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Carol Anne Grotrian: Artist's Statement

For over thirty years, I’ve combined traditional American quilting and Japanese shibori dyeing, an ancient form of tie-dye. By 1989, shibori’s organic patterns helped me find my voice in landscape quilts.


Why landscape? My landscapes’ subtext is always ecological, but my subject is usually a quiet sense of place, often based on places I’ve experienced--what I call “breathing spaces” –where my art stops time, whether cycles of seasons, tides or day to night. It’s that bigger-than-human natural world, a gift of great beauty, whatever one’s spiritual beliefs. It always gives me more ideas for quilts than I have time to make them. 


The words of poems also inspire landscapes, especially haiku. These compact Japanese poems always refer to a season and often elegantly refer to commonplace nature.  Though I continue to create larger quilts, especially commissions, haiku have led me to smaller, more intimate quilts. Words seem to matter, especially today, and experiencing a moment of simple beauty in poetry or landscape is a welcome antidote to today’s divisive tensions.


Shibori was primarily developed from the 8th century to today in Japan. Fabric is shaped into three-dimensional bundles by stitching, knotting, pleating, binding, clamping or pole wrapping. The shaping controls how the dye is absorbed when the fabric is submerged. As the dyed fabric is opened out, the resulting patterns are revealed. 

My quilts begin with white cotton and fiber reactive dyes and/or indigo. A measured, calm handling of the indigo vat not only prolongs its life, but also helps center me in a meditative way. Indigo is a perfect partner to shibori.


My current work has shifted away from traditionally sewing pieces of fabric together with finished seams. Reminiscent of mending and inspired by Japanese boro textiles, I’m using a raw edge approach, where the fabrics are layered and quilted directly to batting and backing. I love stitching and quilting by hand, especially in an era that moves too fast.  


My sense of place emerged in the northeastern part of the U.S., where I’ve lived since 1979. My quilts are in corporate, private and museum collections. They have been exhibited nationally and internationally and have appeared in various publications, including Mary Schoesser’s Textiles: The Art of Mankind.


My best critics are my husband of 56 years and members of my crit group, who have given me good advice for 36 years. I’m a member of the Surface Design Association and the Studio Art Quilt Association. Retired from bookkeeping & wearable art, I continue to make my living from my quilts and from teaching. My studio is in my home in Cambridge, MA. 

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