This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
Fascinating and eclectic artist, Margaret Fabrizio ranges from Music to Entertainment to Fiber Art, achieving brilliant results in all fields in which he ventures.
Pianist, Harpsichordist, Concert Artist, Teacher, Member of the Faculty of Music of Stanford University for 25 years, Composer, Performer, Film Maker, Collage Artist, Painter, Writer, Videographer, Creator of Artist Books, Forest in her land in Sonoma and finally…QUILTER!
Her works are exhibited in Museums, Theatres and Universities.
Her masks, collages, paintings belong to private collections, the installations and living structures of her “Taliesen” (a 40 acre estate in the county of Sonoma in California known as “Cazadero Nature and Art Conservancy”) reveal a multi-faceted personality.
Reading about her and her works introduces us to a dreamlike and phantasmagorical world that captures us and from which it is difficult to detach!
Celebrating 32485 days on this planet – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
Ours is a magazine that deals with Textile Art, so I reluctantly focus only on textile works and the questions addressed to Margaret Fabrizio will be limited to her production in this field: Quilts and Kawandis.
There remains the desire to examine the other themes as well, to understand what has moved her choices towards the various areas of his production…
For those who are captivated by the same desire, see the artist’s website, a mine of news and photos and the over a thousand videos on her YouTube channel:
copyright Margaret Fabrizio
I asked Margaret Fabrizio a few questions:
A well known musician and composer, what pushed you to approach quilting?
Cannot remember. My maternal grandmother was a quilter, but my mother was not. She was an accomplished seamstress, knitter, crocheter, tailor, but she never made quilts. One day in 1987 I just decided I wanted to make a quilt, and I began piecing an ‘Ocean Waves’ Quilt.
Oceanwaves – 80 x 108 – 1988 – copyright Margaret-Fabrizio
Your quilts initially explore traditional motifs, made with extreme precision in repeated blocks, then gradually free themselves from schematism and fragment and recompose in an increasingly free way, clearly acquiring an increasingly personal imprint; even the colors, initially sober, over time are enriched with color, can you explain what caused these changes?
It was my friendship with the artist/quilter Grace Earl. She had been a teacher at the Chicago Art Institute and had a very creative way of quilting. She was always trying to get me to stretch out from a precise plan, and introduced me to the concept of using a design wall, before doing extensive stitching, so you were able to move small bits around as you wished.
(You Tube video of the unveiling of ocean waves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuToKd97jKU )
My Old Asian Clothes – 55 x 70 – 2004 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
Kathakali – 2006 – 64 x 74 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
Bali – 2008 – 62 x 77 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio.
Ryoanji – 2011 – 64 x 82 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
Chaos Unchained – 2018 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
Although traditional designs still interest me, I like finding ways to alter them creatively.
Latest Quilt – 44 X 61 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
Latest Quilt – detail – 44 X 61 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
And then after making 6 quilts and having a lot of leftover cut pieces I decided to make a piece using just them. I called it a “Leftover Quilt” So after that, every 6 quilts I made a Leftover Quilt. They were very challenging, and forced me to be inventive and problem solve.
Leftovers 1 -1993 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
Leftovers 2 -1993 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
Leftovers 3 -1993 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
We know that you have travelled a lot in Asia and in particular in India: what made you return several times to these peoples and how their knowledge has changed the way you make Art?
Can you tell us about your meeting with the people of the Siddi and the discovery of their quilts?
I traveled a great deal in India long before I ever saw any of the Siddi quilts. (Kawandi)
After going with Joe Cunningham to see a quilt exhibit at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco in the summer of 2011, I felt compelled to try to find the women who had created the quilts (kawandi), for they were so completely different in assembly from any quilts I had ever seen. Careful examination still did not reveal the way in which they had been made. (I was 81)
I learned that these people, the Siddi, are of African descent, and had been brought to India as slaves by the Portuguese 400 years ago.
They still live in relative isolation from the Indian community, castes, and tribals. After much searching I finally found a settlement in the state of Karnataka and spent 2 weeks with the Siddi, on their porches in the forest, taking notes, making videos, and learning the technique.
I returned to San Francisco and created 20 pieces during the following year. Then I returned to the Siddi in 2012, taking scrap fabrics for their use and four of my pieces for their examination.
The Siddi women were astonished and appreciative at my return the following year. Their feedback brought me to another level, and I am now making larger pieces.
KAWANDI – Immolation -33x 44 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI – In Fuller Bloom – 72 x 58 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI – Elvis Macarons -32 x 39 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI – Four Deities – 55 x 42 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI – Four Roses – 54 x 74 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI – Green – 55 x 79 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
In recent years you’ve been passionate and dedicated to the creation of kawandi…. what struck you so much about their work and the Siddi people?
This style of quilting is done completely by hand, using scraps and recycled clothes. The fabrics I use are largely from India, where I haunt the tailor shops for ‘waste material’, and recycle clothes.
The main difference is that these quilts are improvised and made completely by hand. You don’t really know what they are going to look like until they are finished. There is no planning. It’s a little like jazz, as compared to the designed quilts which are a little more like Bach.
As for the Siddi…I invite you to watch my video ‘Kawandi Promo’ and ‘Return to the Siddi’ on my channel ‘atree3’: on YouTube, it tells about my travels there:
KAWANDI – North and South of the Border – 40 x 49 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI – North and South of the Border – Detail – 40 x 49 –
copyright Margaret Fabrizio
Can you explain to us how a kawandi is created?
‘Kawandi’ is the Konkany word for ‘quilt’.
It is made on an old sari. They start at a corner, make the little phula (decorative piece without which the quilt is considered naked) and start down one edge, laying on bits of fabric as they go. They keep going round and round until they reach the center
Do your kawandi reflect the Siddi tradition or do they differ from it? And, if so, in what?
Yes and no. I learned the technique, and watching them make their choices as to what fabrics and colors to use was a revelation to me, but I’m not sure that one can ever learn the sensibilities of other cultures. That bothered me a lot at the beginning; I would finish a piece, but when I looked at the finished piece it did not have the same visual mystery that I always felt when I looked at their work. Its a little like watching people trying to imitate the Gee’s Bend quilts. The copies just don’t have the same magic. I finally realized that, try as I may, as skilled in the technique as I might become, my pieces were going to look different, because I am different. So now I just go my way, little by little my work is evolving. I am always surprised.
KAWANDI- Om Nama Shivaya – 51 x 61 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI – Siddi Colors – 46 x 38 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI- Three Sleeves and a Bodice – 38 x 63 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI- Thrissur Frames – 41 X 53 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI- Tribal Swirl – 33 x 463 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
KAWANDI- Water– 80 x 80 – copyright Margaret Fabrizio
What are your future projects?
My immediate future project is coming to Verona for the quilt festival. I know that I will not be shown in any of the scheduled venues, but nevertheless, I am planning on bringing some of my kawandis. I doubt that there will be any other quilts there made with this technique, so I think some people might be interested in seeing them. I arrive in Verona a week before the festival opens, so I plan to scout around the city and see what possibilities might arise where I could show them. Maybe all I need is two trees, a rope, and some clothes pins. Street Art? I’m open to any suggestions.
Reading your notes, visiting your facebook and Instagram profiles you feel that you live in close contact with many established artists… what can you tell us about the current trends in Textile Art? how much does it differ today from the intentions and models of traditional quilting?
I wish I could. I don’t believe that my work fits in with any of the current trends. I do not consider my kawandi ‘Art Quilts’, and that seems to be the main trend these days. I am just another person trying to assemble whatever fabric I have on hand and see what I might get. If I had to put a name on my work I would call it ‘Tribal’ .
How would you define your being an Artist?
I have tried to live my life as a work of art. If everything I do is art…then… I’m not sure I like definitive words like ‘artist’.
Makes me uncomfortable.
Thank you for your patience in answering my questions and thank you for letting us know your thoughts more closely!
For further information about Margaret Fabrizio, please refer to the following links: