Various sewn paper collages and pieced strips of my hand-spray/splatter painted fabrics, in progress, on the wall in the Maker Space Studio/my studio.

Photos courtesy of Tricia Royal.

I’m a textile and fiber artist and primarily a quiltmaker. I make art quilts that celebrate creative reuse. I prefer to use recycled and vintage fibers and fabrics in my pieces. Print and surface design, including relief printing, fabric painting, and screen printing, are a big part of my current practice.

I believe that quilts are art and that quiltmaking is an art practice.

I’ve pursued artist residencies as a form of professional development, and as a way to expand my skills artistically and professionally, particularly when it comes to the social and community aspects of my practice. After moving to the South Bay area of California in 2018, I discovered a three-month Artist-In-Residence program at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (SJMQT) in nearby San Jose, California, and decided to apply.

The program

I was attracted to the residency program at SJMQT because I wanted to gain experience interacting with the public and talking about my work and my practice in a fiber-friendly environment. The residency at SJMQT is three months long and publicly facing. The artist-in-residence is expected to have open studio hours three days a week (where the public can drop in and chat), be present and open for visitors at various museum events on evenings and weekends, and lead workshops and demonstrations during the tenure of their residency. The artist-in-residence’s work is on display for the duration of the residency, and upon completion of the residency a piece of their work joins the Museum’s permanent collection. I felt that all of these aspects of the residency, but especially the latter two, were a unique honor and an excellent prolonged opportunity for exposure.

Closeup of “Watercolor Dot” in hallway at SJMQT (2018).
Closeup of scraps of my hand-spray/splatter painted fabrics.

The application

I put my application together in less than two weeks in the Fall of 2018.  The application included a proposal describing the project or projects I hoped to complete during the residency including how I would use the museum’s vast cache of fiber-related donations. I also provided my CV and resume, a portfolio, and three letters of recommendation from colleagues who were familiar my work and professional capabilities. I had an in-person interview with the Director of Museum Engagement where we discussed my prior experience, my plans, and what would be expected of me upon acceptance. A few weeks later I learned that I’d been selected as the artist-in-residence for October-December 2019.

Though I can’t speak for the Museum and their actual decision making process when it came to selecting me, I feel that my identification as a quilter and my body of work focusing on quilts was a point in my favor; I think they may have felt that I would be well-received by their typical museum patron (many of whom seem to identify as quilters). I’d also done a residency before, and have an active, emerging art practice.

Self portrait in my studio in front of my monoprints and collages.

The preparation

There was a full calendar year in between my acceptance and the commencement of the residency itself.  I spent that interim year experimenting and making as much work as possible. I was intent on showing a body of work whose locus was my explorations with surface design; the pieces I have on display at the museum right now are primarily the culmination of that year of surface design experimentation and play.

The residency started the first week of October 2019.  I spent the first three days of the residency settling into my space (a large classroom space at the end of a long hallway in the rear of the museum) and installing my work, which included several small, framed quilts, one paper quilt, and approximately eight quilts of various sizes along the length of the hallway. The first week began with a bustling First Friday Art Walk event in downtown San Jose. Hundreds of people came through the museum that night, taking time to converse with me and check out my work and studio space.

A typical day

My typical week at SJMQT involves flying back and forth between Los Angeles (where I now live with my husband and daughter) and San Jose.  My open studio hours are typically on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from about 11am-3pm. I brought a small selection of supplies with me (sewing machines, fabric, fabric paints, printmaking supplies, and threads).

During my Open Studio hours, I work on various projects: piecing quilts, hand quilting/embroidery, paper collage and monoprinting on vintage quilt book or magazine pages, and recently, making multicolored pompoms from yarn that has been donated to the museum (which will eventually adorn a quilt). I see this residency at SJMQT as being in line with my overall ethos as I continue to focus on the use of recycled materials. Just as I proposed at the outset, many of the pieces I am working during the residency have made use of yarns, fabrics, or books that have been donated to the museum by local Bay Area supporters and patrons.

Mini-quilt mockup of a quilt to be, featuring pompoms made of yarn donated to SJMQT by supporters and patrons.
Sewn paper collage made with monoprinted vintage quilt magazine pages (in progress).
Various Kantha quilt-inspired mini quilts, in progress, on a table in my studio/Maker Space Studio at SJMQT.

The residency

Peppered throughout my days are visits from museum visitors.

Some people just want to drop in and look around, see an artist at work and say hello. Others have stayed for prolonged conversations about art, fiber art, the business of art and craft, and quilts and quiltmaking. I have sincerely enjoyed chatting with my visitors.

Several other public facing events have given me ample opportunities to interact with the public and develop the community aspect of my professional development and practice. In late October, I did a short demonstration for member artists on my favorite tools and techniques for relief printing. I have also been present at an opening, and two more First Friday events (November and December), and led two successful hand quilting/Kantha stitch workshops in the month of November.

My SJMQT residency has had its share of challenges, the most difficult being the constant weekly travel between L.A. and San Jose and time away from my husband and daughter. I’ve tried to make the best of it all and remember the reasons why I chose to do this residency: to have time to make art, and to better myself as an artist and a person.

I sincerely feel that I have come through this experience more confident than ever, with a greater sense of autonomy, better public speaking skills and ability to interact with the public.

The residency will wrap up just before Christmas, and I already know that it’s end will be bittersweet. I’ll miss the experience of being the artist-in-residence, the museum and the staff at SJMQT, it’s patrons, and the experience as a whole, but I will be happy to be returning home.

For further reading on artist-in-residency programs, check out our 5 Tips for Making Your Artist-In-Residence Experience a Success by Andrea Tsang Jackson.

Tricia Royal

Tricia Royal


Tricia Royal is a printmaker, surface designer, and fiber artist based in Los Angeles, California.  She makes hand-printed paper patchwork collages and contemporary studio quilts that feature recycled materials and hand-printed papers and textiles. Tricia was the Textiles Artist in Residence at Lillstreet Art Center, in Chicago, Illinois in 2016-2017, and is the current Artist In Residence at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (October-December 2019).

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