Daphne Taylor: Inspire an awe of beauty and calm
Daphne Taylor’s close association with the Quaker traditions has always been a strong influence in her life as well as her work. Like the complex silence felt in a Quaker meeting, the world within Daphne’s quilts is hardly a straightforward place.
Daphne’s work has been widely exhibited, throughout the US as well as abroad.
In this interview Daphne shares how her passion for drawing and painting is the main inspiration for her textile art.
One cuff and sleeve said it all
TextileArtist.org: What initially attracted you to textiles as a medium? And, more specifically, how was your imagination captured by Quilts?
Daphne Taylor: As I have always sewn, drawn and painted to my hearts content, the quilt gives me the format of a wide open canvas with which to explore my visual ideas.Two influential memories that inspired my interest in needlework traditions:
- A visit to a textile show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in my early 20’s is memorable for the time I spent studying the embroidered needlework and fabrication of a shirt’s cuff and sleeve. There was all the design, the color, the rhythms and patterns that I love. One cuff and sleeve said it all – the fabric construction and the surface of colored threads sewn and manipulated to create a magnificent, visual moment.
- Silk is a painter’s cloth. I was given a stash of antique kimono fabric scraps years ago. From these I learned to ‘piece’, and found myself creating small, pieced, (I saw it as collage) squares that were all about color relationships within a traditional star pattern. While I was learning a technique, my interests were those of a painter, that is composing and finding the influence of various colors onto each other. The silks have a surface and luminosity that create different color experiences under different light circumstances. A vast field of off white silk is a stunning surface for the eye to gaze over. This is where I have often begun with my work, envisioning the progression of adding various quilted, shadow lines into this sea of white silk. It takes so little to start a conversation about drawing and painting.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life upbringing influenced your work?
My quilts are influenced by my Quaker roots, which give me a deep appreciation for the power of silence and simplicity. As a child they were common practice and part of a way of life that influenced life choices for which I am grateful. Early quilt works were influenced directly by studying drawings from my sketch books – curious as to my own marking, my own line – we all have our own. Selecting lines that were reminiscent of landscape and figure is where I began, creating simple compositions of embroidered lines and hand quilting that started a dialogue of drawing with line and shadow. The imagery of my quilts is inspired by a deep interest to create works that inspire an awe of beauty and calm, and encourage the viewer to experience a quiet presence. My yoga and meditation practice have also influenced the imagery of my quilts in this past decade. Many of the formal shapes in design cross over into the history of sacred geometry: the circle, square and triangle. Such intersections of influences give deeper intention to each quilt I undertake.
A deep creative spirit
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I was born with a deep creative spirit, which my parents nurtured and encouraged. I was always making, be it in the kitchen or in the woods creating small houses, drawing or painting. I was fortunate to attend art school and to be involved with a variety of art programs. I don’t think one becomes an artist, rather you are one, and your surroundings and choices nurture where you take it.
Tell us a bit about your chosen techniques.
The act of sewing a line, manipulating fabric has always been a rich creative act for me. While my work may be abstract in nature, it is extremely traditional in honoring classic needlework techniques. I hand quilt and use simple embroidery stitches.
How do you use these techniques in conjunction with quilted fabric?
My work is very simple in technique. I honor the tradition of hand quilting and embroidery and spend hours sewing stitch by stitch to create the aura of light and shadow within a whole piece of fabric or one that has a minimal color field.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I would describe my work as minimal in nature. My white pieces in particular lend themselves to the conversation of what drawing is about. I don’t ponder where it fits into the contemporary art scene, as that does nothing to nurture ones creative process.
I am most interested in how I explore my own creative process, and the more honest and open I am to this, the more my work invites a conversation that is relevant to the present.
Do you use a sketchbook? If not, what preparatory work do you do?
I have always had a sketchbook and I find it an important tool in keeping one involved with daily drawing and thinking. Keeping a sketch book has always given me great pleasure as it is where I just draw with no judgement and in which I can scribble notes and create a visual journal that reflects where I am in my life.
A good amount of creative angst
Tell us about your process from conception to conclusion.
I am always looking for the threads of daily life that could influence my work. There is always a landscape, a season, a story where I am sewing that quilt, there is always a design choice of color and concept, and there is always an intention full of hope and determination that I wish to pull from the cloth. None of my work is pre-planned. I have a vision or aura that I am curious to pursue. In each new quilt there is often some technical element that I am exploring to expand my visual vocabulary of line, shading and shadow using thread and needle. Each piece takes close to a year to complete and it is always a period of deep faith, curiosity, patience and a good amount of creative angst. I thrive on the restless unknown, knowing that this is the essence of honest, creative process for me. With almost every quilt, at around four or five months into the quilting, I ask myself “What am I doing, what’s going on here, nothing is working”. It is always this moment that I have come to value as the moment when the true work of what I am going after is being challenged for clarity and I rise to answer it. It is here I trust faith and all that I am.
Who have been your major influences and why?
Teachers, dear friends and family have all been influential in how I lead my life, make choices and explore my work as an artist.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Keep a sketch book, draw, reflect.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
As I make very few quilts I am quite selective of where to show my work. I am most interested in showing my work in venues that honor drawing and painting and view works in textile as such.
Where can readers see your work this year?
My website daphnetaylorquilts.com keeps the public informed with what I am up to.
Let us know what your favourite aspect of Daphne’s work is by leaving a comment below.