My First Art Quilt

First Landscape Quilt by Bridget O'Flaherty

Early days of a Quilt Artist

I came across this photo, it’s my very first landscape art quilt. I had taken a colour theory and design course with Joen Wolfrom at Olds College in Alberta in – I think 1993. My partner and I hopped in an old van with $40 in our pockets, a cooler full of food, a gas card and headed west. Oh to be 23 again!  It was an amazing experience. It took me over a year to process everything I learned from her before I completed this piece. I called it Solitude. 

This is the quilt that started me on the journey to create landscapes in fibre. This was my launch. It was utterly thrilling to have someone want to buy a piece of my art, though I have no idea who bought it or where it is in the world today. The woman who bought this changed the course of my life. 

Life Changing Moments

Young girl Bridget Oflaherty 1993I think everyone has a moment when they are facing a choice on their path of life. By 24, I had been a ski instructor, a student, traveler, and was frankly unfocused. I had been raised to believe you had to go to school, get a good education, get a job, then get married, buy a house… you know the plan. Well, I was a bit of a rebel. Not because I was defiant, or trying to consciously rail again the system. I just didn’t fit the mold and I knew that from a young age.  As a teen, I had a hard time connecting with people and I wasn’t a great student.  What I did know is that I loved life and wanted to find something inspirational to do.

When my mother invited me to work in her store at the age of 22, I did it more because I had nothing else planned. It turned into the best decision I had ever made. Retrospectively, maybe she knew that I needed the encouragement to follow a different path. She certainly gave me the opportunity to explore it. I thought when I started that quilting was for old ladies. That only church ladies who did quilting bees would be in the store. I was so wrong.

Inspiration in Early Days

Working in my mother’s quilt store gave me exposure to books and magazines in the industry. Not just traditional quilting but Art Quilts. One of the primary resources was CQA.The Canadian Quilter’s Association was in it’s early days, it was only about 10 years old at that point and the Quilter’s Newsletter was a really just a newsletter in book form- no glossy pages, but I was thrilled to have access. There were a few American magazines worth perusing as well and I was inspired. It eventually lead me to enter National Juried Shows and The Rodman Hall Contemporary Quilts Exhibition. Bridget O'Flaherty Standing beside North Wind and the Sun quilt at NJS Halifax 1994

The internet was not a thing at that point, this was the early 90s so print was king. I dreamed of being featured in a magazine or accepted into a national show. So I dove into getting my tools and techniques down. I had no art training and I had a lot to learn before I thought I could actually make my living at it. That hadn’t even crossed my mind yet, I was just enjoying the process of learning.

Taking workshops and classes helped me in so many ways. I’ll discuss the process and how it helped me in my journey in my next blog post.

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