This week, my guest is Shannon Fraser of Shannon Fraser Designs. Shannon has only been quilting for a short time, but her love for textiles began long before, when she spent time in Japan as an english teacher. Influenced by the colorful fabric of kimonos and her background as a painter, Shannon has an astute eye for color that makes her quilts stand out from the crowd. You can find her easy-to-follow quilt patterns on Craftsy and in her Etsy shop, along with adorable bags, mug rugs and other quilty items that showcase her signature style. Shannon also offers many quilting tips and tricks on her website and in her weekly newsletter, which shares behind-the-scenes updates from her studio, news about new pattern releases, and access to her library of free downloads and patterns.
Shannon: Overall, I would say I’m a modern quilter. I love bold colours and large-scale designs with a geometric focus.
How would you describe the creative environment in your home as a child?
Shannon: I was very artistic and creative as a child. Whether it be painting, arts and crafts or playing music, I was always into doing something artsy. But, I was the only one in my direct household who was into these activities. However, my grandmother was an amazing knitter and later returned to painting when she was older. So, I certainly had some artistic influence.
What artists and makers do you most admire or have an influence on your work?
Shannon: I’m sure I am influenced by other artists and makers and I certainly love the work of the quilters I follow on Instagram, but when I sit down to create, I’m usually looking internally for inspiration.
Do you consider yourself a “quilter”, an artist, or some combination of both?
Shannon: I definitely consider myself a combination of both a quilter and an artist. Fabric is my current medium of choice, but I also love to paint. At the end of the day, I just want to create, in whatever medium that is calling to me. Right now, that’s fabric 😉
How do you think being a painter has influenced your work as a quilter?
Shannon: This is a great question, and one I really hadn’t thought about! After thinking this over, I realized that I treat my quilting and painting differently, yet both are ways I tap into my emotions and express my creativity. Although, these days, quilting wins out way more than painting!! Since I have a true love for colour, I’ve found the mediums offer me different ways of exploring that more deeply. Painting is all about mixing and combining colours to see what appears, while quilting is about seeing how blocks of colour play off one another and change depending on how they’re paired. Similar to my quilts, my paintings tend to be graphic and abstract, I guess those are the styles that I’m most visually attracted to! Plus, both offer the chance to play with texture – bumps and drips of paint or the varied quilty texture created with machine and hand quilting all appeal to my creative senses. In a world that is lived more and more virtually, there is something very appealing about the tactile touch.
How would you define “making with intention”?
Shannon: To me, making with intention, means setting out to create with an objective. It can be very specific as in “I want to make this quilt to explore this technique” or it can be more subtle in “just making to explore for the sake of exploring – a feeling, a thought, etc.”. I think both are of value and I like to interchange them.
Do you think that having a craft makes us more compassionate? If so, then how?
Shannon: There is a vulnerability in creating, especially when sharing it with the world. So, yes, I think it does make us more compassionate. We recognize that we’re exposing a sacred part of ourselves and that certainly makes me sensitive to others who share. Whether it be their stories, their makes, or just their feelings.
How does creating feed your soul/spiritual purpose?
Shannon: Creating brings me joy. Even when I’m frustrated with a particular project or technique, it still brings me joy. If I’m struggling with life, my art still calls to me and brings me joy and comfort. I think it’s important to find activities in our lives that feed us, make us reflect, enable us to explore, bring us happiness and challenge us; and, for me, that’s my art.
Are there any rituals that you perform to prepare/ground yourself in your work?
Shannon: I don’t necessarily have a specific or intentional ritual, but I do love an improv session. There is something about the freedom of just creating for the sake of creating that helps me feel centered in my work.
What is the support system you have in place for creating your work?
Shannon: I couldn’t do what I do without the understanding and support of my spouse. He encourages me and gives me the time to explore and create. Quilting takes a lot of time and he gives me that uninterrupted time, which I really cherish and appreciate. Plus, he’s sweet enough to sit there and listen to my while I ramble on excitedly about a new fabric find or new project I’m working on 😉
I would also say the community I’ve connected with on social media, Instagram in particular. I’ve met some truly amazing artists and quilters and I love that we encourage one another.
How do you deal with comparison to / envy of others? Can you describe a time when you used comparison/envy/admiration to push yourself in your own work and self-discovery?
Shannon: There are two ways that I’ve used comparison to push myself. The first is to shut it off and step away from that feeling. If I’m starting to feel envious or “less than” I come back to what it is I want to achieve and explore. I often tell myself “just do you”. I believe re-centering is an important part of creating.
The other way is to look at the amazing work and acknowledge that if they can do it, so can I. I use it as fuel to push myself and my boundaries. A specific example of this is my admiration for Suzy Williams of Suzy Quilts, she inspires me to continue pushing myself not only in my craft but in my business as well.
What was the most challenging thing you ever made?
Shannon: Designing my first pattern, which just happened to be a foundation paper piecing pattern. It’s not the most complex design, but there was lots of hair pulling involved in figuring out how to make it a reality. I experienced the full spectrum of emotions with that one! But I’m happy I persevered and saw it through. It’s a great experience to go back to and draw upon when I’m feeling challenged or scared about a new venture I’m exploring.
What does it mean to you to work in a traditionally domestic medium that historically has been regarded as predominately female (aka “women’s work”)?
Shannon: I honestly don’t really look at it or think of it that way. Perhaps because I’ve connected with such amazing artists, both male and female, that are creating such beautiful and intricate designs. To me, quilting is a form of creative expression and one that involves a combination of detailed workmanship and skills balanced out with artistic sense.
But now that you’ve asked the question, I admire and respect the women who worked tirelessly to create functional art for their families. It saddens me that their skill set was under-appreciated and reduced to “women’s work”. How little credit that gives.
How do you see your current work in the context of quilting history?
Shannon: I’m simply beyond thankful to be able to quilt and connect with other artists, as I feel like I’ve found my home; and I hope that my creations inspire others to create and explore their own creativity.
Thank you, Shannon! Your willingness to share your knowledge as you grow in your craft is a great resource for our community! To learn more about Shannon, visit her website Shannon Fraser Design or connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. And you can sign up for Shannon’s weekly newsletter here!
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