Iona Guest Artist Lauren Kingsland shares her inspiration and creative processes. Enjoy her quilts and other artworks on display in the Lois and Richard England Gallery at Iona through May 23, 2017.
Q. Tell me a little about your background. When did you first start creating art?
I’ve been sewing since I was a very small child. I was interested in all kinds of needlework growing up. Knitting, crocheting, sewing — that was my passion. But, at that point in history, sewing really wasn’t something that could be a professional activity, especially as it was considered a traditional-female activity. It just didn’t get a lot of respect. I remember once I submitted a sewing piece as a project in my high school art class, and the art teacher refused to accept it because it was a piece of stitching. It was considered unacceptable as a piece of art. That made me furious because I knew that I had spent as much time and creativity on that piece as anyone else in my class. The person sitting next to me could have drawn the same design on paper, and it would have been accepted.
And, actually, the same thing happened to me in college. I had submitted supporting artistic materials to do something in the humanities department, and they were not accepted as an art medium. And that made me angry, too. But those moments also inspired this energy in me that was behind what happened later on in my life.
After college, I got married, had two children, and moved to DC when they were very small. There was a moment when as a young Washington, DC mom, pushing her kids with a stroller through an art gallery, I saw a painting by Frank Stella. It was a square piece with a color progression across the canvas. I was immediately excited by it. I looked at the design and the colors, and I could imagine that being sewn. And I thought to myself, if he can get in the museum for doing this kind of composition, there is no reason in the world that a quilt couldn’t be in a museum.
Seeing this piece encouraged me to finally see my own work as an art medium. And it also made me realize that in order to be accepted as an art medium, I really needed to talk to the art world. As a teenager, I had been angry when my work was rejected. But, as a 30 year old, I knew that conversation was required. So I studied painting and I studied drawing so that I could learn to speak to the art world. I took color classes and watercolor, and I exhibited those artworks and learned a lot about how to explain my work. Watercolor especially informed my own work, and I did a lot of painting and studies for quilts. In fact, there will be a couple of my water color paintings in the exhibit at Iona.
Q. Since then, how has your artwork/process evolved?
That was the starting point for taking myself seriously as an artist. Today, I don’t do watercolor studies. I don’t need to.
Q. Where do you draw your inspiration?
My work has been inspired by many things. I’ve been inspired by kaleidoscope, nature, and architecture. A trip to India also introduced me to Kolam, a women’s drawing technique. I’m also very interested in the intersection of body and spirit, and seeing these contemplative drawings just really stuck with me. It is done on the ground with reference points or dots. So, I use buttons as the dots in my pieces because they are nice little round things that I can use.
It’s funny, actually, how full-circle my art has become. When I was a little girl, my dad was an engineer and my mom was a piano teacher. They had this idea that hospitals should have creative engagement for patients, families, whoever. So, they created kits for hospital gift shops with beaded flowers and things like that. Unfortunately, it was not a successful business venture. But, as part of the kits, they bought a big box of buttons that looked like the centers of daises. Well, that box didn’t go anywhere, and it kind of rode along with my life. Eventually, I did a Kolam that needed the unusual, yellow buttons on there. It was when I used those buttons that I realized how my professional work as an artist is in fact the fulfillment of their vision. I am a visiting artist with the Arts and Humanities program of Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Hospital, and I work with palliative care patients and family members.
Q. What is your artistic process?
I will pick up a color palette, and fabrics that talk to me on that particular day, and use those as a starting point. If it is a kaleidoscope piece, then I think about shapes that are relevant to me at that point. I also do small quilts that are based on my dreams, or that help me to process some problem or situation that I am facing.
Q. Has your process changed as you’ve aged?
I have mastered many techniques, as I have become older. So, my work today doesn’t have a general destination. I’m more comfortable not knowing how it’s going to turn out. I let it unfold as it does. My hands and my feelings know enough to guide me. I’m very comfortable not knowing how it’s going to go, and I think that comes with maturity. That’s one of the great things of aging, you sort of let go.
Q. What does “creative aging” mean to you? Has having the arts in your life informed other aspects of it?
Creative aging is being somewhere and expressing what’s going on. Being aware that life is short so that what I do on any given day does matter, and how I do it on any given day does matter. Creativity is not only painting, quilting, and drawing. It’s how you live your life.
Q. What do you hope to evoke from visitors with your exhibition in the Gallery, or how do you hope people will respond to your exhibit?
I hope that people will be fed by the beauty. We all need more beauty and the appreciation of the beautiful in our lives. I also hope that many of these pieces will find new homes. It matters to me that my work goes home with someone who appreciates it, and that their life will be enriched. My quilts are like my children. We don’t keep our children forever — we let them go out in the world. That’s how I feel about my quilts. I want them to be inspiring, to be a blessing, and to be encouraging to whoever gets them next.
Want to hear more from our Guest Artist?
Coming up, Iona has several opportunities for you to speak with and learn from Guest Artist Lauren Kingsland! Please join Lauren Kingsland at Iona for the following events:
- Legacy Quilts Hands-On Lecture
Tuesday, March 22 from 3-5 PM. RSVP here today!
Wednesday, April 22 from 10 AM – 12 PM. RSVP here today!
Cost for this class is $25, which includes the book, “The Scrapbook You Can Sleep Under” and practice materials.
After a brief tour of the Gallery with Lauren Kingsland, participants will learn how to create simple quilts that tell a story. There will be hands-on practice in managing repurposed garments and writing on a quilt. Lauren will also discuss using photo transfer onto fabric, as well as address general questions about participant-project ideas. Some experience with sewing is helpful, though not required.
“Quilted Mementos” is supported in part by funding from the Montgomery County government and the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County.