art, articles, interview

An Interview with Rayna Gilman

My next interview is with Rayna Gilman a fabric artist and quilter from New Jersey.  Rayna has a new book, “create your own free-form quilts  –  a stress free journey to original design”

Rayna & I have chatted a bit at the MAQGNet meetings held annually in the spring.  We are both members of the NY City Metro Mod Quilters.  I really enjoy her easy going approach to quilting and design.  Rayna has a true “you can do this” approach to the quilting/art process inviting quilters to enter in without hesitation.  Thank you Rayna for taking


Teri: How long have you been quilting and how did you get started?

Rayna: I made my first quilt in 1974 – ahead of the bicentennial curve.  Fell in love with antique quilts and couldn’t afford to buy one, so I thought “I can do that.”  In 1974 there were no books except for Ruby McKim’s 101 Patchwork Patterns – and nobody was teaching quilting.

I finally found a teacher at the local art museum who came from a long line of quiters and didn’t fuss about matching seams or anything else.  A binding meant turning the edge of the border over and sewing it down.  I never heard of bindings, or grain, or other things that are allegedly important till a decade later.


Teri: Do you still bind your quilts this way?

Rayna: No, I don’t bind them at all – I face them, unless they are baby quilts.  And then I do a regular binding.


Rayna's first quilt

Teri: What are your favorite quilt patterns & colors?

Rayna: I love the geometric graphics of old patchwork quilts (even though I no longer want to make them) and anything scrappy, quirky, and mismatched.


Teri: What is your favorite part of the quilting process?

Rayna:  Anything but the quilting – LOL!


Teri: That said Rayna I’m wondering do you prefer hand or machine quilting?

Rayna: Machine, because I’ll never live long enough to hand-quilt everything.  But I must say all my early quilts are hand-pieced and hand-quilted and there is something Zen about doing it. I also love the look of today’s large, uneven stitches.


Teri: So the Modern Quilt Movement must be right up your alley!  Do you see this older/Modern style of patchwork being embraced by the larger quilt community?

Rayna: I believe the “modern” style is part of the larger quilt community. Despite their approach to graphics, bright colors, asymmetry, mismatched stuff – they are really very traditional for the most part.  They think they have discovered something new but many of them are simply putting their 21st c. aesthetic stamps on old patterns. That’s great!  Ironically, they are buying patterns.  Nevertheless, I embrace the modern movement because they are mostly young and all enthusiastic.  They are us!

Click here to see more of Rayna’s quilts.

Teri: How did you get started teaching & writing?

Rayna:  Truthfully, they both started after Simply Quilts came to my studio in the early part of this decade. After the show ran, I was deluged with requests to teach, and people emailed me to ask whether I had a book   The rest is history.

Teri: What is, for you, the most difficult part of being an artist?

Rayna: Actually getting into the studio.


Teri: I hear that!  Is this due to the teaching schedule or something else?

Rayna: Both. When I wrote my book I needed to do it at home on my computer. Now I’m writing an article – same thing.  There was a time I went to the studio almost every day and I hope to get back to that routine soon.


Teri: Do you design anything other than quilts?

Rayna: Heaven forbid that I should ever “design” anything!  I once played with a computer quilt design program and by the time I was done, I had already made the quilt on the computer.  There was no need to make it again in cloth; I was done.  I work spontaneously and love the surprise of discovery as I am working on the wall.  I never know where I am going when I begin to work; sometimes I start from the fabric.  These days, I slice it up, sew it into units, and at some point pick the units out of the box and start moving them around till I am happy with the composition.  It is only after I am done that a piece tells me what it is about.  I also print one-of-a-kind scarves and I work the same way, printing spontaneously and overprinting/adding/discharging till I am happy with the result. It’s always a surprise!

Teri: What  encouragement would you offer a new quilter?  How would that differ from a conversation you might have with a quilter who has more experience but is branching out into different areas?

Rayna:  Follow your instincts and don’t worry about being perfect  Don’t be afraid to experiment and ask yourself “what if?”. Learn the basics but don’t let anybody (teacher or anybody else) tell you you “must” or “can’t” do something: you are the boss and can do anything you want to do!   For the more experienced quilter branching out, I just say “go for it!” But also, be true to yourself and listen to your own aesthetic.  Sometimes what you do won’t work the way you want it to and other times, it will be dynamite!  Just keep working.

Thank you so much Rayna for taking the time to work on the interview!  Your quilts are fab and I can’t wait to see you again.

Happy quilting!



PS – Next week I’ll share some amazing news and I am working on an interview with one more quilter!