Like a skydiver, once Carol Taylor makes the decision
to go for it, she takes the leap and is fully committed.
Prior to learning how to quilt, Carol Taylor describes
her sewing skills as minimal. She says, "I was a Sweet Adeline who NEVER sewed
her own costumes!" Looking for a new hobby in January of 1993, Carol went to the
local quilt shop to sign up for a lesson. But the next available workshop
wasn't until March, so she bought a book and within the month created a Bargello
queen sized quilt. By the time the class rolled around, she no longer needed it
because she had already completed three other quilts including a Contemporary
Block king sized bed quilt.
After Carol ran out of beds to cover, she moved on to
walls and started to take classes from master quilters such as Michael James
and Caryl Bryer Fallert. And in 1995 when the walls of her house, her office,
and her children's houses were all redecorated, she built a 1,570 square foot
studio with four 8'h by 16'w, flannel covered, sliding design walls. Push the
walls aside and they reveal Carol's enormous collection of her own hand-dyed
fabrics as well as those by Heide Stoll-Weber and Judy Robertson, and Lonni
Rossi's hand-painted, silk-screened, stenciled, and stamped cottons.
(Oh, did I mention she also built a dyeing studio?)
1995 continued to be a very busy year for Carol. In
weeklong workshop by Libby Lehman at QSDS, Carol took the leap into designing
her own "Art Quilts" and has never looked back. She created beautiful underwater
pictorials and vivid abstracts. She honed her design skills as well as her
quilt construction methods.
As Carol's passion for quilting deepened, so did her
need for large quantities of what has become her bold signature palette of
Blue-Violet, Royal Blue, Peacock Green, Sunshine Yellow, Tangerine, and
Cranberry. In 1997 after a weekend's lesson in dyeing by Melody Johnson and
Laura Wasilowski, Carol turned the basement space below her quilt studio into a
dye room. She installed a 10 ft restaurant sink and built a 60 x 60 table on
wheels with gutters to catch the drips when she dye paints. Restaurant mats
cover cement floor and she added cabinets and shelves to hold her
Procion MX dye powders and surface design tools. To create her colored
cottons, silks and sateens, Carol dye paints on her tabletop and immersion
dyes by the bucket load.
To learn more about dyeing techniques, Carol took a
one-week course with Ann Johnston at Quilt Surface Design Symposium in
Columbus, Ohio. Yvonne Porcella taught her silk painting in a class at the
Vermont Quilt Festival. And for instruction in "complex cloth" surface design,
she spent a week in Jane Dunnewold's studio in San Antonio.
Like many artists, Carol's creative time is scheduled in
around the edges of her "day job". Working into the night can cause problems
for others if they run out of just the right shade of vivid blue-violet
(her personal favorite), but not for Carol. Having a well-stocked dye studio
takes away the need for the fervent wish of most midnight quilters - a 24-hour
drive through fabric outlet. Carol says, "It is great to be able to go down
and create a color I need at will and have it instantly."
February 2000 in Nancy Crow workshop was a pivotal
moment for Carol. Nancy's challenging exercises encouraged Carol to create
her first Gong Motif style quilt titled Funky Motif. She has taken this simple
design of quarter circles and crossed-bars and developed it into an impressive
series of complex compositions.
Each time Carol decides to expand upon her Gong collection,
she selects a different method to manipulate it. She started by changing the
arrangement of the Gong Motif, moved on to changing the color palette, studied
the differences of hues and monochromes, adjusted the scale, and then on to
random placement of the motif. Currently, she is working with optical illusions
by using modifications in the value and position of the Gong Motif to achieve
the look of layers or tiers.
When Carol works within one of her many art quilt series,
she often imposes an exercise to get the design process going. For instance she
might restrict herself to a limited palette to suggest a mood, or divide the
space in squares or rectangles to see where the structure will lead her. Carol
often likes to balance a single large Gong Motif among a cluster of smaller
Gongs and further differentiates the two by contrasting dark values against
lighter ones. She starts with a concept sketch and quickly moves to her design
board. While she carefully selects the colors and fabrics for the developing
quilt, her method of cutting and piecing is very improvisational.
What sets Carol's method apart from many quilt artists
is she doesn't wait until the entire quilt is laid out on the design wall. She
sews the sections as she goes. Carol has become proficient at curved piecing
to the point where she doesn’t even use pins. When she is satisfied that she
has explored the exercise to its completion point, she spray bastes the quilt
sandwich and begins the free motion machine-quilting phase.
For Carol, the design of the quilting is as important
as the arrangement of the fabrics. A secret to what makes a finished "Carol
Taylor" look so professional is she steam irons early and often during the
quilting process. Like her signature palette, another "trademark" that makes a
Carol Taylor art quilt instantly recognizable is her continuous circular
quilting. The outer circumference on a circle in Vibrations measures 5 1/2 feet!
It's the intersection of multiple expanding spirals from
the centers of each Gong Motif that makes her artwork emote sound and motion.
When looking at her work, you eye never stops moving across the piece. You can
feel the vibrations resonating through your mind if not your body.
Even her titles move you: Sound Waves, Syncopation,
Asian Echoes, Cacophony, Chromatic Rhythms, and the playful, Going, Going, Gong!
Recently, Carol manipulated the Gong Motif into a Drum
Motif by revising the order of the circle-in-the-square by placing the
square-within-the circle. Being innovative enough to take a highly successful
design element and turn it inside out is a testament to Carol's creativity and
will lead to her longevity in the art quilt medium.
The expressiveness of the Gong Series has garnered Carol
Taylor critical acclaim both in the quilt world and in the art world. The
American Craft Museum's recently acquired Reverberations, which is now on the "Six
Continents of Quilters" two-year tour. Cymbalism was part of the opening
exhibition of the American Folk Art Museum in NYC is also touring the country.
Carol's huge investment in her quilting and dyeing
studios, her on-hand supplies, her commitment to education, and her inherent
drive to continually challenge herself to explore new options shows through
in her impressive body of artwork.
Carol's adult children Trish, Tammy, and Trent all are
very supportive of their mother's flourishing art quilt career. They have each
been very vocal about which quilts will hang in their own personal collections
after they have made the rounds of the national and international exhibitions.
Trent even helps compose the quilt statements for all those entry forms.
Humorous slides they took of how they use their "blankies" (a.k.a. master-pieced
quilts) have shown up in Carol's lectures. With kids like that, Carol's a winner
Carol Taylor is an accomplished artist with a portfolio
of 350 quilts and counting. A member of Studio Art Quilt Associates and Surface
Design Association, she is also the president of Taylor Search Associates Inc.,
a recruiting and placement firm in Fairport, NY. To see Carol's quilts, visit
Carolyn Lee Vehslage maintains an onboard studio on her
Mariner Yacht "Fandango". Several of her quilted wall hangings that were created
while cruising, are viewable online at