Julie Neu was recently kind enough to answer a few questions so we can all get to know her better. Some of you might remember her from our last meeting when she shared a wonderful children's book which she had illustrated with her art quilts.
When did you start making art quilts? I’ve been quilting for 20 years and like many, started out as a traditional quilter. My foray into art quilts probably started with a week in a design class at Quilting by the Lake in 2006. After that, I started a “Creative Play” project in which I went into the studio with the sole purpose of playing and I made a small art quilt each week.
What type of work do you do? I do two different types of work right now. I create realistic quilts to use as illustrations for children’s books my sister writes. I also create precise geometric pieced quilts that are inspired by Islamic tile designs.
Do you have a favorite color palette? I love jewel tones – deep, rich sapphire, emerald, amethyst, ruby. I’d rather have beautiful batiks in those colors than the real gems.
Are you working on a particular theme or series now? My educational background is in Middle Eastern Studies. I have a BA in that and a Masters of Theological Studies in Islam. I studied Arabic for six years. I’m now finally putting all of that to good use with a series called “Arabesques.” I am making intricate pieced quilts inspired by the geometric tile designs of the great mosques and Islamic palaces of the world.
How do you work? My work starts at the drafting table. I bring out the protractor, compass, ruler, and a big eraser and draw a full-sized rendering of my design. If the design isn’t precise, the rest of it will never work. Once I have a design, I create plastic templates of each piece and use those to cut and mark the alignment points on my fabric. Then I sew.
What is your studio like and when do you like to work? I like to work in the morning, but I have a four year old so I work when I can. Because we have a child and needed to move into a larger space that had an actual bedroom for her, my studio space is an additional bedroom where one entire wall is a design wall. When we decided to buy the house, I described it to my mother and she said, “Great! I’ll have a place to sleep when I visit.” I responded, “Sorry, no, that other bedroom is going to be my studio.” She’s an artist too so she understood.
How are you making the most of your SAQA membership? Which aspects of the organization are you enjoying? I’m absolutely milking my SAQA membership. I joined recently, but I don’t think I let a month pass before I applied for the mentorship program. Having a mentor has been invaluable for both the knowledge that I have gained and the encouragement that I have had. My business practice has certainly improved as a result. I also really enjoy the meetings. Our region consists of a wonderful group of talented, interesting, and kind-hearted artists and I enjoy the companionship, the education, and the inspiration that the meetings provide.
Do you design your art with a purpose in mind? Generally I do not. I made the book illustrations with the express intent of creating a book, but much of my work isn’t created for a specific purpose. The exception to that is a project that I started a few months ago called “Victims.” It’s a departure from my other work and is meant to be a very political piece, an art as statement piece. After the mass shooting in Orlando, I was sewing and reflecting and the idea for the project flowed down into my mind. The design was fully formed within a few minutes. I am creating a quilt that contains a block with the name of each victim of a mass shooting in the United States during the last 20 years in which more than 10 people have died in one day. The events span from Columbine to Orlando and include Sandy Hook, San Bernadino, Aurora, and a few that I was embarrassed to realize that I had forgotten about along the way. 185 people and 185 blocks. My intent at this point is to quilt it, leave it unbound (because I don’t think it’s finished), and mail it to Senator Warren.