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Friday
Mar132009

Featured Artist: Martha May



Have you ever admired the work of an artist whose style, method or design is instantly recognizable, and wondered when you will find your voice, like they have found theirs? Signature artists have always inspired me. No matter what the setting or media I see their work in, it is instantly recognizable (for quilts, think Carol Bryer Fallert, Jane Wasserman or Michael James). With each new project I start, I wonder if it is going to be the piece that reveals my own signature.

I have recently met someone who set me free of trying to find my signature. She is an accomplished artist who is comfortable altering techniques and moving into and out of various styles, depending on what she wants to accomplish with her current project or theme. Imagine!

Her name is Martha May, and this week I had the opportunity to learn a bit about her work and experiences. She attended the Corcoran School of Art and has a background in sculptural ceramics and art photography. Her ceramic work was textural and temporal, often including muslin and paper--a foreshadowing of later involvement in textiles. She showed her work in many venues and exhibitions, including the Martin Luther King library and an international Sculpture Conference in Washington, DC., before taking a hiaitus to raise her family.

Although she was busy with family responsibilities, her antsy nature led her to try quilting. She started by learning critical technical skills with quilting cottons and traditional quilts. However, an introduction to a quilt made of Thai Ikat cloth scraps spun her off in a new creative direction. Martha says, "I've always played with textiles. I started exploring contemporary quilts when I moved to New England from Northern Virginia. I went to the Pioneer Valley quilt show where I saw a quilt by Jean Thibodeau. Her quilt was the only contemporary one there, and was truly an inspiration to me. That quilt, along with a quilt challenge I joined and seeing the quilt made of Thai Ikat cloth, were impactful to me and they spurred my first true contemporary quilt, around 1992. Through that, I have never gone back to traditional quilting. I stuck out like a sore thumb in my quilt circle, and then began taking courses at the Fiber Art Center, and decided to get myself a long arm. Because I have a background in art, I have always liked to push the envelope of my medium."

Martha's work appeared in the Summer, 2006, issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors; the 2006 World Quilt and Textile Show in Manchester, NH; and various student and member shows at the (late) Amherst Fiber Arts center. She also does professional quilting under the name of Quilt Works (yamathram{at}gmail.com).
She currently wants to do more thread sketching and surface design. In her own words, "I want to use the machine to do drawing for me. I make some thread lace, and am dabbling in that, as well. I also love hand work. I am all over the place!"

So much for needing a signature look. Now I can concentrate on the ideas, materials, techniques and creativity that make me love creating quilts of all kinds. Thanks, Martha!

Here are some shots of Martha's work. Enjoy!


These two represent Martha's take on a traditional quilt.


"By the Sea"


"Rufus"

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References (1)

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  • Response
    Happen to be in search of this and found even more than predicted in this article. Many thanks.

Reader Comments (2)

Martha's work is amazing and her willingness to try new techniques and styles inspiring. I always look forward to seeing her new projects because they are always so different from her past work.

March 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I agree, Rebecca. She is willing to take her art in a variety of directions. She can embrace a variety of styles!

March 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarcia Young

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