What fun to be a guest blogger on Quilting Gallery. My name is Lesley Riley. I am a life-long resident of the Washington DC area, mother of 6, grandmother of 5. I began quilting in 1971, a baby quilt for my first born. You might think that by now all my children and grandchildren have their very own handmade quilt. Well my story is not as simple as that. I am a quilter at heart but my love of fabric has taken me on an amazing journey into art quilts and mixed media, writing, teaching, TV and DVDs. The one constant throughout is fabric.
I started out as a traditional quilter with Ruby McKim’s 101 Patchwork Patterns as my guide, but soon answered the lure of the early art quilters from the 70s, like Michael James, Beth Gutcheon, Nancy Halpern, Radka Donnell and Molly Upton. I can’t say I became an art quilter back then. I was too afraid. It took much longer for me to find my confidence and my voice.
I set aside my quilting for many years to raise a family and grow a business with my husband. The lure of fabric persisted and my stash continued to grow of course. The older I got and the longer I was away from quilting, the more I felt that there was something missing in my life. One cold January day in 1999, when an ice storm had left us without power for days, my first Fragments were created. Not knowing what to do or where to begin, I just started combining photos and quotes with scraps of fabric into collages. They were small fragments of fabric collage created in small fragments of time. I did have 6 children after all.
In my Fragments, I had taken everything I loved and stitched them together into something that resonated with me I didn’t know or care if anyone else would like them. I didn’t have time for quilts but I still wanted to create with fabric. I was happier creating 100 of these simple, small pieces than one large quilt. I needed instant gratification as a motivation to keep going. There’s a saying, "do what you love and the money will follow." I wasn’t in it for the money, but those Fragments were the beginning of a very busy and successful career in art quilting and mixed media fabric art.
I taught myself how to create a website back in the "olden days" before blogs and Etsy made it easy to share your art. Having the courage to show my Fragments to others, and eventually to the world through my website, a journey began to unfold that I never dreamed or even planned. I just kept taking the next step and accepting the opportunities that came my way. My life became a textbook example of one of my favorite quotes, "When you follow your bliss doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else." Joseph Campbell
I began to teach for two simple reasons – 1) People wanted to know how I created my art; and 2) I wanted to share what I had finally learned at the ripe old age of 45 – that happiness comes from the inside and for me, it came from making art, from creating. It was what made my life complete and I wanted to make sure other women had access to that happiness. I wanted to reach as many women as I could. It’s much easier today to find a like-minded soul (or 10 or 100), but even 10 years ago, finding your "tribe," women who share a similar passion and love of creating, were hard to find. Never having ventured far from home, my teaching has now taken me to places I only dreamed of seeing (Australia, Italy), and allowed me to meet and share a love of fabric with woman all across America, literally from sea to shining sea. I am blessed.
One day, after seeing my fabric & photo art on my website, a publisher called and asked me to write a book. Another dream fulfilled. Maybe you have seen or even own one of my books, Quilted Memories, Fabric Memory Books or the latest, Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur. And here’s another childhood dream fulfilled – I am also a magazine editor. My mom was a magazine junkie and raised me well. I love every detail from writing to photos to page layout. I loved being my high school yearbook editor but it never went any further than that. When Quilting Arts editor Pokey Bolton said she was thinking of starting a new mixed-media magazine, I said, "If you do, I want to be a part of it," never dreaming that she would take me seriously. Today I am a contributing editor for Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.
I am afraid that I am beginning to sound like an obnoxious cocktail party guest who goes on and on about herself. I share my story only to be a real example of what can happen when you follow your heart. It is more important to me to share what I know at this point in time than to create prize-winning quilts or enter quilt shows. I have had quilts in invitational and juried shows over the years, but for now, I go where the path leads. There’s plenty of time left for that dream to come true.
My latest venture is as an entrepreneur. I found a new photo transfer product that I believe in enough to create a business around. I debated this for over a year but all along, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I have learned over the years that the little voice inside of my head is usually right, and I should not let fear or doubt get in the way.
While my children and 5 granddaughters may not all have a quilt of their own, they do have a mother/grandmother who sets the example of a life well-lived. I’ll slide another quote in here – "If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy." I have so much to give my family because I finally learned to give myself the joy (and mental health) that comes from making art. I chronicle the intersection of art and life on my blog.
I’m a big fan of give-aways on my blog, so I am offering one here on Quilting Gallery too! Enter to win my new book, Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur PLUS a package of TAP (Transfer Artist Paper). Just leave a comment below, and a random winner will be chosen on March 2nd, 2009.
79 thoughts on “Lesley Riley”
Leslie- I would have commented without a bribe! I love your message, dream and life will follow your dreams. the calling is in you and so many women, to create with fabric, paper, words, colors….
If you new transfer product will produce the image on the green quilt and face of the gardener, then I’m a new fan too. Beautiful quilts from a beautiful person.
I have been enjoying these interviews……….would love to have a go at the transfer artist paper…….going to check out your blog now…….
a wonderful story, thanks for sharing!
I love making transfers and have worked with Lutradur and enjoy it. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story it is so inspiring.
Hi Lesley–I just went out to the link about the Transfer Paper and I am excited to try it.
I love your new work. (we were both in Els Van Baarle’s class at QSSA last June)
Thanks for sharing and please enter me in the give away.
I love the point you made of being an example of a life well lived to your children and grandchildren. That, I think, is a greater gift than anything else you could give them. Enjoyed reading about your journey!
I’ve been hearing great things about TAP but haven’t had a chance to play with any, so please sign me up for the give away.
Am anxiously awaiting my order of TAP to arrive. Needed some new inspiration and your blogs have given me much to ponder- thanks!
I’m just dying for a copy of your book, Lesley. I belong to your yahoo group and am constantly impressed by the incredible talent and generosity of the group members. I am just going to have to go out and buy the book if I don’t win this one.
Lesley – you continue to inspire…always. Thanks so much for the chance to win your book and some lutradur- another new technique to learn!!!!!!
Thank you for sharing your inspiring and motivating story. I hope that your new venture is a big success. I can’t imagine it not being one. I’m glad you posted about being the guest blogger so I could read and learn even more about you. It seems that you glossed over your dollmaking skills but since it is a “quilting” site I guess I can understand that. — a proud Fragments owner — Kathleen in Wauwatosa, WI
You’re a wonderful guest blogger! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so excited about the Lutradur and the new transfer paper. I can’t wait to try them. Best of luck with your new book.
I’m new to Altered Art play and learning a lot. Your blog inspires me to add fabric play to my art! Please enter me in your very cool book give away! Thanks! ~Nina in San Diego~
Thank you for sharing your story. As a mom of four very active young children, I can relate to your need to create, but only having small fragments of time. I, too, need immediate gratification, since most of my “work” is such a long term project or simply undone throughout the day. Art has become a sanity saver!
Lesley, What an inspiration! I love your art and Yahoo! groups Inkjet transfers was the very first art group that I joined. I am still a newbie but am loving all this art stuff! I believed from the time I was young that art was about drawing and painting and photo-realism. I am learning about new kinds of art that I may have some talent for. I love it! Thanks and thanks!
What a great story–and so true for many of us who have learned later in life that it’s our creativity that’s most important to our happiness.
Also–I bought the book “Quilted Memories” a couple years ago after seeing a segment on Simply Quilts. It’s now nice to “know” the author!
Have fun in all your new ventures!
Love the story. Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to try the projects in your new book. Keepin’ my fingers crossed for the giveaway, but if I’m not the winner I will be purchasing it soon! Jamie V in MT
thank you for sharing your story, I love to hear that it IS possible to do what you love, be happy and successful. That is a great gift to your children!
I love giveaways, but I love winning them even more! Thanks so much for sharing your story; it’s very inspiring.
I enjoyed your post today! I am glad you wroted about how you created Fragments as your expression, not for the approval of others.
That is an encouragement for all budding art quilters. Years ago when I would show my smaller non-traditional quilts at guild meetings, you can only imaginge the comments and loooks of disdain I received :)
Wishing you happiness!
Sorry about all those mis-spelled words in my above post…must need more coffee !
I loved the story of your artistic career. It gives us encouragement to keep trying, and it is a good idea to follow that inner voice. Who knows where it will lead.! I am eager to try the transfer paper.
I loved the whole spotlight on you! What a wonderful gift to give your family.
This is a must have book! Cherie
Thanks for sharing your amazing story.
I am so inspired by what you have contributed !!!
I would love to win your giveaway !!!!!! I’m feeling lucky !
Great story. I’m taking my art seriously now and I hope the doors will open for me too!
I am having a blast doing all sorts of image transfers on fabric and paper. And it all started with your book— the one with girl and the chicken on cover. You are a great inspiration!
So nice to read how your art and career developed.
I have bought at least two of your fabric creations
I love your art !!!!
Lesley, it is so nice for all to share in your many creative abilities.
Would love some of your products to play with.
Thanks for sharing for work and how you got there. It’s inspiring to read what it took for you to make it.
Best, Betty Wiechec
So many people wind up in fiber art after being nudged there by life… many of them are delayed entries after taking care of responsibilities first, thanks for sharing your story… the human side of artists is always more interesting than the technical side, to me anyway. Those who also share who they are and where they came from tend to gain much more of my respect than those who only spew what they know. Wishing you much success on your new business….and many years of creating wonderful art.
Oh I love image transfering! Will have to try your new transfer!
I would love a chance to win your book and some TAP. I want to try TAP sometime. It sounds really neat.
Thanks for sharing Lesley. Your story is an inspriation to this soon-to-be retired teacher. I’m following my creative soul wherever it leads! I also would love a copy of your new book!
I have been trying different techniques to transfer pictures and text for some time… with mixed results. I am hoping to win so I can try it without the fear of making costly mistakes. thanks for the chance.
I have seen quilts using lutrador and the material intrigues me with its versatility. Love to win the book and enjoyed reading your art quilt journey.
Wow, what a nice article! Thanks for having a giveaway!
What an inspirational story. We are blessed by hearing it and being able thro technology to be part of the tribe. Thank You for sharing it with us. Following the heart can lead to nourishing the soul
Great article! I love Lesley’s stuff! She’s an absolutely awesome teacher.
Great interview!! Leslie brings so much to the art community-inspiration galore!!
Thanks for sharing Leslie, I enjoyed reading your story.
You are a wonderful inspiration of a realist artist to me!!!
I work in vintage silk and have tried many ways to print an image onto a piece of this to use in my work. If your new product works as well as you say it does, then a whole new world of creating has opened up to me! I am hoping to get a try at it and to use you as a mentor on my art. Thank you SO much!
Your work gives me inspiration with my own photos of my family. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks so much for our insights Lesley.
You seem so incredibly cofortable with your art and who you are – it is truly an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing.
Hi…Lesley…ty so much for letting us get to know you and how your passion has evolved. 6 kids is an accomplishment in and of itself …so I am very much in awe of your successes which are many. I had only recently found your blog and now you have turned me on to a few more sites…your work is very nice..This transfer thingy seems pretty cool to me…would love the chance to win and of course try it out. My sis is the big quilter in our family so I would luv to be one up on her LOLOL…my bad! Keep sharing….you inspire me and everyone is my guess! TY …and God Bless you and your family. Cher
You’re always so inspiring Lesley — thank you for sharing your story and being such an inspiration! Sara
I enjoyed your story. Thanks for sharing.
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