April 3, 2011

Ann Brauer's Contemporary Quilts- Soaring Beyond Tradition

Art Quilt by Ann Brauer

Interview with Ann Brauer
by Barbara Harms

Your work has received so much recognition. What led to your choice of fiber as the creative medium for your art ?

That one is very simple, although a bit of a story. I grew up around fiber--specifically the quilts that my grandmother made. Although I never thought I could make a quilt, I loved to work with different fabrics and in fact probably drove my mother crazy having her drive me to all the fabric stores within sixty miles of our home so I could look at the different fabrics available. I was very lucky because in the adjacent town, there was a store where the owner would go into New York once a year and purchase cutaways and remnants from famous designers. I did lots of sewing--made my own dresses, costumes for the high school musical, etc but never a quilt. Eventually I quit sewing because I was not wearing any of the tailored clothes that I enjoyed making.

By training I am actually a lawyer. As a lawyer I had my own company that did research for other lawyers. I would drive everyone crazy because I had to write out the arguments by hand and cut and paste them before I could figure out how to win cases. At one point I had a roommate who made quilts. I realized if I made quilts I could buy fabric. I loved the patterns that were created when I pieced even simple patterns together. Soon I ran out friends to give the quilts to and began selling them. Shortly thereafter I decided to move from Boston where I had been living to western Massachusetts and see if I could support myself as a quilt maker. The rest is history.

Who or what have had the most influence on your work?

My grandmother is the most obvious influence. She was quite the character--spunky and opinionated. She made a quilt for me when I was born which had pieces the size of a postage stamp. It was and still is a wonderful quilt made with so much love and care. For her quilts were her chance to express herself as a person and show her worth in what must have been a difficult life. She not only made quilts for the beds in the house--some for warmth and some for show--but she also made a quilt for the closet of the guest bedroom. This quilt was too special to ever be used but I am sure that she brought it out for every guest to see. The stitches are so tiny and even--after she took her work to the local quilting bee, she would come home and take out their stitches.

Rainbow of Summer, Art Quilt by Ann Brauer

How has the recognition and acclaim effected you as an artist?

OK--I will be honest. I love recognition. I want more. Recognition spurs me on to further push myself to create the best possible quilts. And yet I do not work just to get recognition. When I try to make a piece just to get noticed usually the quilt does not work. When the quilt just happens then often I have a stronger piece. For instance rainbows of summer is a quilt that occurred to me. The colors seemed to just happen. I knew from the start that it was a winner and sure enough it was selected as a Niche finalist.

What have been your proudest accomplishments to date?

Oh, there are so many of them. I would say my proudest accomplishment is that I have supported myself making art quilts for nearly thirty years!!! Not many can state that. In terms of specific pieces I would of course go for the series of quilts I made for the Federal District Courthouse in Springfield, MA--the quilts I made for the Lodge at Turning Stone in Verona, NY--winning an Award of Excellence at the Baltimore Craft Show. I love seeing my work in place and knowing that the quilt is indeed right.

What do you do for fun [besides quilting]?

I love my garden. In particular I love the daylilies in my garden. I am a proud member of the American Hemerocallis Society and even dabble in spreading pollen to create new daylilies. I also love to be outside--hiking, boating and snowshoeing. I am lucky to have a really great DH and two wonderful step-children. Of course I also like to read and have lots of fun on social media.

How have you handled the business side of your career?

I am very lucky that my father was a farmer. This taught me how to be a small business person. I think this is essential and I do spend a lot of time promoting my career. After all, if I don't sell quilts, I don't get to make quilts. Business is a very important aspect of my career. When I began making quilts I chose to sell them by doing a number of fine craft shows as opposed to doing quilt shows--I like interacting with the public and finding out how the react to my work. Recently I have become very involved in learning about the potentials of social media. In particular I love my blog. I love the process of writing about my work and then discussing it with my readers. I am always curious to find out what else I can learn from social media.

Describe yourself in 5 words.

Smart, focused, determined, sincere, kind

What have been the biggest obstacles in achieving your success?

The biggest obstacle--the need to earn money--has also been my blessing. By always having to stay focused on creating work that will sell while also knowing that I needed to justify internally the decision to leave being a lawyer to become a quilt maker, I had the freedom and determination to push myself to make the best quilts possible while also realizing that if I did not like the quilts I was making, I could support myself doing something else.

Ann Brauer is a TAFA Member. Visit her Member Profile.

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