Friday, 16 October 2009

The Crafter's Way 114 - Paper Quilts

Here is this week's Messenger column, I have included the full interview here.

Wrens Nest Studios

I met Michaela Laurie at the Sydney Stitches and Craft Show. I was fascinated with her combination of craft techniques. Michaela’s book “Paper Quilts” demonstrates her unique way creating Gift Tags, Greeting Cards and Bookmarks. This is an extract from an interview with Michaela. You can read the full interview at

Q1.Describe your craft journey, what other crafts have you dabbled in?
I have always loved art and I have always loved paper. I began making scrapbooks from magazine pictures when I was very young. I then collected all sorts of paper goods such as tickets, concert programs and cards and stuck them into books or put them in boxes. I loved art all through school and trained to be an art teacher. There were no positions for art teachers when I finished however. I eventually got a position at Bridge Street Gallery in Sydney’s CBD after 3 years at a bank. I was exposed to many wonderful prints and paintings at the gallery and became inspired to start creating once more.

I have dabbled in printmaking, painting (acrylic, watercolour and gouache), sculpture, pastels and drawing. All these dabblings came together about 20 years ago when I began creating abstract mixed media collages which I exhibited in galleries in Australia and Internationally. I also became very interested in making miniatures with the Australia Miniature Society in Sydney.

Jumping over the imaginary fence from art to craft about 5 years ago posed a few problems with exhibiting so I began showing my work at markets and craft shows. I have learnt so much from being the person who runs the market stall. I think it has also made me work much harder and think about what I do as a business. I feel very fortunate to be doing a job I absolutely love.

Q2. What lead you to paper quilts, was it via paper or fabric?
It may seem strange but I have never quilted with fabric. I belonged to a Thursday quilt group but I went along to sew tapestry cushions. I was at a point when I moved to Canberra where I nearly decided to finish with creating. I found myself into a creative block. One day the thought of using a sewing machine to sew paper came out of the air after lunch and off I went. My first efforts were just random pieces of paper sewn together roughly with white or black cotton. The whole process just caught my imagination and I couldn’t stop. All those papers I had collected over the years now had new life.

Q3.How did you develop such a simple yet effective method for constructing your quilts?
This method of Paper Quilting came about from a great deal of trial and error. Paper weight, types of glue, types of thread, how to cut up the squares and shapes along with other techniques, all took a few years to simplify. When I look back at my early work and see how I made it, I realise that the craft has come a very long way in the techniques, materials, tools and the time it takes to create a Paper Quilt.

I think one of the most important ways I began simplifying the craft was when I began teaching. I found that some people did not like to use a craft knife. I stumbled upon the square paper punches one day in my local newsagency. It was somewhat of a light bulb moment although punching out squares rather then cutting presented its own small problems to solve. All the paper punch sizes are in Imperial measurements and all my designs and ideas were created in metric. I then developed a set of template squares to correspond to the punch sizes. This was a real breakthrough.

Q4. When did you decide to write the book, was it a hard process?
I knew that the craft I was working on was unique early on. No body seemed to have seen anything like it. I did some searches on the internet and once again, no-one was creating this way. Then people began to ask me how it was done. I guess the real clincher came when a customer said to me, (after they had just purchased a piece), that they were going to pull it all apart to see how I did it. That was that – I had to put my ideas down on paper before someone else did.

It was not an easy process and it really took me several years to put it all together. I began sending proposals to publishers but had no luck with this new concept. In the end, I decided to self publish. My husband Bill was an enormous help with editing, formatting and proof reading. I couldn’t have done it without him. All the fine details are the most difficult.

Q5. What inspires you?
I get inspired by things everyday. I always try to keep my eyes open every where I go. I find inspiration in books, magazines, movies, exhibitions of all types and nature. Sometimes someone at a market or show will suggest a brilliant idea which I just can’t wait to get home to try out.

I try hard to have a quilt on the go at all times so that when I go up to my shed in the morning, there is something waiting for me and not just a blank sheet of paper. You have to be extremely disciplined with working alone and not get side tracked or distracted. It is not always easy, but once I start work I seem to be able to just keep going.

Q6. Do you teach classes?
I regularly teach classes at a White Dragon Paper Craft in Philip ACT. check. I have been asked to hold two workshops in September for the National Gallery of Australia. The workshops are being held in conjunction with the ‘Airing of the Quilts’ exhibition and I feel very honoured to have been asked.

I love teaching. My youngest students are around 10 years old and there is no upper age limit. I enjoy seeing how my students interpret the Paper Quilting methods and make the craft part of their personality. Every students work is completely different. I love to see that this craft is bringing joy to people’s lives.

Q7. Where can people see/ buy your work.
People can see my work via my web site . Also at the Handmade Markets which are held quarterly in Canberra, the Old Bus Depot Markets, Kingston, ACT and the Stitches and Craft Shows which are held in capital cities around Australia.
Q8. How would you describe yourself as a crafter, messy, organised, disciplined etc?
I describe myself as a craft artist. I am incredibly messy. I have the best intensions in the world to stay tidy especially when I have a big tidy up about once a month. But some how when I become focused on making a quilt I just reach and grab what I want and then plonk it down anywhere when I’ve finished. I have many small draws and storage boxes along with a hanging file system for my papers. I have found one of the best ways to put things away is for the draw or box where they belong to be labelled. I don’t think my best intentions for being tidy will ever be realised and I shouldn’t stress over it so much.

Q8. Do you have a process that you follow when designing a piece?
I have 2 methods of designing. 1. Flying by the seat of my pants and just doing it and 2. drawing up a design first, working out the boarder pattern and how many pieces of paper I will need and then drawing up the image. I then create a template for each image and decide which one I like the most. I have a few Paper Quilt picture shapes, such as the handbags which I have created many times. But each bag is totally unique because of the different papers and embellishments used. I never create a quilt which is identical to another – I think it would be virtually impossible even if I wanted to.
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i cant sew said...

very interesting...when i get over my fear of the sewing machine i might just hve to give it a go...i have a magazine that has angels strung togther by sewing machine, very pretty indeed.
smooches for a great day and se you sunday as i become a lilly cottage gal

Marion said...

Another great article. Thank you

Mavis said...

W great idea. Thanks for sharing.

Chrisy said...

I love the idea of paper quilts...such an inspirational post...thanks honey...