12 June 2018

Anne Morrell Robinson interview: Fibre in her Genes

Picasso's Ladies Visit Hundertwasser's Garden
by Anne Morell Robinson (2017) w23.5” x 24h”

Anne Morrell Robinson, who lives in rural Margaree Valley NS, has been creating art since she was a small child. She studied art in high school and art education in college. With the revival of quilt making in the 1970s and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s landmark exhibition, Anne began exploring the possibilities of quilts as a medium for her art. 

With over 600 quilts to her credit, Anne is highly regarded as a prolific artist whose work bridges the divide between art quilts and traditional bed quilts. In her “spare time” Anne also creates hooked rugs, art dolls, felted pieces and wearable art such as jackets and jewelry. 

Anne Morrrell Ronbinson’s work has received numerous awards in such prestigious quilt shows as Canada's National Juried Show, Quilts=Art=Quilts, The World Quilt Competition and the National Quilters Association (US). Her work has been commissioned for events such as Expo '86 and the 70th anniversary of Stora Forest Industries, as well as for hospitality, health care and religious facilities. Anne’s business, KingRoss Quilts and Fibre Art, is based in her century-old farm house in rural Cape Breton. 

How would you describe your work?

My work is very eclectic, sometimes rooted in tradition and at other times inspired by some silly thought or an image that appeals to me. Much of my work I would call cross-over quilts, not really art quilts more original interpretations of a traditional design. I'm one of those quilters who bridge the categories. I love lots of detail, textures, deep rich colours and imagery from nature. Underwater World (below) shows my love of combining traditional designs with unexpected imagery. 

Underwater World by Anne Morell Robinson (2016) w101” x h101”

Describe your journey towards becoming an artist who works with textiles. 

I started making quilts as a relaxing way to spend the evening after working on a horse farm all day. After moving to a farm in Cape Breton I used my art to tell the story of the lives of rural women, mostly with pictorial quilts. Local businesses soon took an interest. Shops asked to sell my work while others bought pieces to decorate their premises. This led to publications featuring my work, invitations to teach and many commissions. I joined art and craft organizations and participated in their exhibitions. Staying in the public eye is something to work at if you want to be taken seriously as an artist. Exhibiting in national shows and accepting commissions for art in public places did that for me. Now I concentrate more on making quilts that I want to make and that will appeal to buyers who walk into my studio.

How has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

I’m fortunate that in my adult life I’ve always been able to work from home by keeping a simple lifestyle. At first the imagery in my work was all about the animals on our farm or women's work. I attended an art therapy workshop during a hard period in my life when I was trying to survive as a young widow with two children and a working farm. We were asked to draw what it would take to have more time to make art so I drew the cattle truck taking all the livestock away. That's exactly what I ended up doing. Living in an area heavy with tourists gave me an opportunity to sell my work and having them connect with the artist and the area was a plus.

Hills of Cape Breton by Anne Morell Robinson (2018) w96” x 32h”

Tell us about your studio. What features do you most like and dislike about it?

I’m fortunate to have a wonderful, large studio attached to the house. I would be lost without my 9' x 9' design wall and all the storage space behind it and under my cutting tables. Living far from fabric shops means that I have a lot of stuff. My two 4' x 8' cutting tables are on wheels so I can roll them out of the way if I want to use the design wall for photographing a large quilt. 

When the tourists are around, part of my studio is dedicated to sales. I don’t have enough wall space for displaying all the large quilts I have for sale, so they get piled onto one of the cutting tables during the tourist season. To show them, I peel them back like oriental rugs. 

What are you currently working on?

Right now, I’m working on my pile of unfinished quilts. I set a goal to get them all done by the end of the year. I’m often distracted by challenges and pieces for upcoming shows, so I keep slipping new work between older projects. But the older ones are slowly being finished. I’ve also begun quilting on a longarm machine and I’m enjoying the learning process there.

What are your goals for the coming year?

My goal is to get better at machine quilting and produce new work that is national-show worthy. Also, as I age I’m leaning toward pieces that are less labour intensive but more spectacular. My very labour-intensive pieces aren’t always appreciated financially by the public, and sales are an important consideration. 

Monkeys in the Middle by Anne Morell Robinson (2011) w90” x h90”

Tell us about your most memorable experience as an artist. 

I think my most memorable experience was the day on which I won awards at two different national quilt shows and had my work on a magazine cover. The curator of "Quilts=Art=Quilts at the Schweinfurth Museum in NY commented that of all the beautiful quilts in the exhibit, both art and traditional, mine was the one she would choose to take home with her. In the other show, I was thrilled to learn that my whimsical quilt beat some of the beautifully executed Baltimore Album appliquéd quilts. It's very gratifying when people find pleasure in what you do.   
But there are many other memorable days, meeting up with old friends and making new friends at an exhibit or while teaching.

Do you treat art like a job, going to the studio each day at a particular time?

My art is my job. I go into the studio first thing in the morning and, except for garden and household chores, some daily exercise, and meals, I'm there until early evening. Then I join my husband in the living room where I continue doing hand work. I’m very disciplined at keeping track of the hours I work on each piece. I bounce around from project to project during the day to prevent injury from repetitive hand work. A typical day involves quilting on the long arm, some design and construction work, a bit of hand quilting, some rug hooking and finishing the day with hand appliqué or binding. 

Architectural Field Notes by Anne Morell Robinson
 (2015) w30” x h40”

How do you show and sell your quilts? 

Most of my sales are right from my studio. I place rack cards in the visitor centres, I’m on the art and craft trail map and I have a strong online presence. I often enter shows at the Inverness County Centre for the Arts and, of course, the regional SAQA shows. Very occasionally I will put a few pieces in other galleries, but I’ve learned that the sales are better when the customer can meet me face to face and see my working environment.

Do you teach and travel with your art?

I enjoy teaching. A group of keen quilters comes to my studio once a week for guidance and to learn new skills. I travel to teach for guilds and retreats. My trunk shows are also popular. I’ve taught from Newfoundland to Virginia and as far west as British Columbia. Of course, teaching from my own space is best since everything anyone could need is here, but I do enjoy meeting kindred spirits from all over and have formed many lasting friendships by teaching. 
The Bead Seller by Anne Morell Robinson

See more of Anne Morrell Robinson spectacular fibre art on her website, KingRoss Quilts and Fibre Art.

1 comment:

  1. So interesting to read about your journey Anne. I love your new work!