Saturday, May 1, 2010

Interview Series - Lisa Walton, Textile Artist & Tutor

After a couple of weeks where I've had to put 'time to breathe' in my diary I'm very pleased to add Lisa Walton, award winning textile artist and international teaching virtuoso to my list of very talented interviewees.

Lisa was recently awarded the Jewel Pearce Patterson International Quilt Teacher Scholarship, Houston, USA for 2010.

Lisa creates predominantly pieced and beaded work, however I believe her forte is in conceiving quilt designs that are simple in execution but breathtakingly beautiful when completed. She often turns these concepts into patterns or teaches them as workshops, enabling even novices to get a brilliant result.

Lisa is also well known for her vibrant hand dyed fabrics which she sells under the name 'Dyed and Gone to Heaven'. She currently has a stand at the AQC in Melbourne and after my effort yesterday now has a little more of my money in her pocket. Her fabrics are pretty hard to resist.

Bookings are currently being finalised for Lisa's once in a lifetime workshop 'Textile Treasures -Italy Inspired', it's so special because not because of the week long surface design exploration but because you get to do it in one of the most beautiful towns in Italy, Orvieto. I soooo wish I could go. :(  For more information click here
 'Aurora' 82x82cm (32x32")
This is Lisa's favorite quilt, and her most popular pattern and workshop.

Hand dyed fabrics, beading, bobbin work and quilting.
Pattern available here 
  'Bushfire Sunset' 203x203cm (80"x80")  $10,000
Third Prize American Quilt Show – Paducah USA 2009
Pieced cottons and hand dyed silk organza depicting the Australian Bushfire. 
Designed and pieced by Lisa Walton, quilted by Nic Bridges

 1. How long have you been quilting and what first drew you to it? 
A neighbour started me off making a small quilt from charm squares. It wasn't very good and ended up as the dog blanket.

 2. How would you describe your style now? 
My style is probably classified as Art Quilting – it allows me to not follow any rules and create using the materials and techniques that will best suit.

 3. How has your style evolved? 
I was never a traditional quilter but really liked bright colours and geometric shapes so apart from some early (and not very good) traditional style quilts, I have stuck to the geometric designs. I also now love adding beaded embellishment to quilts. I love the texture it creates and the colours of beads are endless. My bead stash is obscene.

Lisa's bead stash, a 6x4' bookcase, packed two deep and totally full and below some of her threads.

 4. Apart from creating art what else to you do within the industry? 
I wear many hats. My business Dyed & Gone to Heaven started as an outlet for my hand dyed fabrics. It has become a full time part of life for both myself and my husband Peter. Peter now dyes most of the fabrics and lets me play with the painted ones. It also frees me up to design and sew and just generally have a great time. He also looks after all the paperwork and logistics of doing the shows. Last year we did 9 shows and it's a great opportunity to meet my customers face to face. Many are now regulars and it's wonderful to see them return - sometimes with work they have done with our fabrics.
Both of the above quilts have been made with Lisa's shops newest item – precut shapes. These are accucut for absolute accuracy, complete with the raggy edge for the blue quilt. The circles and leaves come ready backed with fusible web. Kits are available for both of these at Lisa's online store.

 5. What's the best advice you could give someone who wants to try quilting or textile art for the first time? 
Take it slowly. Don't try and be all things to all people. When I started submitting my work to magazines I was told that my work was too contemporary. I had to decide if I wanted to make quilts that were my style or what I perceived as 'commercial'. I decided that I wasn't really out to make a fortune (just as well) so went with my heart. I am so glad I did as it gives me such joy to design and make quilts that are part of me.

More 'Aurora' Quilts 82x82cm (32x32")
Inverted cotton whole cloth quilt with beading detail, bobbin work and quilting.
Pattern available here 


 6. Do you exhibit your work?  
Yes I have had two solo exhibitions which were great fun but a lot of work. It is very scary putting your work out there alone. My second one was in an art gallery with an official opening. That was fairly stress inducing but it went well and work sold which was an even better thrill.

 8. Do you belong to any quilt associations? If so why did you join these ones? 
I belong to Southern Cross Quilters (Aus/NZ online group) and they are responsible for me growing and developing to where I am now. I sold my first hand dyes and taught my first classes to members and they have been instrumental in my quilting development. I also belong to NSW and QLD Quilt Guilds and a local group here in Sydney. Online I belong to Quiltart and I am a Professional Member of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association).  All these groups have a purpose whether it is networking or show opportunities or just moral support.
'Beneath the Surface'
This piece appeared in Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine.
Hand dyed cotton, raw silk, beading, Angelina fibre leaves.
Pattern and kit available here

 9. What inspires you? 

I am usually inspired by the colours of my fabrics and shapes. I can't really draw but take heaps of photos everywhere I go to use for inspiration. I am currently doing the City and Guilds Patchwork and Quilting Course run through Linda Kemshall in the UK. I started this a year ago as I was feeling a bit uninspired and blocked. I am really enjoying being pushed a bit out of my comfort zone and have created some interesting work. It has also improved my way of working and given many ideas for future work. Now I just need the time.

 10. What sewing machine / threads etc do you use? 
I have two machines: a Janome 6500 which has been a great and never missed a beat, and the new Bernina 820 which is amazing. I have just heavily quilted a double bed size quilt with ease which is something I would not have tackled before. I love the large harp space, bigger bobbin, bright lighting and the pedal free stitiching. I am also a bit of a thread junkie and have far too many threads in all brands although I am starting to get fussier. 

Improvisationally pieced hand dyed cottons

 11. What's the most rewarding thing about your career? 
The fact that I am now able to spend my days doing something I love. No tedious boss or office politics, no dragging myself into work everyday. Most day my husband and I are doing just what we feel like doing. We travel all the time and get to meet fantastic like minded people everywhere. I count my blessings every day.
A close up of Lisa's signature style – hand dyed fabrics and lots of beading.

 12. How did you learn the techniques you use?  
I'm pretty much self taught except for the dyeing workshops I did with Carol Sonderland in the US whose classes taught me precision and methodology in my dyeing. Learning these skills were really the taking off point for Dyed & Gone to Heaven which in turned allowed me the freedon to follow my passion.
Some of the gorgeous hand dyed fabrics Lisa and her husband Peter produce.

 13. What are your favorite / least favorite parts of the quilting process? 
 None - love it all - each part of the process has its own joy. But I do still struggle with names and labels and put them off as long as possible. Really lucky to now have a purpose built studio where I can happily spend hours every day.

Part of Lisa's studio where she works and holds classes.

Lisa's website has artwork, workshops, patterns and hand dyed fabrics (including precut, fusible web backed shapes) for sale, her blog keeps you up-to-date with her latest inspirations and activities, and you can email her direct.

I love to get your comments, please leave them by clicking on the 'comments' link below. –Neroli



  1. Great interview Neroli! I love Lisa's quilts and her fabrics, and it's always a pleasure to meet her at shows (although my bank account does not agree...) I also so wish I could join her in italy in September...

  2. That made me laugh, cause my bank account moaned in sympathy :) My credit card has tried to go into hiding knowing I'm going to the AQC again today. (Though this time I have to be good).

  3. Living so far away from all the action down south, it's always a treat to read your interviews and this one is a treasure! Thank you. As we all do, I really admire Lisa's work and find her style and, it goes without saying, colours inspiring.

  4. Good interview, Neroli. I'm a fan of Lisa's work and her fabrics, so it was a real pleasure reading her interview. If I win the lottery in time, you and i will go to Italy with Lisa!

  5. Good interview with Lisa her work, hand dyes and embellishments are very hard to say no to. If I were a rich man I would spend big but unfortunately I have to watch what I buy, I did forget to buy the bobbin threads. Ah well there is always Vic Showcase in July.

  6. Thanks all, Carol great to hear you've been enjoying the interviews, Lindi, I'm going to hold you to that :) and Fran you're very right so I should congratulate myself on only buying 1m :)

  7. I always enjoy these interviews but this one I especially enjoyed.
    Well Done & Keep Up The Good Work.

  8. Great interview, it is so interesting to read how people got to where they are and also that they are still evolving and learning. I am doing a workshop with Lisa in Geelong shortly and I'm really looking forward to it.

  9. I really need to find some workshops to do soon myself, it's been too long and there must be something close enough to home that will be fun coming up! Thanks for the wonderful feedback both of you!

  10. great interview Neroli. I love Lisa's work and on top of everything she is a lovely lady.

  11. Thanks for the interview with Lisa Walton, it was full of interesting daily details which I enjoyed. Sometimes interviews just talk about the artist's technique which is great, but I like to hear about how they feel about their work on a day to day basis, and especially what things they do to improve their own art such as Lisa doing City and Guilds which is something I want to do too.

  12. Great reading about Lisa's latest endeavors! She is a talented artist. I look forward to seeing her work and her students in Houston next year!