Cathy Erickson – Washougal, Washington, USA
For the past 12 years my work has focused on the hardships that Japanese Americans faced when they were interned in camps during World War II. The first 9 years of the work was done in collaboration with Margaret Chula, an internationally known haiku poet. Photographs, letters, and historical documents were used as background information, as well as visiting with people who took part in this piece of American History. This series includes volunteer work at archaeology digs at the Manzanar National Historic Site, California along with volunteer work at a local Japanese American museum.
The stories and issues behind the Japanese American internment can get pretty intense at times. To give me some mental rest, I am using my second series to set a lighter tone. The series focuses on my 40 years of collecting and making floral quilts. It is a blend of antique quilts, pictorial, and art quilts. The pictorial quilts in this series focus on the disappearance of the Monarch Butterfly. Currently I am working on a 21 ft wide by 5 ft high triptych. The goal is to give one the feeling of walking into a garden surrounded by flowers on 3 sides.
(Click images to enlarge)SAQA: When did you begin making art with fabric? Do you work in other media as well?
ERICKSON: The first quilts I made were watercolor quilts in 1996. I loved the impressionistic look of the designs I created. These early quilts taught me value and color hue. Likewise they made me focus on making original designs from the start.
The other two mediums I work in are Photography and Pastel drawing. I view both of them as just hobbies. Although I have been taking pictures since I was in high school.
SAQA: What inspires you?ERICKSON: 1) Stories, photos, and poetry about the Japanese American Internment during WWII; 2) Nature Photographs; 3) Antique quilts from the 19th Century and the history and genealogy behind the quilts from this time period.
SAQA: Have any artists or art movements influenced your work?
ERICKSON: The main artists that have influenced my work are Joan Colvin and Kitty Pippin. Joan Colvin started me down the path of including rhythm and design in my quilts. I still use her circular path for coming up with ideas. She also told me that if I wanted to make some of the designs I had in mind that I really needed to take drawing and art classes. Kitty Pippin introduced me to the wonderful world of Japanese fabrics and asymmetric designs.
Margaret Chula, a poet, is the third person that has heavily influenced my work. I collaborated with Margaret for nine years on a series of quilts and poems inspired by the Japanese American Internment. I truly believe that the words of poems on paper are a work of art in their own right.
SAQA: What techniques and materials do you use?ERICKSON: I use hand and machine applique, beading, and dense micro quilting on all my art quilts. The piecing is generally minimal. My favorite materials are hand-dyed fabrics and batiks. I also like to work with silk/cotton fabric blends as it goes well with all the silk threadwork that I do. Some of my recent pieces include intricate hand cutwork, a modern form of Scherenschnitte.
SAQA: Where do you create?
ERICKSON: During the first 10 years, the dining room table and living room were the main places that I created. I now have a studio where I do most of my creating during the day. At night I still do a lot of creating in the living room. Most of the work done in the living room involves design work using Adobe Photoshop.
SAQA: How do you reconcile the art-making and business sides of your creative life?
ERICKSON: At this point I have difficulty managing both sides. Because I struggle working with colors at night, most of my dealings with business are at night. I think that I have a lot of room for improvement in the business area.
SAQA: What are you working on now? What’s next?ERICKSON: Most of my recent focus has been on making a 21′ x 6′ triptych that is based on a garden scene. I want the viewer to feel as if they are the size of a bug surrounded by very large flowers. Because I normally work quite a bit smaller than this, the learning curve on this project has been steep.
I am also dabbling with the modern quilt movement as well as continuing to make quilts with a Japanese design influence.