In the Angelica Kauffman Gallery, one of September 2022’s solo shows featured quilts and prints by Stephanie Capps Dyke.
For each solo artist, I send them questions and the interview is published on Instagram, a few questions and answers at a time, and then the whole interview is posted here on the blog.
Interview with Quilter Stephanie Capps Dyke
Q: You’re so inventive and you’re breaking all the quilting rules – which I love! With the quilts in this show you’ve got cut-outs, lace, polyester fabric, objects captured behind plastic or vinyl. What’s been your journey to working in a non-traditional way?
A: My mom is a talented sewist who caught the quilting bug in the ’70s. While I have always loved her work, traditional quilting has never been quite right for my own creative practice. A quilt is defined as having 3 layers: a top, a batting/wadding (or inner layer of some sort), and a backing. So, from my perspective, if I’ve met those three requirements, then the sky’s the limit. Micro-quilts are a great way to push boundaries in ways that might be hard to do with full-sized quilts.
Q: I LOVE the one with all the tiny objects behind a clear material. Where did the idea come from for that one? How did you choose that outer shape?
A: The tiny objects quilt is a test for a larger piece. It took me three tries to land on what worked. I’ve accumulated numerous bits and pieces of… stuff… over the years and I often wonder about the origins of these things. Many of these objects were saved in button boxes and junk drawers. Things that, for some reason, were too important to throw away, but never quite found their purpose. I’ve begun grouping and concocting stories for these little things; I hope people who view the quilt (and its eventual bigger version) will consider how these bits relate to each other and invent their own stories.
The overall shape is based on a unit you might find in a traditional English Paper Pieced (EPP) quilt. These are quilts made up of hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of hexagons. “Grandmother’s Flower Garden” is a common EPP quilt. Circles and hexies sort of behave the same way when you cluster them and this diamond shape is one configuration I really like.
Q: Tell us about the 100 Days of Weird Quilt Blocks. Did you end up sewing any of those designs you made for that 100 Day Project? What did you get out of that challenge?
A: 100 Days of Weird Quilt Blocks was my 100 Days project a few years ago. There is one inspiring quilter who made 100 little quilt blocks for her 100 Days project but I didn’t think that would be sustainable for me. I’m not much of a painter but the idea of making small quilty paintings seemed like an appealing way to get outside my box. The originals are primarily watercolors, with a few gouaches thrown in. If you look at them in sequence, you can see my painting skills got a little better over time.
I did make some of the weird quilt blocks into real blocks! After the 100 days, I posted a group of 9 every week on Instagram for 11 weeks and let my followers choose which one I’d make. I ended up with a total of 12 blocks; 11 crowd-sourced, plus one I chose. The quilt featuring them is still in progress but I’m shooting for early 2023.
Q: I love hearing about how artists feel about making micro work. How does it relate to your full size work? What did you think of making mini work? Will you make more? Did you try anything completely new, or that you would be hesitant to do at a larger scale?
A: I LOVE making tiny quilts! The group in this show are not my first and definitely will not be my last. As you can imagine, bed-sized quilts can be very time consuming to create. Micro quilts, doll quilts, and small wall-hangings are super for trying out ideas with less of a time commitment. Kind of like a proof of concept.
Some of the materials and techniques I used for this group of pieces could be challenging in a larger quilt. For example, the quilt featuring a “furry” embroidered center and pieces made from pink and black fused plastic would be hard to create at scale without swapping out materials. A few of the vintage fabrics I used would also be unsuitable, or too fragile, in a larger piece. But that’s the beauty of working small! You can do things that would otherwise be difficult or impossible.
On the flip side, working small has a few drawbacks too. Some materials are simply too thick or unwieldy. And some details can get lost when you scale down. But it’s also fun to find ways to overcome those limitations.
I have a few doll-quilt sized pieces in progress but I will be exploring more ideas on the micro scale when those are complete.
Q: I recognize you as a fellow collector of things. And I can imagine that you are sometimes inspired to make a piece by the material that you collect? How long have you been a collector and what are the kinds of things that make your heart sing? That simply must go home with you?
A: Sometimes an item motivates me to create a piece, sometimes an item will reveal itself to be the solution to completing a peice.
I have been a collector as long as I can remember. Much to my mother’s dismay – and detriment to the washing machine – I was the kid who always came home with pockets full of “pretty” or “special” rocks.
Today, my collections fall into two categories: things I seek and things that find me. The things I seek are what most people consider a true collection: old toys, vintage sewing notions, and the like. I love odd and clever things, especially if they are vintage/antique. If it really, really speaks to me and I can afford it, it probably joins the collection.
On the other hand, things that find me would probably be considered trash by many people. Packaging with interesting graphics, scraps of ephemera, intriguing bits of plastic or metal, stuff that might be found in a junk drawer.
One of the most thrilling things that came my way was a gallon freezer bag filled with a collection of tiny, fascinating junk from an antique button dealer. It was all the non-button bits and bobs she had separated from dozens of estate sale button boxes/tins. I continue to use this treasure trove of inspiration in my work.
I’m pretty much a magpie. Colorful (neon! gaudy!) and shiny always catches my eye. I still have to remember to search my pockets when I do laundry!
A textile artist with a snarky sense of humor and a pathological love of neon colors, Stephanie creates quilts and mixed media pieces. Some are thought provoking, some are funny, some are just nice to look at.