Artist Interview One: Annette Kennedy, Fiber Artist.

posted in: Art, Art Story, Faith, Quilts | 0

Connecting with childhood friends can be interesting… yes, very interesting, especially when you are an artist and you discover that old friend of yours is too. Since 2003, Annette Kennedy has been creating pictorial art quilts that incorporate hand-dyed, painted, and commercial fabrics, paint and thread, based on photographs that she has taken. Like me, her work focuses mainly on nature. Annette and I have known each other since we were little girls— it is so long ago, but it seems like I have always known her.

I reconnected with Annette via social media at her brother’s suggestion when all my old classmates started showing up on Facebook. Annette noticed me on Instagram, but we hadn’t really chatted until I decided I wanted to blog about her and her amazing quilts.

Ruth: When I see quilts like yours, I know they are made by a very skilled needle worker, someone with a lot of experience— when did you start sewing?

Annette: I started sewing as a very young girl. My mother and grandmother made most of my clothes, so as soon as I was old enough, I started sewing and making my own clothes too.

Ruth: Having a good foundation in sewing, when did you build on that by deciding to sew a quilt? That is a tremendous leap of faith in your skills.

Annette: My mother and grandmother got me started doing traditional quilting, all by hand, in the early ’90s. I thought it took too long to make a quilt that way, so I quit halfway through my second quilt. In the mid ’90s, my mom and grandma started making their quilts by machine, which really speeded up the process, so I got interested again and made a few traditional patchwork quilts.

Ruth: And here is yet another leap of faith, from following the traditional patterns to creating art with fabric, stitch, and paint. What was the catalyst for that transformation?

Annette: I’ve always had a creative bent, and love working with my hands, but do not have a formal art education.  I’ve done lots of needle arts over the years and I did some folk-art painting in the ’80s.  Gardening has always been a big part of my life too, along with music

I started entering quilt shows and won many awards early on, which gave me the needed opportunities to teach my techniques around the country for 10- years.

In 2003, we moved to Colorado where I was exposed to art quilting and I fell in love with it right away. I was especially drawn to the pictorial style of art quilts. I had always loved to take photos and was taking a lot of landscape photos while hiking in the Rocky Mountains. I wanted to turn some of my photos into quilts. It took several technique classes in order to get me started and soon I had developed my own step by step process to turn a photo into a quilt. I very quickly started painting on my quilts to increase the visual depth, which was something I had learned about it in doing folk-art painting. I started entering quilt shows and won many awards early on, which gave me the needed opportunities to teach my techniques around the country for 10- years.

So many people seemed to love my quilts, and I was willing to sell them, but because they took so long to make, I had to price them very high. In 2005, I turned my quilt making and teaching into a business and it didn’t make sense to sell them at a loss. So, I started having gift items made with my quilt images on them to sell so people could purchase a form of my art without having to spend a lot of money. Those items (buttons, cards, magnets, coasters, trivets, mugs, paper, metal and canvas prints) have sold very well for me in Boulder and Estes Park, which are tourist towns near where I lived. Most of my images are local landscapes, so they appeal to the visitors of the area.

I was part owner of an artist coop for several years and have had my art items in several local shops. I’ve participated in many local artist studio tours, but I have never been a part of a high-end gallery as I just don’t make quilts fast enough for gallery representation. I’ve done two commissions, but don’t enjoy that process so, I haven’t done anymore. My husband has always been very supportive of my artistic endeavors. 

Ruth: After many years and lots of successes, I sense you aren’t ready to stop. What you are creating now?

Annette: In 2015, we had a house built with a large wet and dry studio space for me to work in. At that point, I gave up teaching to just work on my art, which I have been doing ever since. I have continued to enter shows, sell my art items in shops, and have studio tours.

I also ran across eco dyeing and printing about 8- years ago, which is using plants, leaves, and flowers to dye and mark the fabric. As a gardener and nature lover, I couldn’t resist the draw to start making eco-dyed and printed silk scarves, which I also sell.

Ruth: This is probably the question I am most interested in, what are your plans for the future?

Annette: Well, I’m thinking about slowing down a bit. I’ve been working on my art for 30 to 50 hours a week for many years. I am currently planning to give up making the silk scarves in a year or two. I don’t think I will ever give up making my art quilts though. They are just part of who I am and what I love to do.

Ruth: When I looked at your website and followed your Instagram posts, I saw the fruit of all your work. It is obviously a labor of love. I wonder about your transition from the beginning of your business to where you are now, how you have evolved and thrived creatively— what was that journey like?

I have always been an optimist and tend to take on more than I should, but you don’t know how something will turn out if you don’t try.

Annette: I’ve met lots of wonderful artists and people along my journey. I’ve tried new things and ideas and have been stretched in many ways. As a one-person business, I can only do so much. I have always been an optimist and tend to take on more than I should, but you don’t know how something will turn out if you don’t try. I still have new things that I want to try, in my art, and as a business. I can’t imagine living without a purpose and without goals. My art gives me that and so much satisfaction.

Ruth: Since we grew up together in a small Brethren church known for the simple life, I want to know if and how your faith is involved in the creative process.

Annette: I believe making art for me has been a calling on my life. In my early year’s music was a big part of my life and ministry. Now, creating pieces of art that bring beauty, joy, peace, wonder, and awe to my own and other’s lives is what brings me joy and a sense of purpose.

Ruth: I have chosen four of your quilts, I wanted you to talk to me about. I love the creative process and I always want to know what inspires someone to create a work of art and how the creative process unfolds.

Lake at Treeline (Fiber Art ‐ Textiles ‐ 42" x 51")

The first piece is Summer Lake at Treeline (Fiber Art ‐ Textiles ‐ 42″ x 51″)

Annette: The Brainard Lake Recreation Area near Ward, CO is close to my home. It is in a glacial-carved valley and because of the high elevation, the trails can be snow-packed until early or mid-July. Summer, there is quite short and cool, but delightful. We hike the trails often and I take a lot of photos. I decided to quilt a photo I took from the park. I got the name of the lake wrong for my title and when a friend of mine saw it, he corrected me and told me, “No, that is Long Lake.”

Ruth: That is amazing, that your quilts are so real-like to the point that a person who knows the area can identify where they reference. I imagine that adds a lot of value for people who want to remember visiting the area.

I love this second piece because although, it is a seascape it is very abstract. Where did the idea to handle the subject in this manner come from?

A Bird’s Eye View (Fiber Art ‐ Textiles ‐ 33″ x 46″)

Annette: We lived in Puerto Rico for 4- years on the Roosevelt Roads Navy base in the early ’90s, which had 5- beaches. I think all we did was spend time on the beach, I have wonderful memories of that time. This quilt was made from my memories of not of any particular beach, but the total experience of having been there and the beauty and peace I felt.

Ruth: I chose this next one because it is a subject I have painted. In general, I love tropical plants because of the 13- years I spent in Florida.

Tropical Beauty (Fiber Art ‐ Textiles ‐ 44″ x 28″)

Annette: This Heliconia plant was created from my photo taken at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The plant evoked memories of my time in Puerto Rico being surrounded by so much beauty and all the wonderful tropical plants that were so new to me.

Ruth: Yes, having grown up in Ohio, like we did. I guess that is why I love them too.

Annette: I wanted to emphasize on the shadows that were cast by the sun. I painted the sky fabric in the background on white fabric before putting it onto the surface of the quilt. The shadows were done with paint also.

Ruth: While getting ready to talk to you— I studied the work on your website and one of the things I looked at was the painting.

Annette: What I love about the paint is that it is transparent like watercolor and although, it stains the fabric, the texture below still shows through.

Ruth: I saw that, but I also found it hard to tell where the paint was. I knew it was in the shadow because you had written that in the description that it was there.

The last one is the Mountain Chapel. (Fiber Art ‐ Textiles ‐ 53″ x 43″) Tell me about this.

Annette: Mountain Chapel is a side view of the Saint Catherine Chapel, also known as the Chapel on the Rock, in Allen Spark, CO.  It is a much-photographed landmark on State Highway 7.  I took numerous photos of it and decide on the side view. The front of the chapel is beautiful. I had planned to quilt that view next. This quilt took me around 500- hours to create. When I finished it, I had no desire to quilt the front view— I was done. As you can see, there is just so much detail in the stonework.

The sky was painted on white fabric too before applying it to the quilt top. Shadows and small details were painted on the surface in order to increase the visual depth. This art quilt is now part of the permanent collection of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY, which is a real honor for me.

How that all came about because I entered the AQS (American Quilter’s Society) Quilt Show and Contest and won Best Wall Quilt Purchase Award, in Paducah, (KY). As part of the purchase award, my quilt became part of the museum’s collection.

Ruth: How do you decide what to create next? This is a subject that always interests me.

Annette: I chose to use photos that excite me as the inspiration for my quilts. I love to use the paint to add depth. Painting on the fabric is my favorite part of the process. When I create a quilt for a show, the requirements and restrictions for that show will determine the size of the quilt. The amount of time I have until the show deadline can determine the complexity of a quilt, other than that, I create what I want to.

Let me send you some photos that show what happens to a pictorial quilt when the paint is added. I created two quilts for a class so my students could see the difference. I will send the reference photo too. I hope that the dramatic results would motivate my students to embrace this process.

Ruth: thank you so much for taking the time to share about yourself and your art. I am in love with all the color and texture. They are amazing pieces of art.

Annette: Thank you for asking me.

Photo Reference – Unpainted Fabric – Painted Fabric – Finished Quilt

You will want to follow this amazing artist online. I have been following her for at least five years now on social media and I am never disappointed by her posts. Annette travels often and lets you see what all she is taking in. She regularly shares her art and the process she goes through to create it. You can find Annette on Facebook,

And on Instagram at Annette_kennedy_art. Her website is annettekennedy.com/.

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