Extracurricular Activities: Kathy Suprenant, quilter

Kathy Suprenant is a professor of molecular biosciences and a quilt artist.

Too pretty to eat
“This quilt was inspired by a trip that my sister and I took to the Pacific islands in the early ’90s. Even in the ’90s, the ocean was becoming depleted of tasty fish and the islanders had begun to kill and eat the less delicious parrotfish and butterfly fish.”

Why do you quilt?

Historically, fabric was precious, and small pieces of clothing were recycled into functional quilts. My grandmother, for example, recycled samples of men’s wool suiting material to create a warm bed quilt (learn more about this mystery quilt at http://kathysuprenant.com/2012/06/). So, why do I cut up perfectly good fabric, sew it together, and then turn it into a piece of wall art?  That is the million-dollar question for many traditional and non-traditional quilters. Quilting, like other art forms, shares the qualities of creativity and self-expression. Also, I love the feel of fabric and the challenge of making something new. 

How long have you been making art quilts?

I started making art quilts around the year 2005. Smaller-sized quilts allowed greater experimentation with fabric, found objects, paper, hand stitching and beading. My recent work is inspired by the microscopic world of living cells and combines my conceptualization of cell structure and function with the traditions of quilting and surface design. Many of my traditional and nontraditional quilts can be found on my website and blog (http://kathysuprenant.com/), and on the Studio Art Quilt Associates website (http://saqa-ks-mo-ok.blogspot.com/2013/07/featured-artist-profile-kathy-suprenant.html).

“Kantha style embroidery illustrates a variety of small creatures that you might find in pond water.”

What’s your favorite part of quilting?

I love the moment when I commit to an idea and translate this idea to fabric. Generally, I make a sketch and enlarge it by photocopying. The enlargement is placed on my design wall and I “pull” fabric from my stash to audition each fabric in order to create the balance and design that I imagined.

Does your artist side of the brain converse with the scientist part of your brain?

Science is like art in many more ways that one would imagine. Recently, I was invited by the prestigious Cell Press to submit electron micrographs for the “Cell Curiosities” curated Picture Show. Pictures of ‘Intracellular Cathedrals’ were selected and can be accessed at http://www.cell.com/cell_picture_show-cell-curiosities.Fabric stash_lowres (3)

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