Chatting with Jane…

Blogger: Kathy Schmidt, Quirks Ltd.

We are so very lucky! We have Jane Davila coming to teach for our guild in March! The workshops that she will be teaching for us are Nature Printing on Fabric and Outer Limits–Edge Finishing Techniques, which are a quick click away, on the guild home page. There may even still be spots left or take a chance on a waiting list. You never know when a spot will open up!

Now, you can certainly click on the link here to her website and explore all the wonderful things she does. I’m going to mention a few things here, just in case you haven’t heard of her or don’t really know the extent of her talents.

She starts with a wonderful description of herself…

HELLO! I’M JANE. I’m a girly-girl who’s good with power tools, a wordsmith, an artist mixing media, a textile designer, and a duck liner-upper. I’ve written three books and recorded 2 DVDs about art quilting and surface design, appeared on quite a few episodes of Quilting Arts TV (seen on PBS stations nationwide), and teach art quilting, surface design, and mixed media classes all over the world, as well as online. I also design textiles and homewares, help clients with custom woodworking projects (I’m a whiz with interior barn doors!), and offer e-design services for the decor challenged. I work from a light-filled loft studio in Bridgeport, Connecticut.”

And I really love the picture that introduces her and her sense of humor to us!

My super power is creating order from chaos, what’s yours? 🙂

With all the areas of exploration in her life, she certainly needs to keep things in order!

I was able to ask her a few questions so I’ll share her answers with you here.

What do you most wish for people to know about your work?

That you shouldn’t worry about being a “purist”. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Some of my favorite pieces break the “rules” about what quilting is or what printmaking is. I’ll often try a traditionally paper-based printmaking technique on fabric to see if I like the results. Sometimes something needs to be adapted for the change of surface, but often the results are wonderful, with or without minor changes. I also love to experiment with sewing techniques on non-fabric surfaces like paper, metal, and wood. So, don’t listen to the voice in your head that says “You shouldn’t…” or “that’s not how to do that…”; try it and see what happens.

Another thing is that not all art has to “say” something. I used to get caught up in whether or not my art was “important enough” or “meaningful enough”. Sure, a small portion of it is about my concerns over climate change or the migrant crisis, but more often it’s just about capturing a beautiful moment or celebrating a lovely form, be it flower, insect, or vintage camera. Sometimes the function of art is to give you something to think about, to challenge your world view, or to offer another opinion, but it can also be about beauty, wonder, joy, and the unexpected, without “deep hidden meaning”. Both approaches are valid, so I no longer get hung up on that “being enough” issue.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part is when I actually dig into the working part and start to see what’s in my head appear in front of me. I spend a good bit of time sketching and then working through any potential problems or concerns in my head before I get to the materials. It’s fun to make adjustments on the fly as a work progresses, to follow where it leads. I almost always find that the last piece I created is my favorite piece – soon to be replaced by the next latest piece! The other part of the creative process that I really enjoy is the research. For example, I made a series of mixed media works of birds on substrates shaped like houses. I knew that each work would be titled with the name of a bird that included the word “bird” – so lovebird, jailbird, angry bird, etc. I researched and found about 40 different birds with the word “bird” in its name. There are actually such creatures as secretary birds, stitch birds, pirate birds, and many more. These names gave me a neat starting point for inspiration when creating the artwork. As another example, the green figbird’s Latin name is Sphecotheres viridis, which led me to use a viridian green fabric as my background, and the songbird piece had sheet music as a design element. I’m definitely a word geek!

Was there anyone who was a big influence in your career?

I have a couple of people who were/are big influences – the first is my mom, Claire Oehler. She taught herself to quilt for the big bicentennial celebration in 1976 and then she went on to start a company, The Country Quilter, that eventually turned into the store and business that she owned and I managed for almost 20 years, producing whimsical children quilt patterns and books. She is an extraordinary quilt teacher and made certain that I was very well grounded in impeccable technique in all facets of quilting (I didn’t really have much quilt experience when we opened our store in 1990). She inspires me and is my biggest cheerleader. The second big influence was my father-in-law, the Peruvian abstract expressionist painter Alberto Davila. When my husband, Carlos, and I were first married we lived for a time in his native Lima, Peru. His father was a well-known and very accomplished painter and I had the privilege of accompanying him to his studio at least once a week for my time there. I would watch him work and we would talk about art, what it means to be an artist, life, creativity and inspiration, so many good topics! One memorable thing he told me, a very young and impressionable artist at the time, was that if you want to be taken seriously about being an artist, you have to show up and do the work. That is, treat your art as your job. Go to the studio every day, even when you don’t feel inspired. Clean and sort supplies, answer correspondence, order new supplies, take care of maintenance tasks, but go to the studio, show up, do something. He also stressed the importance of making work in volume without worrying too much at the beginning about perfection or mastery. It’s only by making work and a lot of work that you get better, that you find your voice, and that you master techniques. If you worry about every piece being perfect or being a masterpiece, you won’t grow as an artist. Not every piece is successful but every piece is a learning experience.

Our members always want to know where their teachers are coming from/live, if they have been to Ann Arbor before and if they have any connections in the area. Do you have anything you’d like to share about your home or travels?

I live and work in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bridgeport is an ethnically, culturally, racially, and economically diverse post-industrial city of about 100,000 right on the Atlantic Ocean (technically the Long Island Sound), a little over an hour from NYC and just under 3 hours from Boston, along route 95 (the highway that runs from Maine to Florida along the east coast). I work in a loft building filled with 3 dozen other artists called the NEST Arts Factory and my husband, a sculptor and painter, has his studio right next to mine. My studio is about 25 feet square with 11 foot high ceilings and big, beautiful windows. I create art, teach classes and workshops there, and I also manage the building and plan all of the events. It’s great having a

community of artists all around, ready to celebrate success and commiserate over challenges, to brainstorm, to inspire each other, and just to chat with when you’re ready for a break. We live close by in another factory loft, this one an old corset factory that was converted into condos, about 2 blocks from the ocean.

While the city has its challenges (like many cities in Michigan and around the US) being gritty, lacking traditional industry, and waiting for revitalization, it has a very active and vibrant artist population of over 300 creative souls, so it’s the ideal place for us to be.

I’ve been to Michigan a number of times, and find it beautiful and the people friendly and welcoming! Years ago, when I was a printmaker, I had several galleries that represented my work in Michigan and regularly visited them to deliver new work. I fondly remember the drive out to Southfield and Grand Rapids several times a year, and I’m really looking forward to meeting all of the wonderful quilters in Ann Arbor!


Thanks so much to Jane for taking time to share with us and we are looking forward to her visit. I hope YOU are one of the lucky ones able to take a class with her!

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This post was written by Kathy Schmidt

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