I first met Monica in 2014; she was part of the same QCA bee in which I met Crystal from Raspberry Spool. Monica had me making the cutest improv chickies - I remember stressing about how accurate they were because as you will remember I am not at all used to improv. It turned out we live two suburbs away from each other so when it came time for me to be Queen Bee she suggested she drop her block off to me and we have been quilty friends ever since. Monica is a textile artist who oozes enthusiasm and I loved reading her answers because I could absolutely hear her voice in the words. I'm really interested in the two workshops she has coming up in Canberra - if you are at all interested in the artists' journey you should seriously consider attending - and I am very excited to see where her artist's journey takes her next.
- Tell us a bit about you?
My name is Monica Raven. My instagram profile says “lover, fighter, quiltwrangler”. What more do you need to know?
I’m a 41 year old psychologist: when I had the opportunity to do a degree at 28 years old, it was a toss up between an arts degree and a psych degree. It was a win-win situation – either would have been wonderful, and I promise myself I’ll do that art degree some time in the next ten or fifteen years. I love my work with youth and university students, and the work offers many opportunities for creative thinking and out-of-the-box solutions and strategies for my clients.
I live in Canberra with my wonderful, fun partner and my two cockatiels. Life is never dull.
- When did you start quilting? What other forms of art have you dabbled in along the way?
I start quilting about three years ago. I grew up without a TV, so I’ve always amused myself with creative pastimes – my nan taught me to knit when I was 4, and I taught myself to crochet out of a book when I was about 8. Pre-internet days, it was all books, so I used to haunt my local library in my awkward teen years, and me and my oddball friends would play at artist. I have always loved drawing, and have dabbled in printmaking, bookmaking, painting, dyeing, handspinning, felting… I resisted quilting for a long time because I already had so many other hobbies. For a few years I did calligraphy, and made wedding invitations until I realised that working with brides and their mothers on a regular basis was… not my scene. (Oops nearly put my foot in it there!)
- Tells us about your first quilt?
My first quilt was a spur of the moment decision when I found the Bento Box pattern at a shop in Moruya one Christmas holiday. I was looking for something to fill my time with, and had packed my sewing machine and some fabric. The next thing I knew, I had a quilt top. I downloaded the Craftsy class “Machine Quilting and More” by Wendy Butler Berns, who said “oh this is heaps easy to do on a regular machine, just go like this”… So I did! It was a complete surprise to me when I joined my guild and other people talked about sending their quilts away for quilting. “Really?” I exclaimed. “Why would you when it’s so much fun?” That first quilt was a gift for my mum, who proudly displays it on the back of her couch. The tension is all over the place and the binding is terrible, but I love it, and so does she.
- What’s your favourite part of the quilt-making/design process?
It's easier to identify my least favourite part: I’m not a patchworker. I love the design and idea process, the fabric pull, the surface design, the quilting. I find the piecing and the binding really tedious. The design I think is probably my fav at the moment – the spark and fire of a new idea is a heady and thrilling process for me, deciding how to represent this energy with this line, this idea with this colour. I have so many unmade quilts in my head that I fear I may never have the time to bring them all to light!
- Tell us a couple of highlights of the last year – it seems that there have been some fun creative times for you?
There have been some incredibly fun times for me this year! My creative life has been on hold somewhat for the past ten years, as I settled into Canberra, a new city, a new career, and a new relationship (we’ve been together over ten years now and it’s wonderful!)
Three pivotal events served to fuel-inject the sleeping artist in me, and I’m reeling a little now that she’s been woken up!
The first event was Quiltcon, which encompassed my first quilt festival, my first trip to the US, and the first overseas trip I’ve taken to a destination of my own choice, alone. What an adventure!
The second event was a four day workshop run by Bill Kerr, of the Modern Quilt Studio. Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle are what I would consider to be “the Power Couple” of modern quilting. Bill ran us through some classes on modern quilting history, curves and other tricky technical things, design, and colour theory. To say that the four days were mindblowing isn’t enough. For me the experience was actually life changing. This might sound a little melodramatic, but it really was. It’s led me to where I’m at now, where there’s so much happening that I’m just running madly to keep up, including beginning classes and taking commissions. It was truly an honour to study with such a talented and generous teacher as Bill, who teaches Design and Typography at a respected university in Chicago. Humbling, inspiring, and literally life changing.
The third and final event was a five day intensive workshop with the brilliant art quilter Katherine Harmer Fox. Katherine’s background in fine arts becomes apparent almost immediately in her classes, which are run more like an art class than a quilting class. Katherine, in her direct South African manner, gave me a serious dressing down for “not taking myself seriously” and told me that I’d have her to answer to if I didn’t get at least a facebook artist’s page up by the end of the year. In true people-pleaser fashion, I’ve sorted this out, and you can find it at www.facebook.com/monicaravenart - I’m working on a regular update called Motivation Monday, which has been enough to keep me moving on that for now. Katherine walked us through the process of making an art quilt, and I’m hoping to get a portfolio done some time in the next 6-12 months using the Raggedy Ann piece as a starting point.
- What project are you currently working on?
The current project I’m working on is a commissioned piece, from an acquaintance who saw my work on Instagram and asked about having a quilt made. It’s a lovely design, adapted from the wonderful Ringle and Kerr super-mega-power team. The original design is called Follow the Leader, and I’ve adapted it to a more gridlike design with stitched embellishments, called Desire Lines. It’s been a beautiful piece to collaborate on and to create, and I’m hoping to finish it some time within the next week. You can follow its progress on my Instagram account, monicaravenart.
I’m also working on an art piece which doesn’t have a title yet, I’m just calling it the Gun Quilt. It’s for a group exhibition called Social Fabric, which will be shown in 2016 and will consist of quilts which explore social and political issues.
- What can people expect when they attend your upcoming classes? What would be one piece of advice to someone who is thinking of attending?
The class I have coming up on the 2nd Saturday of September and the 2nd Saturday of October, which I’ve called Banishing Art Anxiety and Unlocking Creativity, will be relevant for quilters as well as artists in general. This will be held at the Belconnen Arts Centre, in one of their lovely workshop spaces. You can find the Eventbrite link on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/monicaravenart. As a psychologist, I meet so many people shackled by their fears and anxieties, and I know so many creative people don’t live up to their full potential. I’ve designed a class which merges my skills as an artist with my skills as a psychologist, to help people move past their fear of failure or “doing it wrongly”. We will be doing a little bit of drawing, but the main focus will be around looking at what holds you back and stops you from progressing, and starting a visual diary practice. My advice for someone thinking of attending would be to come with an open mind, prepared to share whatever feels safe to share, and to just take that leap, come along and try something new to let your inner artist out! I have had a series of creative clients lately, and I always say that I learn as much from my clients as they learn from me: I think everyone has their own wisdom, and everyone I meet and talk to has their own incredible, unique story to tell. Part of this course will be accessing that unique knowledge. I am hoping to have everyone go home with a small art piece at the end of the day.
- What’s next for you – where do you see yourself in two/five/ten years’ time (whichever you feel like answering)?
I try not to plan too far ahead, and look more to the next year or two. I do have some really exciting plans over the next two years – I’m hoping to get my first portfolio together so that I can look at having my work in a gallery. I even have my eye on some little galleries in Melbourne, and one or two local options (I haven’t told them yet – apparently you need a portfolio in order to have that conversation!) My other exciting goal is that I’m planning an artist’s sabbatical. I loved Austin so much when I visited there for Quiltcon in February that I’m planning on going back for a 10 week stint at the end of 2016. I’m saving for this, and plan on renting out a flat in Austin, maybe chatting to some local quilt stores about an artist-in-residence party of sorts, and see what I come up with. It’s going to be fun, and exciting, and will probably involve buying a new pair of cowboy boots. I’ve decided that one pair is not nearly enough!
- Where can we find you?
Send me a message! I love chatting to people and meeting new people.