Pixeladies Turn 10!
It all started in 2003 in a 500 sq. ft. studio in Cameron Park, CA. Kris had moved back to Sacramento–unemployed, and Deb’s husband had just retired. It seemed to us as a good a time as any to start a business! That year we had been friends for 25 years. Despite meeting in the German department at CSUS (California State University, Sacramento), we became friends because we both loved fabric, yarn, and art. We were also computer geeks – Kris introduced Deb to Nota Bene, our first word processing program, and Deb helped Kris buy her first computer (which used 5 1/4” floppy disks, no less!). We knew we would have fun if we could combine fabric with computers.
Here was our initial thinking: printing on fabric for others would pay the bills while we attempted to create our own art. Sounded like a great plan to us. We went to quilt shows, scoped out vendors we thought were approachable and picked their brains. Gail Bird was one of those vendors. Gail gave invaluable advice and our first job — working on her website. Many opportunities presented themselves, and we tried many of them: printing on fabric for clients, designing silk scarves, teaching. It was all exciting, and we learned so much along the way. In our first class, three students made pillows from photos we had printed on fabric for them. Helping them create the photo “frame” was very gratifying. Also inspiring was listening to the stories our clients would tell us about the images we printed for them. Kris liked to say we were the hairdressers of the quilt world. Oh, the stories they told! These experiences formed the seed of our “Telling Your Stories in Cloth” design class.
We also tried different looks. Here we attempted a business look when we were interviewed on local television. You’ll notice we also tried different hairdos throughout the years and switched from contact lenses to bifocals.
Along the way, we made lots of friends, and it’s those friendships we cherish to this day. The first store to give us our big break was JR Flamingo in Sacramento. Judy Ross (pictured with Kris) and Susan Weir were generous with their advice and support. We also smile when we think about our first Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) meeting. After we sat down from showing the group what we were doing, a hand pulled Kris’s shoulder back and a voice whispered that we should keep creating because we were doing something special. That voice belonged to Cara Gulati, and she became our first friend in SAQA. We still turn to Cara for her friendship and guidance. Joining SAQA spurred us to focus on our own art.
As hard as we worked, we always made time for friends. Even if it was a big show like the International Quilt Festival Houston, we knew we needed a break to recharge. And nothing says recharge like a good game of mah-jjong. We won’t say we played for money – that would be gambling – but we will say mah-jjong is always accompanied with good food, especially if our friend Ann is cooking.
Hmm, now that we’re looking over the past ten years, we can see that we had A LOT of fun outside of work, too. Those season tickets to the Sacramento Monarchs basketball games gave us a great excuse for procrastination. (We really don’t suffer from creative blocks. It’s more the need to clear our minds to organize how we will proceed with a project.) It was a great season when we started making banners for each of the team members. It seems the team members liked the banners, and we were being eco-friendly by re-using the paper that backed our printing fabric. (We’re still mad that the owners folded the team.)
Sometimes it seems like work is just more fun, like when we were asked to speak to the Textile Arts Council at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. We were in awe of our moderator, Judith Content, and our fellow panelists, Charlotte Bird and Marion Coleman. Meeting and working with such great talents is one of the reasons we keep on creating.
Organizations and guilds have been a major part of our journey. They hire us to teach, they introduce us to fabulous people and they give us new ideas. It was after a 2009 Northern California Quilt Council meeting on publishing that we decided to try our hand at writing a book. It took two years from proposal to publication, but we were very proud of the results. Kris wrote the text, and Deb drew the illustrations. Our friend says we have complementary skill sets. She’s right, but we also worked hard on crafting a single creative vision from two distracted minds! Furoshiki Fabric Wraps is, in our minds, even more beautiful because of the furoshiki six of our artist friends created specifically for the book.
We like our work best when it tells a story. One day Deb was inspired to do a piece based on the construction of security gates in her neighborhood. Deb talked about how easy it was for the gate proponents to stoke fear in the residents. That became the topic of our first text quilt in 2007: “USA: Land of the Free, Home of the Fearful.” Deb thought the process of looking for random words and phrases in magazines and newspapers and then collaging them into an everyday object would appeal to Kris’ literary leanings. So we tried creating text quilts together! These quilts have taken us to places we never before dreamed we’d visit as artists — from San Francisco to Wilberforce, Ohio, and even New York City. We’ve now finished 11 text quilts and have many more in various stages in our minds and on paper. For us, this blending of the textual and the visual is exactly what we needed to tell our stories. Through it all it’s the collaboration that really drives each project: discussing a theme, deciding on the object to collage, and gathering the words and phrases. Then it’s back to the computer to scan the collage, print it on fabric, and finally to sew the quilt together.
When we were invited to be the featured quilters at the Mother Lode Quilters Guild in Sutter Creek, CA, we thought it would be a great opportunity to meet more of our fellow quilters and to share some of our techniques with the visitors. What we didn’t expect was the surprise at seeing our work displayed all together. It was the first time for us and spurred us on to work toward getting our first solo show in the future. We’re still working toward that goal.
In the meantime, we had the honor this year of having one of our text quilts exhibited along with many great art quilts at Quilt National 2013. And this text quilt brings us back to our relationship with the computer. We used Adobe Photoshop to reduce the values of the photo we had taken, to work out the composition of the quilt, to audition stitching lines, and of course to print the fabric. All that was done before we ever touched a needle. It’s our love of Photoshop as a tool for fiber artists that is taking us on our next adventures. We’ve been teaching Photoshop online for a couple of years, and it has been very rewarding. But in 2014 we have the opportunity to teach Photoshop in person at three fantastic locations: Kona, Hawaii; New Smyrna Beach, Florida; and Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
As we look back on these past ten years, we see how our journey as the Pixeladies has taken us down a winding but exciting road. We treasure that special journey, but we also can’t wait to see what lies ahead. We hope you’ll continue to follow us on this path and join us every now again for an adventure or two.