Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Profiles: Melanie Johnston & Joan Blade Johnson

                 Melanie Johnston                                                           Joan Blade Johnson

Melanie Johnston and Joan Blade Johnson are Connecticut based fiber artists who exhibit, lecture and teach together. They will be the focus and featured speakers at the SAQA MA/RI Regional Quarterly Meeting on August 7, 2016 at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, 115 John St (2nd floor auditorium) in Lowell, MA from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

Of their art and working together, Melanie and Joan state, "Our art is expressed through textile and often incorporates our own dyed, printed or painted fabric. Each of us has our own distinctive style and preferred processes. Joan enjoys interpreting the natural world using non-traditional methods and materials. Melanie’s work often includes bold color and geometric shape. Through selling and exhibiting our art, we hope to introduce others to fiber art as fine art."

Melanie and Joan answered a few questions, giving us an introduction to themselves and their work.

When did you start working with fiber and why?
We both began as traditional quilters and were independently drawn to surface design and art quilting. Joan’s career was in nutrition and Melanie’s in health care. We met about six years ago and bonded as friends over our mutual love of fiber art. For the last five years, we have both been working as full time fiber artists.

What types of techniques do you like to use in the creation of your work?
We love creating our own fabric using dyeing, printing, painting, marbling and a variety of other surface design techniques. Joan loves photography and often incorporates her photos into her work.

What is your studio like and what is your working schedule like in your studio! Do you use a work wall or long arm?
For our sewing/construction activities we each have separate studios with large design walls and lots of storage. Additionally, Melanie has a large wet studio in her basement where a Handi-Quilter long-arm also resides. Tuesday mornings are dedicated to wet studio time. We work 8-16 hours per week on our own individual projects and another 2 or 3 hours getting together to work on planning for classes and other upcoming events.

What or who inspires you?
Joan is inspired by nature. Melanie is often inspired by abstract painters.

What benefits of SAQA do you find have helped you best in your development as an artist?
SAQA has been a wonderful resource for meeting amazing fiber artists, access to exhibits and resources for the business of fiber art.

How and why have you decided to work together in your teaching, lecturing etc.? What are the benefits of forming a partnership?
We believe the right business partner increases the likelihood of success and definitely makes life easier and more fun. We respect each other’s art and business skills, we motivate each other and we each have complementary strengths.

Do either of you have a degree in art, business, etc. and how has that helped you to achieve your goals as an artist?
Neither of us has a formal art or business degree but we have taken advantage of many art and business classes, groups and seminars. We also draw on our leadership and organizational skills acquired from our business careers. We both believe that knowing how to communicate well in a variety of media and how to set, measure and achieve goals has been critical to our success.

Melanie and Joan will be talking about their experience exhibiting and selling their fiber art. They have many recommendations for anyone thinking about or interested in taking this next step as a professional fiber artist.

For anyone reading this who is not a member of SAQA, the MA/RI Region of SAQA has an active group of about 130 members. Meetings are held around the two states quarterly. All members are invited to these meetings. Our next meeting, featuring speakers Melanie & Joan, will be held on Sunday, August 7, 2016 at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum on 115 John St, 2nd floor auditorium in Lowell, MA from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. If you are considering joining SAQA and would like to attend this or another meeting as a guest, please leave a comment below and we will contact you with information. To join : SAQA 

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