Author Archive | Quilt National Artists

Fabric Collage – Susan Polansky

My art is created through a slow and deliberate process. I strive to make believable atmospheres and images that will evoke emotional response, achieving this through a collage of fabrics and stitching. Often I’ll work spontaneously, but on larger pieces, I will spend more time exploring my concept before I actually embark on the fabric stage. Ideas are like acquaintances I’ve just met. Some are intriguing enough that I want to get to know them better. After I’ve spent some time with them, some fade and others become close friends.

Pastoral Disturbance by Susan Polansky © 2009

Pastoral Disturbance by Susan Polansky © 2009

Craft and composition support fabric collage content

I use photos for reference, and often I use Adobe Photoshop to combine parts of photos. Finding images with similar perspectives can be quite tricky, so sometimes I will round up a collection of images that gives me enough information to draw a synthesis of them.

Previously, I would make everything up as I went along, but I’ve found that preparation before the fabric stage has streamlined my process. I will use an immediate approach for a smaller piece, but if I intend on making a long term commitment, I don’t want to leave the composition to chance.

Earlier pieces experimented with materials and techniques but now my work is more content driven. I can really focus on what I want to say, and draw from all my previous experience to form the vision that I wish for.  I might research authenticity, for example:  “Pastoral Disturbance,” refers to a tragedy that occurred in an Amish schoolhouse, but the women I originally drew wore Mennonite bonnets not worn in Pennsylvania.  In “No One but You,” I needed to find out about accordions, so I did a Google Image search to supply visual information.

The story of “No One but You”

From the start, I was prepared to devote a serious amount of time to “No One but You,” (juried into Quilt National 2013). In fact, it was particularly the knowledge of how long it takes to create my art that provided inspiration for this piece, along with a family vacation photo.  Frozen in time were two dancers sharing a moment amid a bustling background. A fleeting moment caught forever by the quick click of the camera. Would I be able to capture the same feeling with an artistic process so unlike photography?  With this premise, I set out, not knowing it would take three years to reach a conclusion.

"No One but You" by Susan Polansky

“No One but You” by Susan Polansky, currently on view at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

Why did it take so long? Like many artists, I struggle with the balance of studio and family time, feeling as if I never have enough time with either. I love the times that I’m so engrossed with who I’m with or what I’m doing that all obligations fade away, and there is no pull of “something other.” It was the quiet repose of the dancers that attracted me to the photo that I was working with in the first place. But life (and death) intervened – I lost eleven people in two years. Despite the emotional upheaval, I kept returning to the studio. How could I focus on these little pieces of fabric when there was so much turmoil around me? I knew that if I could make the connection with my art, get lost in it, the background would fade. Outside the studio, I was consumed with managing estates and dealing with other people’s things. I became ever so aware that the things were not crucial to the memory of the deceased. The things I wanted to hold onto were not things at all, but the times I had shared with them. The connections when everything else – the noise, the backgrounds – did not matter. Just the finite, precious time spent with them was what I wanted to freeze in my memory.
         Susan Polansky works with photos in her fabric collage process
“No One but You” began with a photo, but was not a copy of a photo. With the number of tools, like Photoshop, available to artists, copying photos to create realism has become more common. Yet some pieces remain soulless: they are mere copies. I felt the emotion of my piece and really understood the meaning of the work as it evolved. The advice of a teacher to “paint what you know” resonates with me. The success of “No One but You” encourages me to be wholly engaged, and time will become meaningless.

What’s Next

The quilt that I am currently working on required a lot of drawing in preparation. I was so concerned about getting the perspective correct that I took some extreme measures. After my initial sketches disappointed me, I built models out of clay to actually make the scene I had in mind, so that I could “see” how it looked. And then, when my drawings still weren’t quite right, I hired a drawing coach for a few hours to help me figure out why some figures just didn’t look human enough.        

Susan Polansky makes clay models of figues

I’m finding renewed interest in my drawing skills, and have created my current work entirely from my imagination. Creating a large, realistic scene with the kind of detail that interests me, without relying on photo references, is a first for me. It requires confidence that I’ve gained through all my previous work. It’s very exciting, especially now at the stage of the colors going together, materializing into a believable sight! I think of the direction I’m heading as narrative realism, and I’m also intrigued with symbolism. I want my work to be believable, yet not absolute – suggesting, not stating. I’d like to invite the viewer into my constructed world and have them explore a story that is contained within.

Whether the piece gets into Quilt National 2015 or not, I’m anxious to show the next marker of my progress.

Susan Polansky

Susan Polansky

About Susan Polansky

My creative passion is stitched fabric collage. I create credible images from small bits of commercially printed fabrics held together with fusible web (a type of iron-on glue) and stitching. I dabble with painting and crafts for fun, read and garden, and love to travel. I’ve got three great kids and have been married to my best friend for 27 years. Currently I am working on a completely new website. Meanwhile, remains up and running, so please visit.


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Quilt National 2013 opens in San Jose, California

Quilt National 2013 quilts in San Jose

Quilts by Molly Allen, Rita Merten, and Joan Schulze at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles.

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles hosts Quilt National 2013

Quilt National 2013 (collections A & B) is now on view at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. Deborah Corsini, curator for the museum, has hung the show with thoughtful placement of works in the museum’s main galleries. The opening reception for the show was held on Sunday, May 18, in conjunction with a celebration of the San Jose Quilt & Textile Museum’s 37th anniversary, and a special artists gallery walk through the Quilt National exhibit.

NEW: be sure to check out the Quilt National ’13 slideshow

Go to 2013 Slideshow

San Jose museum is a great place to see Quilt National

The San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is a special venue for viewing Quilt National 2013. The three large gallery spaces provide room to enjoy the artwork both up close and far away, enabling exploration of both the exquisite craft and overall composition of each piece.  The beautiful lighting in the museum shows the Quilt National 2013 works to their best advantage.  Seen from across the large spaces, some works, like Deidre Adams’ Tracings III and Judith Content’s Cenote Azule actually glow.

Derdre Adams, Tracings III

Deirdre Adams and her quilt, Tracings III

The Quilt National 2013 artworks have been hung so as to suggest subtle themes of color, content, and composition.  In many cases the artwork seems to whisper quietly to its adjacent neighbors, as on the wall of subtle yet powerful artists quilts by Ellen Noble, Carol Goosens, Leslie Bixel, Judith Content and Jan Myers-Newbury in the main gallery, or the environmental themes of three quilts in the grey gallery by Leslie Rego, Katherine Knaur, and Nelda Warkentin.  The overall effect is an enjoyable, inspirational, and intriguing experience.

Gallery walk features seven Quilt National artists’ talks

Seven Quilt National artists were on hand to participate in a gallery walk through the exhibit.

  • Leslie Rego – Sun Valley, ID, Four Seasons at the Beaver Pond
  • Laura Fogg – Ukiah, CA, Jammin’
  • Kris Sazaki of the Pixeladies – Cameron Park, CA, American Still Life-The Weight of the Nation
  • Deidre Adams – Littleton, CO, Tracings III
  • Leslie Bixel – Los Gatos, CA, Decay
  • Judith Content – Palo Alto, CA,  Cenote Azule

Each artist shared their stories, inspirations and techniques.  Leslie Rego spoke passionately about her love for the natural beauty of Idaho, and how it informs her work.  Laura Fogg told the story behind Jammin’, and how she just happened to be at an event with her sewing machine and strolling musicians, enabling her to sketch with her machine from life.

Laura Fogg and Jammin'

Laura Fogg and her quilt Jammin’

Kris Sazaki described the process of making American Still Life – The Weight of the Nation with her partner “Pixelady” Deb Cashatt, as one of the funnest experiences in her life.  Deidre Adams talked about the unique “post quilting” painting technique she uses in her work.  Leslie Bixel spoke to the theme of her quilt, Decay and the surface design techniques of rusting and bleach discharging cloth that will also decay over time.

Kris Sazaki

Kris Sazaki of the Pixeladies with American Still Life- The Weight of the Nation

Wrapping up the event, Judith Content explained the arduous process of judging a Quilt National biennial competition, and her own experience in judging Quilt National 2013 with fellow jurors Linda Colsh and Penny McMorris. Judith also talked about her quilt Cenote Azul and the magical light of the skies in Pinnacles national park that inspired it.

San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles logoTo find out more about the Quilt National 2013 exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles please visit their website for hours and upcoming events, including a special Fiber Talk organized by Curator of Collections, Nancy Bavor.

Special Event

Fiber Talk: Inside Quilt National with Judith Content and Joan Schulze, Sylvia Gegaregian, Leslie Bixel, Miriam Nathan-Roberts

Sunday, June 8, 2014: 1pm to 3pm

Ticket information is here on the museum website.

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Quilt National knows the way to San Jose

by Deborah Corsini, Curator, San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Heaven & Earth by Jane Sassaman, 1992, from the Marbaum Collection

Heaven & Earth by Jane Sassaman, 1992, from the Marbaum Collection

The 1970s were a stimulating time for fiber arts. Spurred on by the counter culture, many people looked to crafts traditions and developed a renewed appreciation of working with textiles.  Alternative schools located around the country such as Arrowmont, TN, Haystack, ME, and in Berkeley, CA—Pacific Basin School of Textile Arts (established in 1973) and Fiberworks Center for the Textile Arts (also established in 1973)—offered workshops in an exciting range of fiber techniques that ran the gamut of spinning, weaving, dyeing, basketry, tablet weaving, ikat, felting, quilting, and surface design. National magazines such as Fiberarts and Quilters Newsletter (founded in 1969 by Bonnie and George Leman) were chronicling the interest in textile arts. Yarn and quilt shops were opening, and supplies, classes, and information about different textile techniques, design, and craft was readily available.

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles now in its 37th year

In 1977, a group of forward thinking women from the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association (SCVQA) founded the American Museum of Quilts & Related Arts, which began its own remarkable journey as the first museum of its kind to recognize, appreciate, and preserve quilts and other textile arts. Now in its 37th year and in its spacious permanent home on South 1st Street, the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles (SJMQT) continues to celebrate and promote the art, creators, craft and history of quilts and textiles.

Nationally recognized and among a handful of institutions in the world that focus on quilts and textiles, the Museum has a significant historical chronicle of traditional and contemporary exhibitions and programs. It offers a substantial range of exhibitions that draw from the museum collection, the national and international textile art movements (including groundbreaking, themed group shows which focus on particular topics or techniques—Scrap Art, Primary Structures, Navajo Weaving, Milestones), and the work and legacy of individual artists. Mark Adams, Mary Balzer Buskirk, Radka Donnell, Caryl Bryer Fallert, Jean Ray Laury, Therese May, Judy Mathieson, Eleanor McCain, Ruth McDowell , Katie Pasquini Masopust, Mary Walker Phillips, Yvonne Porcella, Deidre Scherer, Joan Schulze, Lydia Van Gelder,  and Katherine Westphal, are  a few of the many artists that have exhibited at the Museum.

At this same time, a parallel experience was conceived in Athens, Ohio. The first Quilt National was inaugurated, and it too has grown and evolved during its 35 years. Establishing itself as the foremost and quintessential exhibit of contemporary art quilts, this ongoing biennial continues to showcase current trends and developments in the art quilt movement.

Over the years the Museum had the opportunity to bring portions of four Quilt National exhibits to the West coast.

Quilt National on view at the  San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

Bow Tie by Sylvia Gegaregian

Bow Tie, by Sylvia Gegaregian

Viewing Quilt National is much anticipated and the shows from 2003, 2005, 2011 and now 2013 were well received. The current exhibition features 47 works by 48 artists. This year, we have added local
artist and Quilt National juror Judith Content’s quilt Cenote Azul to the mix. Like previous years the range of quilts and artistic expression is formidable, imaginative, and outstanding. From the classical Amish inspired Bow Tie by Sylvia Gegaregian to an updated still life by The Pixeladies (Deb Cashatt and Kris Sazaki), American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation, there is amazing technical virtuosity and meaning in each of these works. Once again, Quilt National features a rich diversification of style (abstract to representational) and shows us thematic content that is imbued with personal symbolism and contemporary ideas. We are pleased to host Quilt National as it fulfills the museum’s artistic goals of bringing shows to San Jose that have a broad appeal and demonstrate that quilts are a transformative and compelling medium of artistic expression.

Quilts from the Marbaum Collection of Hilary & Marvin Fletcher

In 2010 another connection to the Dairy Barn was forged. The Museum organized Cream of the Cloth: Quilts from the Marbaum Collection of Hilary & Marvin Fletcher that encompassed a 25-year survey of the art quilt movement and included work from previous Quilt National exhibits from 1985 – 2007. This private collection includes work by Michael James, Sue Benner, and Jane Sassaman. For over 20 years, Hilary Fletcher was a beloved and pivotal figure in the contemporary art quilt movement through her leadership of the Quilt National exhibitions. Under her advocacy, the biennial Quilt National exhibitions grew to be among the largest and most prestigious of contemporary art quilts in the world. She would certainly be pleased to know that pieces from her personal collection and Quilt National are still going strong and finding their way to San Jose.

Deborah CorsiniDeborah Corsini is the curator of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles and in her seven year tenure has created a wide variety of historical and contemporary fiber art exhibitions. Some exhibition highlights include: Beyond Knitting:  Uncharted Stitches, Changing Landscapes: Contemporary Chinese Fiber Art, Hawaii’s Alfred Shaheen: Fabric to Fashion, Scrap Art, and Milestones: Textiles of Transition.

In her studio practice she focuses on tapestry and creates dynamic wedge weave and eccentric weave works. Her pieces are exhibited in national and international venues including the International Chinese Fiber Art Biennial and the American Tapestry Biennial.

Her love and appreciation of quilts came from her previous job as the Creative Director and fabric designer for P&B Textiles, a manufacturer of quilt fabrics. She is active in the textile community and an advocate for contemporary fiber art.

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Fiber Frenzy in Philadelphia

Naomi Adams 252x395

Naomi Adams, Complement

Spring is here, and with it comes lots of opportunities to see Quilt National artists work on exhibit. Cindy Friedman, Director of ArtQuilt Elements wrote to let us know about ArtQuilt Elements 2014 at the Wayne Art Center in Wayne, PA. ArtQuilts Elements 2014 is the 11the exhibition of this internationally acclaimed show and includes 43 quilts selected from over 600 entries.

“One of the distinctions of our show is our professional presentation of art quilts. The exhibition has been widely praised by reviewers and artists not only for exhibiting the quilts in a gallery setting but also for promoting the art quilt as an art form.”


Judy Kirpich, Anxiety No. 8, David

Several Quilt National artists were juried into this show, including Marianne Burr, Dianne Firth, Valerie Goodwin, Michael James, and more.  Quilt National artists, Jill Ault and Judy Kirpich,  are also among the prize winners. The jurors for ArtQuilt Elements 2014 are Susie Brandt, Full-time Faculty, Maryland Institute College of Art, Gerhardt Knodel, Internationally Recognized Fiber Artist and Educator and Jan Myers-Newbury, Quilt Artist and Educator.

ArtQuilt Elements 2014 is open at the Wayne Art Center in Wayne PA  from March 21- May 3, 2014.

For more information, including a full list of artists and prize winners, please visit

Three more reasons to plan a trip to Philadelphia right now.


Snyderman’s International Fiber Biennial

3rd and Cherry Sts. Philadelphia, PA

until April 26th, 2014.


What A Stitch at the Gravers Lane Gallery

8405 Germantown Ave, Phila PA until April 20th, 2014

Lisa Call at the Bluestone Gallery  

301 North 3rd St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106.

 2/25/14 – 3/29/14

Gallery Hours: Tue – Sat, 11am – 6pm 267-773-8114.

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