African Odyssey II
African Odyssey II

You have just been appointed president of The Quiltersí Guild. What does this involve? I work to promote the Guild to a wider audience. In particular, we are trying to encourage young people to become part of this growing and vibrant organisation. With the help of the volunteer officers and staff, I am also striving to ensure that the Governance of the Guild is fulfilled.

As exhibitions officer you were very involved in the first Festival of Quilts at the NEC. Did you imagine it would be such a huge success? Yes. I had every faith, right from the beginning. The quilts are the stars of the show and everyone who enters should be proud to have their work displayed at such a prestigious event. If their work is awarded a prize, then thatís an added bonus!

What are you most looking forward to at this yearís show? Not having to hang the quilts! But seriously, it will be great to spend time looking properly and talking to the exhibitors and visitors.

Will your own quilts be on display? Yes, I have some work in the New Horizons Textile Group exhibit and The Quiltersí Guild Collection exhibition that is part of the new Guild book. Oh, and I also have a section in the New Horizons group quilt!

Although itís early days yet, do you expect to have to give up sewing while you are president or will you still find time to quilt? In answer to the first part, I hope not! I will have to find time to quilt, as my work goes into exhibitions and besides, I would get withdrawal symptoms from my sewing machine.

Reflections VIII
Reflections VIII

How long have you been quilting? 31 years by the time you read this. I had a go while I was still at school, but really got into quilting just after I got married in 1974. My children have grown up with my work all around them Ė literally sometimes.

Your work has had several very prominent themes over the years, such as the log cabin with attitude or the indigo series. Do you enjoy working in a series and do you think it contributes to the development of your work? I donít intentionally think about working in a series, it just kind of happens. I get into a particular theme and then get carried away experimenting! It also depends on the way the mood takes me, I sometimes only make one or two items to a particular theme. I think the indigo theme will be around for a while yet though.

If you had to restrict yourself to one technique, what would it be and why? Oh, this is a difficult one. I like to use several techniques, but I suppose it would be machine piecing - designing as I go. The quilting would be mostly by machine.

Where do you store your stash and how much fabric do you have? All around the house Ė well thatís what the family would say! I work in the kitchen/ dining room with plastic stacking boxes around me, and a polystyrene design wall that lives on top of a cupboard when not in use. Itís really a sewing room with the kitchen and dining room in the way!

Reflections VI
Reflections VI

I am looking forward to the day that I have a room I can call a studio. As far as the amount of fabric that I have, well you know that saying, Ďshe who dies with the most fabric winsí. I think I am a very strong contender for the title!

Do you have any advice for those just starting out on their quilting journey? Just enjoy what you are doing Ė weíve all made mistakes on the way so donít give up if something goes wrong. Look upon it as a learning experience. Try both hand and machine techniques until you find the oneís you prefer. Join a group or class, itís great fun and you can spend time with people who have a shared interest.

Which is your favourite museum for textile inspiration? The Victoria & Albert Museum for textiles and The British Museum for inspiration.

Which quilters do you most admire and why?Pauline Burbidge, because her work is just so painterly and technically exquisite; Elizabeth Brimelow, for the same reasons; June Barnes, need I say more; and Jan Myers-Newbury for introducing me to the wonders of hand dyeing fabric and Shibori.

African Jewels, detail
African Jewels, detail

Do you belong to any quilting groups? Oh yes. London Quiltersí, Marsh Quiltersí, New Horizons Textile Group and Odyssey Textile Group.

Do you have a favourite quilt that you have made?At the moment it is African Odyssey II, though my favourite changes as I make new pieces.

Do you still have your first quilt? Yes, itís very simple, randomly pieced 8in squares of cotton seersucker. Itís not quilted, and at the moment I canít find it, although I think itís in the loft.

What are your quilting aims and aspirations for the future? Iíd like to see sewing brought back into the schools classroom and to see Patchwork and Quilting as part of the syllabus for Stitched textile degrees. We need to get more young people involved in the art and craft of quilt making. Iíd also like to write some books on quilt making techniques, continue teaching, make lots more quilts and to work hard to ensure the continued success of the Guild during my time as President.

Janice is in great demand as a artist and teacher. She runs workshop classes and lectures on a wide variety of topics and techniques. You can find details of these and her latest books by visiting her website, Janice Gunner. This year Janice is offering a Shibori Summer School in Essex, further details from her website as before.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 13 Number 9 - August 2005