quilt-diary-201610-500 This post first appeared on my Patreon page. Join today to see everything first!

"Whatever happened to Spweet?* Are they still aggregating Kuhfwangles?" "No, they pivoted."

In the tech startup world, pivoting is "a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth." (source)

Or to paraphrase Steve Blank: Fire the plan, not the CEO.

I painted so hard in 2016. And 2015, and 2014, and on back. I love the paintings I painted. But I'm tired of painting.

They Grow Around Roads. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, 2015 They Grow Around Roads. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, 2015 by Sarah Atlee. Available at Ro2 Art.

I've been a painter for 20 years. It's been my pastime, my course of study, my profession, and a big part of my identity. It's been easy to answer the question,

"So, what kind of art do you do?"

Well, that's a good question. Right now, I'm not interested in making paintings. So how can I tell people I'm a painter? You know what I'm doing now? I make quilts.


Why Make Quilts?

Quilts inhabit an interesting space between two and three dimensions, comprising both image and object.

Quilts are largely functional works of art, meant to be touched, used, and worn over time. I make quilts that should be used - no hands-off museum mentality here.

Across cultures worldwide, quilts are created to mark time and record history, both public and private. We make quilts to commemorate birth, marriage, transition, sickness, even death. A quilt can simultaneously signify the history of one person and an entire people.

Quilts are a way to make old materials new again. They embody the age-old practice of making do, ever more relevant in our consumer culture.

Are quilts art? The debate plods along. I have the opportunity to expand the conversation about “craft” or “functional art” in “fine art” spaces. As one educated in the traditional art school system, making quilts feels at once radical and yet completely appropriate. Of course quilts are art!

Melee. Detail view of back. Quilted cotton. 10 x 10 inches, 2016

Have I hung up my paintbrushes for good? Certainly not. I need some time to create in this other vein. I think I will return to painting through some side door that I can't see just now. It's going to take new practices and strategies to continue my art business with this new hat on. I'm definitely up for the challenge.

So now, when someone asks, "What kind of art do you do?" I tell them: I make quilts.

I'm a quilter, y'all.

* Okay, you would not believe how many nonsense words I auditioned for this sentence, but it turns out they are already in use, most of them as tech startups. Rejected words include: sploof, tweenge, treeve, alboo, florp, gloove, traeve, fween, spang, splot, ofen, crangle...

Curves on Top of Curves - Part 2

The Austin Modern Quilt Guild got so many contributions for the Drunkard's Path challenge that there were enough for two whole quilts. Thus we were able to double our donation to the Community First! Village. See pictures of the first quilt here.

First some links, then the pictures.

What is Modern Quilting? Join the Austin Modern Quilt Guild Learn more about Mobile Loaves & Fishes What is the Community First! Village? Contribute your quilting skills to the Community First! Quilters

circles 2 - layout 1

Even More Curves.

circles 2 - layout 2

Plus some stripes.

circles 2 - closeup 3

circles 2 - closeup 1

I just love the two zebra-striped yin-yang blocks we got. Can you spot the one in the other quilt?

circles 2 - block closeup 1

circles 2 - pool 1

By the pool. In November. Because Austin.

circles 2 - back

The back.

circles 2 - quilting detail

Quilting detail, and adorable chairs fabric from Stitch Lab.

by the pool

I want to thank the members of the Austin Modern Quilt Guild for trusting me with their quilt blocks - I had SO much fun assembling and quilting these guys! You rock.

Want to see more creations like these? Check out the Austin MQG on Instagram.

Curves on Top of Curves - Part 1

In 2015 the Austin Modern Quilt Guild issued a challenge to its members - the Drunkard's Path. Many of us had never pieced curved seams before, so we leapt at the opportunity to learn. I learned with help from the excellent Amanda Hohnstreiter - a curved piecing expert! AMQG members were invited to construct these blocks using blacks and whites with a "pop of color." Here are some of my contributions:

drunkards path blocks 3

drunkards path blocks 2

drunkards path blocks 1 See the little ninjas? We have Lily Gonzales-Creed to thank.

After collecting the blocks, we pieced them together into two quilts (see part 2 here). The quilts were then donated to the Community First! Village, a wonderful project brought into being by Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

Interested in learning more about this project? Here are some helpful links:

What is Modern Quilting? Join the Austin Modern Quilt Guild Learn more about Mobile Loaves & Fishes What is the Community First! Village? Contribute your quilting skills to the Community First! Quilters

Now, on to the quilt pictures!

circles 1 - layout 1 Look at all those color pops. Pop-pop-pow!

circles 1 - layout 2 Just lounging.

circles 1 - closeup 1

circles 1 - back 1 The back.

circles 1 - quilting detail 1 Who says they all have to be circles? Nobody, that's who.

circles 1 - quilting detail 2 Close-up of my free-motion quilting, done at The Cotton Cupboard.

So that this post won't be absurdly long, I've put the second quilt over here.


Departures and More

Departures. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 inches, 2015 by Sarah Atl Departures. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 inches, 2015 by Sarah Atlee. $1,080

To purchase Departures, contact me at sarahatlee@gmail.com.

About Departures

I'm into Quilting. It influences my painting in a big way. I'm a member of the local chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild. What distinguishes "modern" from traditional quilting? There are no hard and fast rules, of course, but the MQG has a handy list of things to look for:

"...several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. 'Modern traditionalism' or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting."

Improvisation is the element here that really gets my juices flowing.

But the Juices Were Not Flowing

Earlier this year I was noodling away on an abstract series, finding myself stymied. I wanted to go in too many directions. I was being fussy. I was thinking too hard. I was stuck.

I asked myself, "What if I painted the way I quilt - without fear?"

Sherri Lynn Wood and Improv Patchwork

In February 2015, I was lucky enough to attend QuiltCon and take an improvisational patchwork class taught by Sherri Lynn Wood. She taught us to be present in our space, and to cut, cut, cut and sew, sew, sew - without worrying about the overall design. It was a revelation. We made quilt tops that seemed to grow organically in our hands. The patchwork pieces grew, and I grew. I went home and pre-ordered Wood's new book.

Order your own copy of the Improv Handbook here.

Then I had to wait for, like, six weeks before the book shipped. What on earth was I to do in the meantime?


I took a painting that wasn't working. I laid down a stroke of color with my brush. Then I put down another, next to that. Then another. It became a row of stripes. It curved here and there. Another row grew next to it. I had found a path, and I followed it. I was through.

departures in progress crop