Inspiration: Melody Johnson, Artist Extraordinaire!

One of the things I’d like to do with this blog is pay homage to the people who  inspire me. So I’ll occasionally devote a post to a person and how their work has inspired and influenced mine! And for me, the 1st person to begin with is Melody Johnson. And specifically, this quilt:

Hot Fun (Summer) 1995 Best Machine Artistry, American Quilter's Society
Hot Fun (Summer) 1995 54" x 60" Best Wall Quilt, American Quilter's Society

I had been subscribing to the AQS magazine since the early ’90s, and that was my main connection to the quilting world at large (this was before the internet, you know!) I always eagerly looking forward to the edition that had all the award winning quilts from their large show they sponsered each Spring. Well, this quilt EXPLODED off the page at me.  It made me think of quilting in a whole new way. It was so free & uninhibited, abstract and bright, and yet it conveyed some very specific emotions! Her work (along with that of Caryl Bryer Fallert) was to become recognizable to me – when I came across apicture of something she’d done in a quilting magazine somewhere, I’d be able to know it was her.

This quilt:

Technique Rebellion III Redux, 1998, 50" x 50"
Technique Rebellion III Redux 1998 Best Machine Artistry IQA Houston 50" x 50"

was another one that truly amazed me! And for years I had no idea how it was constructed!

In the Spring of 2001 (I think), the stars aligned, and I was able to take a weekend machine quilting class with Melody at QSDS, being held in Athens, OH, just a 2-3 hour drive from where we were living in Newark, OH. This was my 1st quilting class, and man it was awesome! The machine quilting techniques I learned from her allowed me to (with practice) confidently cover my quilts with spontaneous free motion quilting. She had TR III Redux hanging in the classroom all weekend, and I have a vivid memory of her taking my hand and dragging my up to TR III to show me the back of it, after I was complaining that the back of my quilting wasn’t perfect. Her back wasn’t perfect either – she made her point – don’t get too hung up over what doesn’t show – focus on what does!

Sidney  2005 26" x 34.5"
Sidney 2005 26" x 34.5"
Sidney  2005 26" x 34.5"
Sidney detail

So I learned how to cover my quilt fronts with lucious quilting…and then got bogged down with the thought that they were Melody’s invention, not mine. I was really hung up over what was original and what wasn’t for several years. I started looking to the internet for info as it grew, and would visit the webiste of my favorite quilters every couple of months…then in early 2005 I saw a link on Melody’s website to her blog…and Whammo! I found the world of blogs! Although I’d heard of them, I sort of thought that blgos were written by news type people about world news items…or maybe comptuter tech stuff. It had never occured to me that Artists would have blogs!!! – HAH!

A Triumph of Tulips 2004 52" x 43"
A Triumph of Tulips 2004 52" x 43"

So, every day since then, I get to see a bit into Melody’s mind. She’s a stupendous artist who shares everything. I’ve gotten over my fear of not being original, and although I’m sure you can see her influence in my work, I think I’m developing my own style! Although I’m sure most of the folks who are reading my little blog know where she hangs out in the ethersphere, please pay here a visit if you haven’t come across her yet.

She’s been working smaller, and using the intense free motion quilting purposefully, rather than covering the entire surface quilt surface because she can. This strikes a chord in me as well. I was lucky enough to again have the time off to take her very last class! It was a weekend class up in the Monterey Bay Area, sponsored by the Monterey Peninsula Quilter’s Guild. There she was teaching the process of developing a quilt, based on a simple layout. It was great to have her look over my shoulder and agree with some of my choices, and to also agree when something wasn’t working right. This class for me gave me the “okay” – I felt that I did understand the artistic process, I was actually an artist! This confidence has given me the strength to go out and start showing and selling my work. Which pays for more materials and equipment, and more importantly drives me to create MORE! I am forever greatful for Melody’s help, both in person and online. I’m pretty sure that without her, I would still be stressing and angsting that I wanted to do my own thing, but didn’t know how!

collage2
Street Series: Each about 12" square

Here’s one of her dreams – I think it ought to happen!

My Daydream
My Daydream

Did I mention that quilting is her 2nd art career – she’s a painter too?

Asian Pear 12" x 12"
Asian Pear 12" x 12"
Veggies for Tommie
Veggies for Tommie
Splurge 30 x 40
Splurge 30 x 40

Every day for Melody is a new day, and she makes art for that day.

It's a New Day  16.75" x 16.5"
It's a New Day 16.75" x 16.5"

All photos in this post are from Melody’s blog & website, with her permission.

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