Karen Farmer

Contemporary Art Quilts and Textiles

Karen -detail.jpg

I make art quilts for the joy of working with textiles and experiencing the magic of dyeing cloth.  Creating quilts enables me to communicate who I am, and nourishes me with a sense of achievement.  I am continually awed by the beauty of the natural world – even here in London - where I live adjacent to Richmond Park.  The ponds and streams; the trees, grasses and bracken, with their seasonal changes, are endless sources of inspiration.  By making quilts, I try to connect with others who also look in wonder at the splendour surrounding us in our daily lives.

 

My work usually begins with white fabric, often cotton, because it’s soft and takes the dye well.  In addition to dye, I also use discharge (colour removal) agents and screen inks.  Application processes to generate colour, line, shape or texture include immersion dyeing, painting, screen printing, stencilling, stamping and scraping.  More than one process is generally used on any single piece of cloth to create an illusion of depth.  I will then select a ‘palette’ of cloth, cutting it into pieces and reconstructing it into an improvisational, abstract composition.   The finished composition is then layered on to wadding and a backing fabric before being machine stitched.  It is then, when this dimensional texture is added, that the work finds its spirit and because of that, most of my work is heavily stitched.

 

I often work from opposing ends of the spectrum.  I like to explore exuberant colour combinations to stimulate the eye and will use strong, saturated and complex colours.  At other times I feel the need to retreat from a world that seems to continually bombard us with unrelenting data from a million sources.  This is when I turn to an absence of colour and leave empty spaces where peace and tranquillity can be found.  Either way, my goal is to keep my work complex, yet simple.

 

Most recently, I have been experimenting with “eco printing”. This process involves gathering leaves, sticks, branches or roots and applying them to mordanted fabric. The fabric is made into a bundle and steamed. I just love the prints nature makes for herself.

Eco printing led me to a fascination with natural dyeing, and I have been experimenting with dyes gathered in the fields and garden, I have dyed with daffodil, and goldenrod and  have bought some natural indigo and dyed some cloth with that.  The colours are suburb,  and I believe that this process will influence my future work.

I remain strongly influenced by the tradition of pieced and quilted textiles, especially by the Amish, who inhabit my native Pennsylvania.  I love the texture and warmth of feeling the cloth under my fingers and encourage people to touch the finished work.