Well known in Colorado as a teacher of a class called "Language of Color and Design," Heather Thomas uses color as a basis for creativity. Heather creates her own patterns and art quilts.
Learn more about Heather in this interview from Quiltmaker magazine, and on Heather's website, leftyandthequeen.com.
How did you decide to make working with quilts a career? What led you in that direction?
I began quilting about 19 years ago, and I learned rather quickly that I couldn't follow the instructions in patterns. So I began designing my own work. I've always been the ringleader, (for better or for worse) so I thought teaching would be fun. I only wanted to teach classes with my own designs, which led to publishing them. Now I feel like I run the gamut of quilting: teaching full-time, publishing 80-plus patterns and kits, maintaining a website, lecturing and showing my art quilts in shows and galleries.
What inspires your work? How do new quiltmaking ideas come to you?
I wish I could say that I'm inspired by some wonderful esoteric thing, but my inspiration is really just my imagination and my desire to learn and conquer. I'm told that I'll never be a famous quilter because my pieces look so different from each other; that I haven't found my style. But I believe that I have found my style–it's to try something new with every piece. For me it is about the experience, the journey of creating and experimenting; it's not about the finished product. If I see someone using a new product, or using an old product in a new way, I might play with the idea until it becomes my own. I'm fascinated by art and artist and try to experience art as often as I can–daily if possible. I'm always excited when I learn something from another medium that I can bring to quiltmaking.
Your class entitled "The Language of Color and Design" is well known in the Rocky Mountain region. How was it developed?
I've been working in quilt stores for years and have built a reputation for being good at choosing fabrics for customers. About 8 years ago, I spent some time studying color with a group of guild friends. When we finished the study, I was so excited by what I had learned and I was greedy to get my hands on more information. I began studying art and color from the Bauhaus artists and instructors, and I fell head over heels in love with Kandinsky, Klee, Albers and Itten. I studied every work of theirs that I could get my hands on, and I immersed myself in the work of other artists from many eras and in many styles. I used my new-found knowledge with every new piece I created and started sharing information with my students in other classes I taught. After many students requested a class on color, I developed the one-year study that I'm still teaching.
I knew the only way to teach color was through experience. I felt that shared experiences would help students grow, so I based the class on show and tell. I've had over 1200 people complete the course. Now I'm also teaching classes in advanced design and surface embellishment.
If you could offer one piece of advice to quiltmakers today, what would it be?
To let go of the fear, to relax and enjoy it. Quiltmaking is not brain surgery–no one lives or dies because of your perfection or lack thereof. Enjoy the process of creating. It will make you want to create more–and the more you create, the better your creations will be.
Heather Thomas's Garden Rhapsody quilt appears in the May/June 2006 issue of Quiltmaker magazine.