Lou Ann Smith recently returned home from the Quilt National 2015 at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Ohio, where her beautiful abstract quilt known as “Leaf 2” was one of just 86 quilts selected for the annual exhibition out of nearly 1,000 submissions. It was the first stop for “Leaf 2” on what will be a two-year journey through galleries and museums across the country.
“Massive oak trees on a Louisiana plantation inspired my Live Oaks series,” Smith explained of her initial inspiration. “I started with an image of the whole tree and tried to make that more and more abstract, until I ended up with some leaf forms. My journey from the grand and massive tree down to the small but equally fascinating leaf launched me into a satisfying exploration of simplified curves and shapes, and into a new Leaf series.”
Smith graduated from UCSB in 1993 with a studio art degree and an emphasis in painting, but she didn’t discover her love for quilting until she attended her first meeting at the Coastal Quilters Guild of Santa Barbara and Goleta. “I found that you can basically create anything with fabric,” she said. “I started playing around and creating art quilts after that.”
The Coastal Quilters Guild’s roughly 200 members meet monthly to discuss upcoming events and exhibits, donate quilts to charity, do a show-and-tell of their quilts, and listen to a guest speaker. “Everyone uses fabric, color, and design differently, and it’s always interesting to see what people are working on,” said Smith, who also belongs to two other quilting groups: Fibervision and ab-strakt-ed.
Fibervision promotes quilting as an art and is limited to 25 active members by invitation only. Smith and the Fibervision group are exhibiting their work at the Cabrillo Pavillion Arts Center until June 29. Ab-strakt-ed is a smaller group of four women who get together to dye fabrics and attend the annual Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Oregon, the largest outdoor quilt show in the world. Smith, Maren Johnston, Debra Blake, and Patty Six each create stunning abstract art quilts, which can be viewed at abstrakted.org.
Those groups have collectively helped Smith keep a steady focus on quality, shining a little light on the Santa Barbara scene as a whole. Said Smith of the community, “Quilters tend to be really supportive.”