Diane Melms – Anchorage, Alaska, USA
I have been passionate about making art since I was a child. Studying art, teaching art and learning to express my ideas in visual form has been a life long pursuit. Although I have worked with many different mediums, I find creating art with fabric to be the most satisfying and engaging. Working with fabric has been the medium of choice for creative women in many cultures throughout history. In my work, I strive to honor these aesthetic roots and push cloth-work into new territory. I use fabric as a flexible surface to which I can add color and pattern using dyes and paint and then I manipulate the material to construct colorful abstract compositions rich in pattern and texture.
My quilts are primarily abstract explorations of form and color and the emotions evoked by these elements. Color relationships, patterns, transitions and movement are of utmost importance to me. My intent is to create engaging compositions that communicate feelings or ideas, create a sense of place, a state of mind or suggest a kind of movement.
(Click images to enlarge)
SAQA: When did you begin making art with fabric? Do you work in other media as well?MELMS: I have been focused on making art with fabric for about 10 years. Prior to that I had a long and rewarding career teaching art in the public schools. During those teaching years I experimented with other forms of art but always came back to working with cloth. Today, although I concentrate on creating with textiles almost exclusively, I can also imagine playing with painting, collage and mosaic in the future.
SAQA: What inspires you?
MELMS: I am inspired by color, pattern and the expressive power of abstract design. In my everyday life, I am always making note of interesting color combinations, intriguing patterns or engaging configurations of shape and line.
SAQA: Have any artists or art movements influenced your work?
MELMS: I have always admired the work of Paul Klee, Wasilly Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Sonia Delaunay and Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Their colorful abstract compositions speak to me, inspiring me to try new ideas and configurations using color, shape, and line.
SAQA: What techniques and materials do you use?MELMS: I work from a palette of my own hand-dyed and printed fabrics and construct compositions using an improvisational method of cutting and machine piecing fabric shapes together. Much of my composing is done on the design wall during the sewing process. This intuitive designing is the most engaging part of the process for me. When the composition is complete I add a layer of batting and backing and then machine stitch the layers together. I use a walking foot for much of my topstitching, but I also do free-motion quilting with my domestic machine and mid-arm quilter.
SAQA: Where do you create?
MELMS: When I retired from teaching we remodeled our garage to create a large studio space in our home. I have a huge worktable, a few different kinds of sewing machines and a variety of portable design walls. I dye my fabrics and do other messy work in our new garage, which is adjacent to the studio. Winter is prime studio time for me. I have a wall of south facing windows, which invite the sun in during our long Alaskan winters. It is a bright and happy place to work.
SAQA: How do you reconcile the art-making and business sides of your creative life?MELMS: Making art and teaching are my strengths and always will be. I do show my work in local galleries and have had numerous pieces in juried exhibits in the US and abroad. I strive to do a better job of dealing with the business side of my creative life but like many artists, for me it is mostly about the creating.
SAQA: What are you working on now? What’s next?
MELMS: I have had a busy year with work in seven exhibits including a solo show hosted by the Bunnell Street Art Center in Homer, Alaska. When I get back to the studio I would like to continue work in a new series exploring raw edge fabric collage. I also hope to experiment with new ways to use expressive free-motion stitching and drawing with the sewing machine in my work.