Anita Shackelford is an award-winning quiltmaker, author and instructor, and a fabric designer for P&B Textiles. A love of antique quilts has inspired her to study 19th century styles and techniques, and influenced patterns in several of her books. Pennsylvania Plain & Fancy is available from Thimble Works at www.thimbleworks.com, and Coxcomb Variations, Three Dimensional Applique & Embroidery Embellishment and Infinite Feathers Quilting Designs can be purchased from the American Quilter's Society at www.aqsquilt.com.
How did you decide to make quiltmaking a career? What led you in that direction?
I have been making quilts since 1967; traditional in style, of course, because the idea of quilts-as-art had not yet arrived.
In the early 1980s I designed two family album quilts, made with original designs and incorporating a number of dimensional techniques inspired by nineteenth century quilts. As the quilts were shown and began to win awards, people asked how I had created them. That led to requests to teach for guilds and shows around the country, and eventually, to a book contract. In retrospect, I guess you could say that the career found me.
What inspires your work? How do new ideas come to you in quiltmaking?
I love everything about mid-nineteenth century quilts and I continue to be inspired by them. I enjoy the quirkiness of simple folk art applique and the complexity of the more elaborate album designs. I think I could work in variations of red and green forever. Although I sometimes piece, applique and quilt by machine, my best quilts are still hand appliqued and hand quilted. Many incorporate trapunto, fine background quilting and a piped binding, as you would find in a "best" nineteenth century quilt.
You have written books, designed tools and fabric lines, and have a very busy lecture schedule. How do you fit it all in? Any new products you're working on now?
I have always been busy -- working as a nurse and raising a family gave me many years of practice in prioritizing, time management and balancing several schedules at once. I am balancing different things now, with a very busy travel schedule, and time at home devoted to family, running a web-business, writing, designing, and finding time to make some new quilts.
I have published three books in the past year: Infinite Feathers Quilting Designs, Ohio Collection and Pennsylvania Plain & Fancy. The last two were self-published and coordinate with the "Pennsylvania Plain & Fancy" fabric collection that I designed for P&B Textiles. I really enjoy writing and am sure I will continue to do that. I've been asked to do a second line of fabric for P&B and will begin work on that soon. I do feel the time crunch now and then, and must remind myself to take a breath, narrow the focus, sit and quilt........
If you could offer one piece of advice for quiltmakers today, what would it be?
I suppose a single piece of advice might be to follow your heart. Make the quilts you want to make. I try to keep a good balance between "users" and "keepers". Many of my quilts are elaborate and labor-intensive and not meant for every day use. But now, with grandchildren, I am making a number of quilts to be used and shared and enjoyed in that way.
Try not to be influenced too much by current trends. It's easy to be caught up in what the rest of the world is doing and sometimes a difficult lesson that we can't do everything. With limited time, we must choose carefully. Give each quilt the time it deserves, do your best work, and most of all, enjoy the process.
Award-winning quiltmaker Anita Shackelford shares her Pennsylvania Reel pattern in the November/December 2003 (#94) issue of Quiltmaker magazine.