Now Featuring Ashley Thayer
Los Angeles artist Ashley Thayer makes equally lovely paintings and quilts with attention to color and process. Her timeless designs are made with unusual care; she dyes her fabrics herself using locally foraged plants.
To view her print collection and limited edition textile pieces, go to: LPP Store
MH: You’re trained as a painter… how did you get into quilting? And dying? What’s it like to go from making images to making functional objects?
AT: I took a quilting class at RISD in 1997 and learned the basics. Ten years later I was using quilt patterns in my paintings but only allowing myself to use paper or wood, never textiles. Finally I gave in to the fiber. Creating functional objects makes perfect sense to me- I’m practical and like to be able to use things, to know they have a life, and engage with them physically. I learned to dye when I was a teenager: my friend and I had a small business selling tie dyes. Her mother is a tie dye master and she would renew all of the family clothes each summer via procion dyes, inviting friends and neighbors to join the party.
MH: How does painting figure in your practice these days?
AT: Not enough lately, don’t make me sad! Most often I use colored pencils to sketch before I start a quilt.
MH: What steps do you go through as you prepare to make a quilt?
AT: I download several audiobooks, gather the appropriate amount of cookies, and clear out my schedule. I decide whether I want to use a 3 square or 4 square pattern or so on and from there I draw grids- I much prefer to draw grids versus using graph paper- and figure out the design. I think about what effects I want the quilt to have, how to use dark and light and what palette might serve that narrative. Then there is more math: calculating the yardage for each color. For each color I create a different dye bath or two or three.
MH: You use natural dyes, including dyes from plants you’ve foraged yourself. What are some the dye sources you use, including some that might surprise us. (I think I noticed something about beans on your blog!)
AT: Some sources are black beans, avocado pits, rusty cans, eucalyptus, and black eyed susans. I just did a whole bunch of goldenrod for an event and I have several gallons of black walnuts rotting in my kitchen as a matter of fact.
MH: Who are some artists and craftspeople who inspire you?
AT: So many! Emma Kuntz, Cecily Brown, David Hockney, Dorothy Iannone, Jean Luc Mylane. Here in LA: Hannah Keefe, Abigail Chapin (ARC of LA), Jess Tucker Mayeux (Landlocd), Carly Margolis (All for the Mountain), and Rebecca Burgess, who initiated the Fibershed Project.
MH: What processes are you learning, trying out or hoping to add to your practice?
AT: The loom wants to steal all of my attention. I can’t wait to experiment with Catherine Ellis’s techniques of woven shibori. The process allows the structure of the grid to morph into something else entirely, but as a part of the construction itself.
I’m organizing a Fibershed in the Los Angeles region, which is allowing me to delve into the sources of fibers and dyes even more, going deeper into local plant identification and natural dye processes. We are talking with farmers about their sheep and alpaca fibers and we’re going on a cotton farm tour this month. I am interested in utilizing the materials of our bioregion in a skillful way, to understand the ample resources in the Los Angeles area and how to harvest them at little expense to our ecosystem. Establishing geographical palettes based on the natural fiber colors or local plants (which doesn’t have to mean drab or typical earth tones!) is something I’m really looking forward to.