Quilters from around the Boundary and Kootenays spent five days of creativity under the instruction of Austrialia’s Gloria Loughman in Grand Forks this week. With 25 students taking advantage of the opportunity to take two different classes – multiple images within a landscape quilt and light up your landscape - Loughman shared her unique styles of fabric art.
Loughman is best known for her large landscape quilts, often featuring the unique foliage and geography from her home country. She does a lot of hand dyed fabrics, and offers lessons in painting your own fabrics for quilts, particularly sky and water scenes. She has published two books and is working on a couple more.
Living in a small town called Drisdale, about an hour south of Melbourne where she and her husband Tony, a retired teacher, have just built their new home overlooking the bay – including her full studio, Loughman has come a long way from her start in quilting which was largely social – spending time with friends, learning new techniques and going to fabric stores to shop.
Gloria never envisioned making a living from her art when she started out. A special needs teacher through most of her career, Loughman was struck with breast cancer in 1988 and at the time a friend invited her to a quilting class where she found herself entranced.
“I didn’t have any art training. After making quilts for about six years I then enrolled in a diploma of art program which I did by correspondence,” says Loughman. “I was still in school, I was doing (the courses) and so I didn’t make quilts for a while. Then I started making the big landscape quilts after that.”
After she completed her arts diploma and was teaching quilting occasionally on weekends, Loughman decided to explore opportunities to travel and teach her quilting. “So I took one year leave without pay to see whether we could survive – our youngest daughter had just started university in Melbourne and we needed to support her. So we survived and I took another year’s leave without pay and then I resigned. I left at the end of 2001.”
In the beginning Loughman took every teaching job she could get, but now she is more selective. She averages about three overseas jobs a year usually lasting about a month, although her current trip is six weeks encompassing England, Ireland, Grand Forks, Washington and California. She says that she spends six to seven months travelling each year. For the rest of this year she will be teaching classes in Australia and Fuji. Loughman’s husband often travels with her overseas, taking pictures to assist her with her books, and just enjoying the adventure.
Loughman says she started where everyone else does – at the beginning – and she’s a firm believer that you can learn and improve along the way. “I wasn’t aware that I could even put colours together or anything. I never did any drawing or painting since I was in school and I was pretty terrible at it then! But I found I could pick the colours easily and I didn’t even know I could do that! It’s one of the big things with quilting – the colour draws me to it,” Loughman explained.
The classes that Loughman teaches echo where she is in her own quilt making, although she still does a lot of the landscape classes. From patchwork quilts to abstract art quilts, Gloria is continually changing her perspective. “I had that big landscape phase, and then I went into the abstract phase for a while. In my own work now I’m in a sort of abstract landscape combining the two and I’m really happy there. That’s the sort of work that I’m really drawn to in a gallery so that’s where I’m pushing myself at the moment.”
The multiple images within a quilt class was requested specifically by the Grand Forks group and it was the first time that Loughman taught the class. “In the few months leading up to coming here I did a huge amount of work on it,” she laughed. “In the end it’s still the basic thing of a landscape – still getting the harmony by having lines that flow through. It was still the same principles.”
Loughman’s classes were hosted by the Grand Forks Quilting Connection guild. Throughout her time in Grand Forks Loughman says she and her husband had a fabulous time. “We’ve been really well looked after hospitality-wise, friendship-wise – we’ve had a great time. Emilie’s so good she always has a bit of a plan for Tony so he’s been off and doing stuff everyday. So it’s been really terrific!”
Loughman is planning for retirement in the next few years depending on her energy. “I quite like the idea of still doing something and not just being at home,” she continued. “Even though I’d love to be at home just working on quilts all the time, actually I don’t think I could do that! You think it sounds good, but I actually don’t think I could do that – I like to have some sort of a focus, some sort of challenge.” She will continue to travel and teach as long as she, and Tony, are still enjoying it.