Jill Kerttula – Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Jill’s work is a combination of photography and stitching. It is also strongly influenced by her backgrounds in graphic design and one-of-a-kind garment making.
Inspiration comes from objects and colors found and photographed in both urban landscapes and the natural world, but the strongest influence is texture; the bark of a tree, the cool smoothness of ice, the graininess of concrete, the hard symmetry of brick work, the leaves as they change from summer soft to winter brittle, sticks. How textures are influenced and enhanced by changing light is an important consideration in her work.
She is open to both the materials and the process. All is fair game. The specific materials and processes vary from piece to piece, but fabric, and other fiber materials, respond well to manipulation, layering, and create the tactile textures that are not present in photography. The direct manipulation of the materials very meaningful to her, and why she uses “handcraft” materials and processes. While the pieces may be technically two dimensional, she considers the process sculpture-like.
(Click images to enlarge)SAQA: When did you begin making art with fabric? Do you work in other media as well?
KERTTULA: I don’t know when it all started. I have been a full time artist all my professional life, and sewed in my ‘spare time’. By day I worked as a graphic designer, and by night I made clothing for my babies, and quilts for my bed, and some clothing and gifts. I made my living making and selling reconstructed clothing for about 6 years. I dabbled in art quilting several years ago, when I first discovered it and when I was “between jobs”, but it has only been the last three or four years that I have been focused and full-time. We moved to a new state, retired, and I have a great studio, so now fiber art is my full-time, everyday focus.
Most of my work is photography based, so that would be my other media!
SAQA: What inspires you?
KERTTULA: The mundane. I love finding beauty and detail in everything around us. I have spent hours shooting photos of egg shells and banana peels! I once challenged myself to take photos every day, but nowhere other than the block where I live. My work, like my ‘Walk in the Park’ series is often focused on textures or details, of an object; or, like in my ‘Urban Voyeur’ series, people in everyday situations.
SAQA: Have any artists or art movements influenced your work?
KERTTULA: I worked as a graphic designer and creative director for 30+ years. Many of the most talented and underrated artists I know are in those fields and in the field of professional illustration. They know how to use brevity, composition, imagery, and color so that a message is conveyed quickly and effectively. They are aware of our cultural trends and the social impact of art. And they must be great at their craft. My roots in those fields and knowledge gained from those artists are what allow me to grow as a ‘fine’ artist.
SAQA: What techniques and materials do you use?KERTTULA: Most of my work starts with fabric printed with an original photo. From that point, the materials and layering are whatever gets me there! Materials used have included (but not limited to); commercial fabrics, produce bags, dryer lint, beads, Halloween costume fabric, yarns, shells, leaves, sticks… whatever it takes!
My approach to technique is much the same; whatever it takes. Those have included piecing, raw edge applique, turned edge applique, couching, gluing, hand stitching, machine free-motion stitching. Most of my materials are used in their native form; I do not dye, or paint (well maybe once ;-).
SAQA: Where do you create?
KERTTULA: I am so very lucky. I have a studio in the McGuffey Art Center here in Charlottesville, VA. When we first moved here I was working in the corner of our bedroom, but soon I was juried into MAC, and now have a huge, sunlit studio there. It is an inspiring community of 40-50 resident artists and another couple hundred associate artists. Every day, I talk art with painters, potters, sculptures, glass blowers, and other fiber artists. Some of us are now talking about doing multi-media collaborative work. Even on days when I am not feeling up to working, I get inspired when I walk in the door.
SAQA: How do you reconcile the art-making and business sides of your creative life?
KERTTULA: I was in the business of art for 40 years; 30+ as a graphic designer (both as a business owner and as an employee) and additional years as an art-to-wear maker hawking my work on-line and at art shows/fairs. During those years, I was acutely aware of the bottom line of both time and money at all times. Now I choose to do exactly what I please based only on my own direction. It is wonderful when my work resonates and is validating when people purchase it… and that does help pay the studio rent, but it is not my focus. Mostly I roll around in the freedom of creation for creation’s sake! I do like entering shows to circulate my work to a larger audience, but do not expect that to sustain me with sales. I also have decided not to teach or do commission work – been there done that! That could change, but for now, I am being very selfish with my time (age has its perks!)
SAQA: Have you published in art-related media?Kerttula: I have been profiled in several magazines, but not video. I was the Artist-in-Residence at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October of 2015. It was a wonderful opportunity to spend a month communing in the park and getting inspired. The results of that can be seen on my website.
[Editor’s note: Jill Kerttula’s solo exhibition “A Walk in the Park” was recently featured at International Quilt Festival Chicago.]
SAQA: What are you working on now? What’s next?
KERTTULA: Right now, I am taking a series of photos of “accidental art”. The photos are abstract shots of various things found in the studios of other Art Center artists; a wastebasket, a hotplate, a dirty wall, a well-used apron, These will then be printed, stitched, etc. Just starting on this, so not sure where it will end up, but hoping for a show in about a year.
I am also continuing work on my ‘Urban Voyeur’ series. These are all based on urban scenes photographed during my daily life. I am really enjoying doing these, and anxious to see where they lead!