Monday, February 1, 2010

SAQA Artist Profile for February

Our SAQA Profile this month is:

Karen Hoekstra
From Grand Rapids, Michigan

How long have you been sewing and when did you begin making art quilts?

My mother and grandmothers were wonderful seamstresses who taught me much, but I never felt I could equal their expertise. While earning my art degrees in college, weaving classes drew me back to textiles and I continued weaving during the years of teaching art. However, physical limitations (my back didn’t like what I was asking it to do) slowly made operating the loom more challenging than enjoyable. Upon retirement, when finally I had the time needed to pursue my own art was the time I returned to my sewing machine and quilting.

Describe your art and its inspiration.

Before I could even begin to quilt, I decided I had better learn some “correct” quilting techniques, so I started with classes in strip piecing and free motion quilting. It was fun and the outcome was pleasant, but it wasn’t satisfying for me. It was when I added a class in free motion embroidery / thread painting taught by Carol Shinn, that the inspiration hit. I couldn’t work fast enough to keep up with all possibilities of putting these three techniques together. Piecing, layering, appliqueing, texture, integrating became a consuming process.
I basically have been working in two different ways. One method is to begin with a wash of paint on canvas just to suggest placement of forms that will be developed with thread painting. The overlapping and building of threads creates the image, usually completely obscuring the original painting. Some images are inspired from the world I see, others are reflections of an idea expressed abstractly.
The other method is to begin with a quilt. The bottom layer consists of an alternating integration of two strip pieced quilt designs. Shapes of transparent fabrics are then appliquéd to the quilt with the purpose of extending the existing block of color beyond their boundaries and adding an organic element to the rhythmic design. The thread painting further extends and integrates the existing shapes and colors.

Where do you do most of your artwork?
I do all of my art in a studio space in our home. It’s a loft area with wonderful lighting of a northern skylight and eastern windows, with a sense of space in every direction. The space is an inspiration in itself.

What are your goals?
I only started entering competitions during 2009 and was pleased to be accepted into shows and even more pleased to receive a couple of the awards. The response, of many positive comments and especially the thoughtful questions, that I experienced at my currant solo show was enough to make me quickly slip back into my teacher role. So who knows where that might lead but my goals right now are to simply continue with what has thrilled me for the past few years; exploring, designing, creating and showing my work. Since much of what I have done is now showing, it’s a good time to reflect on the direction I’m going. A pretty good guess is that it will not be in a straight line.
Do you teach, lecture, curate or have a business of your artwork?
I taught art for 39 years and now I take great pleasure in being selfish with my art time, spending my hours developing my own work.

Where can your work be seen?
From now till the end of February I am in two shows; a solo show titled Capturing Spirit, One Stitch at a time, in the Keeler Gallery at Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids, MI., and a group fiber show at Second CRC church in Spring Lake, MI.
You can also check out my web site at

What are your interests outside of art?
As the years go by the importance of family and friends are of prime important. Since we, my husband and I, are still raising our grandchildren, I am still savoring my mother role.
We designed and started building our own home 30 years ago but since parts still need to be finished or refinished there are always ongoing projects. Just this morning we were designing exterior light posts. Even light posts need a personal and creative touch, which demonstrates that art is not a separate part of my life. It affects the total quality of life.
Traveling has always been high on my list of priorities and we have been to many places in the world, but have many more yet to visit. While teaching I enjoyed taking students on local as well as overseas trips with emphasis on culture and art.
I push myself to do the physical routine challenges. I succeed better at some than others but always Align Centerenjoy cross-country skiing, roller blading and biking.

You can see more of Karen's art on her website at

No One Is an Island

The close interrelatedness of us humans with our environment is depicted with layers of transparency and thread. The symbolic images often change, become blurred or almost disappear as each shape interacts with its neighboring image.

Size: 36" x 32"
Medium: fabric, thread
Technique: quilting, applique,free motion embroidery

Finding Focus (detail)

Life experiences are not always clearly defined as the whole or as the part. Remember the question of whether we are seeing the forest or the trees? In this piece I'm using the woods as an image to play with both the whole and the part of our life experiences and how we move in and out of focus between them. Circles of light aid the focus, yet edges still blur as colors change and fade.
Size: 18"x40"
Medium: commercial fabric, thread
Technique: strip piece quilting, applique, free motion embroidery

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