I make art with fabric and a needle and thread. Although I studied literature and writing in college and later taught them, words were never enough. I wanted to be able to communicate those images and colors in my mind more directly, to be able to run my fingers over them. The answer was fabric, with its particular set of attributes and idiosyncrasies, its ability to be manipulated in various ways and to create line, shape, form, and texture that can not only be seen but can be felt.
I cannot remember not being able to sew. I learned the basics of traditional quilting over thirty years ago and soon was experimenting with my own designs and learning from artists, particularly those who had mastered textile design. I discovered the challenge of creating something nontraditional using the basic block layout of a traditional quilt, as well as the freedom of beginning with an intriguing piece of fabric and building a composition around it or on it. My fabric of choice is cotton that I have dyed or printed, but I also use other fibers, particularly silk, to create a multi-textured work. Although I use machine stitching in some of my work, hand stitching with heavier threads gives me more direct contact with the fiber and creates another source of pattern and texture.
I grew up climbing trees, poking at bugs and other critters, and wandering the bluffs above the Mississippi River in Iowa, and that same urge to connect with the trees, plants, animals, landscapes, and waterscapes of wherever I call home inspires the surface images and colors of my work that then suggest deeper meanings of interconnectedness and change. As the pace and noise of the world increases, I find I need to create a quiet, still place with my art, to explore what it means to be me and to be human at this moment in time.
Madalene Axford Murphy