by Michael James
- my interview with Penny McMorris
- Louise Nevelson, Dawns + Dusks
- Jane’s silk scarves with Dragon Threads
- Jane’s digital embroidery designs with the Hoop Sisters
- Jane’s ribbons with Renaissance Ribbons
- Sew Sassy 12 weight thread with Superior Threads
Sweet Potato Quilt by Jane Sassaman
And, of course, I ask Jane to recommend great stuff she’s enjoying right now. Jane recommends:
- Art Quilts Unfolding published by SAQA
- self-threading needles (affiliate link)
- Design Matters with Debbie Millman
This episode is sponsored by Sewing Studio. From fabric and tools to patterns and gifts, Sewing Studio’s full online studio continues a tradition of sharing sewing with future generations. Curated by Karleen, this community hopes to help make your sewing experience the very best. Visit www.sewingstudio.com and be sure to follow on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Remember to use the code Abby10 at checkout to receive a 10% discount off your entire order.
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