Weather Quilts

Clare Smith’s Quilts and Mother Nature

When I explain what I do, I usually have to say “I make quilts but not with squares and triangles’. I originally trained as a radiographer (x-ray technician) and did a degree in Zoology before studying printmaking, so my subject matter tends to show my scientific background but this can change at any time.

When I show my quilts at the local quilt guild meeting I am more likely to get a silence than an ‘ahhhh’, ahhh’s are reserved for cute quilts and mine generally aren’t cute. I’ve made quilts with dust mites depicted on them (what you get if you have a lot of quilts stored in your house). I’ve made quilts showing amoeba and other single celled animals. I’ve made quilts showing mosquitoes, endangered reptiles such as the New Zealand Tuatara and quilts about human mitochondrial DNA. I made a whole series of quilts about New Zealand native plants and some inspired by grasslands. The grassland quilts were also a mild protest about developers building on the hill I can see from my kitchen window. One minute it was covered with grass and sheep and the next it had bulldozers and buildings all over it. I guess you could say that I make quilts about my life here in New Zealand rather than the patterned sort.

I am married to a Climate Change scientist so the latest quilts are inspired by his work. I dye or paint the fabric and scratch it, scrape it, monoprint and screenprint it, then piece big bits of it together. I hope the Climate Change quilts are educational as well as visually interesting and who knows which medium will spark a person’s interest in a topic, quilts are definitely more accessible to a part of the population than scientific writing.

I love to teach and to travel and I have been lucky enough to teach short courses on quilting, design, painting and dyeing fabric and machine quilting in Australia, South Africa and the UK as well as all over New Zealand. I learn so much from my students and they inspire me to try all sorts of new things. During 2010, I have been ‘Artist in Residence’ at Whitireia Polytechnic Visual Arts Department and have had a great time experimenting with different media as well as helping the students to work on their designs. I have been having fun experimenting with New Zealand wool and attempting to use it for shibori. In fact I have had so much fun trying new media that I haven’t made a quilt all year!

So that is what I do, I make quilts but not the squares and triangles type.

To see more of Clare Smith’s work please visit www.actrix.gen.nz/users/smith_c/ and her blog http://claresmith.blogspot.com.

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