Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Meet Oregon SAQA Co-Rep SHERRI CULVER - Focus on Portraiture

SHERRI CULVER of Portland, Oregon

SAQA member since 2013
Sherri Culver
How would you describe the work that you make? Do you have an “elevator speech”? Have you found your artistic voice?
For the past many years I have been focusing my work on quilt portraits.  I have always been fascinated by faces and have grown even more so as I laser in on the subtle differences that make people unique.  While I admire the painting and thread-work of other portrait quilters, I feel my best work utilizes commercial fabrics to create the entire portrait.  I believe I have found my artistic voice in portraiture and am challenged anew with every piece I create.

What brought you to making fiber art? What is your art, sewing, or fiber background? When did you make your first quilt that you considered “art”?

I never had any intention of sewing or becoming an artist of any kind.  No interest in it whatsoever.  I became hooked, literally, into quilting by my step-daughter, who insisted I make her a quilt as a wedding gift.  I hated the process, but I had bought lots of supplies and felt I needed to use them.  Then cascade of wedding quilts and baby quilts came tumbling down upon me. In 2005, I made a quilt to commemorate my parents’ 50th anniversary/ three-generation family reunion in Colorado.  I loved the challenge of figuring out how to create the pieces and parts of the quilt.  That same love of “figuring    things out” carries into my portrait work.

Describe the steps involved in your art-making process.
Charlie, Keith, Mick and Ronnie
Sherri Culver

I begin with a photo.  When I first started, I needed a very high resolution image, but I have gotten to the place where I can fill in the pieces to a degree. This is always the challenge when I do a portrait of a person from a low resolution Internet image.  When I use an image from the Internet, I credit the photographer, when I can determine who it was, not always the case.  

 I use Photoshop Elements to crop the image and separate it into values.  The primary challenge is finding fabrics that read as solids and represent the range of values I require.  In early days I tried to find fabrics that were as close to the skin tones of my subject as I could.  Quite a challenge!  Many of my choices were never right and, as a result, I have a huge “pound of flesh” that will never be in a quilt.  The transition from fabric shop to portrait is a rugged one for sure.  Currently, I am doing a lot of work in grey-scale.

 I back all of my fabric with Trans Web, the best fusible, in my opinion.  Once the portrait is assembled on a teflon appliqué sheet, I raw edge appliqué.

What is your one favorite or most common source of inspiration?
My family.

Do you enter your work in shows? What would you say have been your top three exhibits?
I had a solo show and was invited to participate in two invitational shows while I lived in Ohio. And I have had four quilts in Houston, winning a third place in portraits in 2013.  

Describe your studio space.
After enjoying the entire third floor of our house in Ohio for my studio, I have adapted to a decent sized bedroom here in Portland.  And I had to incorporate my office into the space as well.  It works amazingly well.  At the moment, only a person with a great sense of balance and tolerance for pins can walk across  the room without injury, but it keeps the snoopers out!

How much time do you spend on your art? How do you balance your life between art, family, friends, day job, etc.?
One of the beauties of being old is that my kids have moved out and I don’t have a job.  I work on my quilts almost exclusively from 8 to 11 PM every night.  I rarely miss, unless I have an evening event.  And I rarely quilt during the day,  unless I have a deadline, and I avoid them, if possible.  This leaves my days free for friends, family and the work of living.  And just in case my quilting schedule hasn’t made your jaws drop, I read for an hour or so after I finish in the studio.  That is why I don’t like to schedule early morning meetings!

Do you work in other mediums or use unusual materials in your work?
I am not an explorer or a dabbler.  I have chosen my process and use other materials and processes only to take my portraits to a different place.  There is plenty of opportunity to grow within my love of portraiture.

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