Have you always been interested in art?
Always. In elementary school I crafted hair accessories out of ribbons and sold them on commission at a popular children’s store in our city. I also made rug hookings of all the Muppets for my father’s pediatric practise. As I got older, writing became my main art form. I fully intended to be a writer. I was in journalism school on full scholarship but then decided I missed the sciences and I wanted to pursue medicine – a healing art. I entered the surgical field and eventually ended up running a rural emergency. Working with my hands, suturing (a form of sewing) was a daily part of my practise.
When did you discover quilting?
On a visit to Granville Island I stumbled into a fabric store (there may have been other things there but all I saw were the fabrics!). I LOVED them. The tactile component drew me right in and sitting there was a book by Nancy Crow. She is a Master. I picked up that book and immediately I was drawn in and knew that I had found my medium. Also, my mentor. I have just begun studying under Nancy once a year in rural Ohio and it is such a privilege.
It’s truly my meditation and I get lost in it. It grounds me and keeps me sane and feeds my soul.
What is it that draws you to quilting?
It’s truly my meditation and I get lost in it. It grounds me and keeps me sane and feeds my soul. It makes me feel whole. Fellow artists I think can relate – it is a drive inside us; we can’t NOT make.
Your quilts are so modern and dynamic, not what usually comes to mind with quilting. Would you like to dispel any myths about the artform?
Many people are not aware of what is now commonly called Modern Quilting. There is a Modern Quilt Guild, the MQG, which has a worldwide membership and holds Quiltcon every year (yes, it’s a thing!).
What’s unique about your quilts?
I use fabric like others use paint. I make “strokes” with my rotatory cutter as one would with a paint brush. That gives it a unique, organic feel. 'Improv Quilting' is what it’s called. To keep my skills sharp and use both sides of my brain I will do modern spins on traditional patterns where I have to measure and do calculations and be precise in my piecing.
There seems to be a common thread (forgive the pun) between your background as a surgeon and your approach to quilting.
Yes. I approached surgery the same way – always looking for ways to perfect my technique. I would do one handed tie offs on things in the house when I got home at night. There is a marriage of art and craft in modern quilting – the craft is the perfection; the skill and to me the art is the expression; the voice that you give.
Never cross a quilter. The tribe is strong!
Generations of women have been united by quilting. Is this still true today? Do you have a community of quilters that you work with?
100 per cent! Never cross a quilter. The tribe is strong! I honestly have never met such supportive and compassionate women. I chat with my ‘Quilty Wife’ on Instagram almost daily. She was also a physician and we met through the incredible quilting Instagram community. I had never even been on IG before a modern quilter told me that’s where they all “hang out” – and it’s true! It’s the perfect forum for us.
You’ve used our fabric ends in your new work. Is this a first for you, using recycled fabrics? Did it change how you work?
It fits very well with my improv approach. You take a bit of fabric and just keep going where the fabrics take you. Upcycling and repurposing have been very big in the modern quilting community for the last few years. This is new to me though; being involved at the start of such an amazing clothing company concept, and the quality of fabrics were a dream. I couldn’t stop petting them (it is a very quilter thing to do) – I am all about the fabric and Harris Kuipers’s were the bomb!
Switching gears, a little bit here… What is the most important piece of medical advice you can give to menopausal women?
Go get your hormones checked. Natural Progesterone and DHEA can be game changers!
What do you want every woman to know?
Do breast self-exams.Have your doctor show you what they feel like and why it is normal and what normal feels like. Have them explain what to look for. Don’t listen to the message that these exams are useless - they aren’t. You need to know your body better than anyone in order to notice changes early!
Now, go get your screening mammogram!
Always remember you are not a study. Especially because most medical studies have been done using male study subjects. This is true for coronary artery disease which is the number one killer of women. If a woman has a stroke; odds are she will die. If a man has a stroke; odds are he will live but have an ongoing disability.
So why aren’t women the focus of these studies when they have the worst outcome?
Just show up – that is half the battle.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Show up. That was what one of my residency preceptors said to me at the start of one of my rotations. He said, “just show up – that is half the battle.” When he said that I was like, “really?” But I learned he was right. Many people do not show up. Many from fear. No matter how much something scared me – inserting my first pacemaker by myself (no attending present) – That mantra was in my head: “Show up – be present. Fully show up. You can do this. And then breathe.”
Third, celebrate everything… With wine!