SAQA Featured Artist: Maggie Dillon
Maggie Dillon – Sarasota, Florida, USA
My work reawakens a calm moment that is simultaneously ordinary and meaningful. I choose images that have photojournalistic qualities and celebrate natural, honest situations. Piecing different shades and textures together, the fabric creates an open-ended story, encouraging the viewer to imagine the subjects as if they were characters in a book.
I primarily work in the decades ranging from 1930s to 1950s based on candid moments – a girl’s day at the lake, a picnic in a poppy field, reading a bible in the wee hours of the morning. There is something humbler about those eras. People were less aware of the camera. Vintage images seem purer, even elegant in their simplicity. Because of this, I work in a nostalgic, subdued palette like old film.
SAQA: When did you begin making art with fabric? Do you work in other media as well?
DILLON: When I was in college, I wandered into a local quilt shop and was offered a job there. Being surrounded by batik fabrics was amazing! I continued my degree in fine art and in my junior year, my drawing professor told us that a mark on a surface qualified in his class. We no longer had to continue with traditional drawing techniques. We now had free reign to create.I used Photoshop to manipulate a photograph that I had taken and I played with the lines and shapes and eventually came up with a purple and green portrait. It took me the whole semester to complete.
When I began working with fabric as an art medium in 2008, I had not been exposed to art quilting. It is something I began working on my own. I did not know there was such a wealth of creative fiber and textile artists in the world! I learned completely based on trial and error. Later, I joined an art quilt group in Jacksonville, Florida, after meeting a talented artist in the quilt shop.
SAQA: What inspires you?
DILLON: Vintage images are so magical. I sift through hundreds at a time until I find the one that speaks to me. I look for an image that looks like a candid moment…like an onlooker is quietly viewing the scene…a pure unstaged moment.
SAQA: Have any artists or art movements influenced your work?
DILLON: The figurative art movement based on real-world objects and people is something I absolutely identify with. I am intrigued with people’s faces. I love the challenge of creating the natural curves of someone’s nose or cheekbone, their jawline. As I add layers of fabric, the people seem to come alive.SAQA: What techniques and materials do you use?
DILLON: I use raw-edge applique and batik fabrics. I do not fuse because, for me, it seems like an unnecessary added step. There are so many layers in my work, it would be a stiff mess. Instead, I use fine straight pins to hold everything in place as I sew, hundreds of tiny pins.
I use batik fabrics not only because they are beautiful and versatile, but because they are finer fibers and a tighter weave than many other commercial fabrics. They tend not to fray as much. There is such variance in a cut of batik fabric that it lends itself well to creating lights and darks within the piece.
SAQA: Where do you create?
DILLON: I create in my dining room on a six foot table which includes my sewing machine on the corner. I work large, so I often have my pieces hanging off one side of the table. You’ll often catch me standing on a chair to take photos of my works in progress so that I can assess how the work is progressing from a different perspective. Sometimes, because I work large, the living room floor is needed for the whole piece to lay flat.
SAQA: How do you reconcile the art-making and business sides of your creative life?
DILLON: I am very active on social media posting my work in progress. For me, it is fun to look through the images and watch a work come to life, photo by photo.I take on commissioned work, but ultimately, I am maintaining working on personal projects throughout. I am always looking for exhibition opportunities that support my artistic growth. I work well with deadlines, so finding shows and exhibitions keeps me working and expanding my scope of vintage images as well as encouraging my artistic growth.
Who works on one piece at a time? Am I right?
SAQA: What are you working on now? What’s next?
DILLON: I am working on a series of vintage inspired pieces. I have a few images picked out to start creating!
I plan to create a solo exhibit with this 1930s-50s inspired work.