Quilts with a three-dimensional appearance are Karen Combs' specialty. This busy quiltmaker also designs fabric for Blank Textiles, Inc. and teaches across the U.S. Her latest book, Celtic Pieced Illusions, is published by the American Quilter's Society. Read more about Karen Combs in the Quiltmaker interview below, and on her website at karencombs.com.
How did you decide to make working with quilts a career? What led you in that direction?
Hmmm, that is a hard question. I have always loved quilting. Even as a teenager, I had a subscription to Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. I decided when my children were young to follow my bliss and turn my love of quilting into a career. I started teaching a beginning quilting class one night a week and fell in love with teaching.
What inspires your work? How do new ideas come to you in quiltmaking?
Many things inspire my work: art, architecture, mosaic floors, skyscrapers, wrought iron designs, the color of a sunset, traditional quilt blocks, the colors of flowers in a garden and an English herb garden are just some of the things that come to mind.
I keep a file of things that inspire me and look at these files from time to time. I also have a large library of art and architecture books. I love to look at them. I find my ideas "pop" in my head many days or months after viewing my inspiration material. For me, creativity cannot be rushed; the good ideas will come when it is the proper time.
How did you get started making quilts with 3-D illusions? What keeps you going? Any idea where you're headed next?
I love illusions. I love tricking the eye and making things appear different than their reality. Since these types of things fascinate me, I have studied illusions to discover how they are created. This keeps me going. I'm always moving toward the next discovery in creating illusions.
Headed next, I'm not sure. At this point, I want to keep playing with my new Celtic Pieced Illusions designs and keep playing with illusions. The ideas come to me as they will and I never know what they will be. It is fun to see what pops into my head.
If you could offer one piece of advice for quiltmakers today, what would it be?
Follow your bliss. Discover what you like to do and focus on that. When I first started quilting, I tried everything; machine piecing, hand piecing, appliqué, traditional and contemporary designs. By trying everything, I found I loved illusions, I loved machine piecing and I loved geometric designs. Once I discovered this, I could focus on my passion.
Karen Combs' Irish Lace quilt is patterned in the May/June '07 (No. 115) issue of QUILTMAKER magazine.