Kate Themel is an award-winning artist living in Cheshire, Connecticut. Kate earned a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Art in 1992 and began using fabric as an artistic medium in 1996.
"I rely on my formal training when I'm evaluating a composition and deciding if it works or not. The elements of art are the same whether you use ink, paint or fabric as the medium. I use fabric to explore value, color and shape. With machine stitching I can add lines and texture. Fiber art also has this sculptural aspect that's really exciting. I can explore a wide range of creative territory with textiles."
Kate has developed a distinct, painterly style in her compositions, which are constructed using basic quilting techniques and materials.
Kate Themel has created custom fiber art for individuals, hospitals and corporate clients and her unique fiber pieces have been exhibited in art galleries and museums from Boston to Botswana. Her quilted compositions have been juried into international exhibitions such as Art Quilt Elements, Kagoshima Quilt Show in Japan and Quilt National where Kate’s work earned the People’s Choice Award.
A bit of technical information on how I construct my designs, "from the ground up":
I start with a single layer of fabric as the foundation of the artwork. Often this serves as the background fabric.
Then I cut pieces of colored fabric (usually cotton, hand dyed and batiks) and arrange them on the surface of the work. The first few pieces can be quite large - almost covering the entire surface. But as I refine the composition with more details, I cut pieces that are smaller and smaller - until they are no bigger than a fingerprint. I arrange them in layers, overlapping edges or cutting out areas to reveal the color behind it, temporarily tacking them in place with a bit of water soluble glue. I use the fabric like dabs of paint, to create a sense of light and depth.
When the top is complete, I add batting and a piece of fabric for the back of the artwork, and move everything to the sewing machine. I sew through all 3 parts of the "quilt sandwich" (top, batting and back). Machine stitching allows me to sew through many layers, securing all the little pieces of fabric and adding texture to the finished piece. I use free motion stitches to draw tiny details, blend colors, define edges and sometimes add new elements to the design. I use these stitched lines the same way I would use pencil, charcoal or pen/ink.
Many people have asked if I print photos onto fabric to use in my work. The simple answer is, No.
Read on for the longer answer...
With the exception of a few historical photos in the Yale timeline series, I have not used photo-printed fabric in the past and I have no plans to use it in the future. This is a personal preference, not a value judgment about photo-printed fabrics. I have seen many artists use photo transfers and digital prints to create original designs and outstanding artwork. I appreciate fine art regardless of the techniques used to create it.
I personally enjoy the process of studying a photo and breaking it into simple shapes, cutting fabric and arranging the pieces in layers so that an image appears over a longer stretch of time.
Photography does play a very important role in my creative process. I'm inspired by the people and things around me, so I'm always taking pictures. Sometimes I'll photograph a person or object, already knowing that I want to interpret the image into fabric.
Note: For commissions, clients often provide photos for inspiration and reference material. My original designs are based on my own photos or photos that I have obtained the rights to use. Even though I do not print or transfer the photo in my finished piece, I try to err on the side of caution and avoid infringing on anyone else’s copyright.
I usually keep a photo as a reference as I create a pattern to work from. I constantly refer to it as I layer the fabrics. I'll even keep one eye on the photo as I'm sewing. I like to study an object/subject up close and over a long period of time, to discover tiny details that I might have missed at first glance. This is especially true with portraits. It's just easier to stare at a photo than a real person - people tend to get fidgety after 6 or 7 hours.
I hope you enjoy seeing my work and knowing a little bit about how it's made.
* Juried show
- Locally Inspired – Windham Textile and History Museum (Willimantic, CT)
- Viewpoints 9: Constants and Variables – International Quilt Festival (Houston, TX)
- Viewpoints 9 Special Exhibit – traveling show (Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne Australia)
- *LOCAL COLOR: Connecticut Stories – Slater Memorial Museum (Norwich, CT)
- *Fly Me to the Moon – Quilting and Sewing Marketplace (Salt Lake City, UT)
- *Fly Me to the Moon – International Quilt Festival (Houston, TX)
- *Local Color: Connecticut Stories – Guilford Art Center (Guilford, CT)
- *SAQA: Wild Fabrications – Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum (Wausau, WI)
- *Celebration of Fiber Art – Art Center East (Vernon, CT)
- Viewpoints 9: Special Exhibit – Carrefour European Patchwork Meeting (Val d’Argent, France)
- *SAQA: Wild Fabrications – International Quilt Festival (Houston, TX)
- Viewpoints 9: Challenges – International House (Davis, CA) Contemporary Fiber Art, Invitational – Lore Degenstein Gallery (Selinsgrove, PA)
- *Annual Juried Members Exhibition – New Britain Museum of American Art (New Britain, CT)
- Fibrations! Invitational – The Great Hall Gallery (Springfield, VT)
- Solo Exhibition “Fabric and Thread” – Funky Monkey Café Gallery (Cheshire, CT)
- Let Me Quilt One More Day, Invitational – New Britain Museum of American Art (New Britain, CT)
- Five Fiber Friends – Fairhaven Furniture River Street Gallery (New Haven, CT)
- *70th Annual CT Artists Exhibition – The Slater Memorial Museum (Norwich, CT)
- Inspiration Quilts: Then and Now, Invitational Exhibition – Windham Textile and History Museum (Willimantic, CT)
- *SAQA CT: Local Color – The Slater Memorial Museum (Norwich, CT) and Guilford Art Center (Guilford, CT), Legislative Office Building (Hartford, CT) and WCSU Library (Danbury, CT)
- Fiber Revolution: Fragmentations – Straube Center (Pennington, NJ)
- *Quilt National ’13 – The Dairy Barn Arts Center (Athens, OH)
- 2013 International Quilt Invitational Exhibition – Brigham City Museum (Brigham City, UT)
- Solo Exhibition of Fiber Art by Kate Themel – Saltbox Gallery (West Hartford, CT)
- Fiber Revolution: International Quilt Convention – Emperors Palace (Johannesburg, South Africa)
- The Artistry of Connecticut Craft – Brookfield Craft Center (Brookfield, CT)
- America the Beautiful – Texas Quilt Museum (La Grange, TX)
- *Art Quilt Elements 2012 – Wayne Art Center (Wayne, PA)
- “Seasons” Invitational – Machine Quilting Unlimited Magazine, May 2012 Issue
- *Quilt National ’11 – San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (San Jose, CA)
- *SAQA: Beyond Comfort – Martin Museum of Art at Baylor University (Waco, TX)
- Solo Exhibition, “New Light” – Funky Monkey Café & Gallery (Cheshire, CT)
- Yale Pediatric Specialty Center (New Haven, CT) – Sea of Imagination
- Centerpoint Advisors Corporate Office (Newton, MA) - Boston Harbor
- Eli and Edythe Broad (formerly Kresge) Art Museum at Michigan State Univ. (East Lansing, MI) – Luka’s Eyes
- Sports Medicine Dept., Harvard/Children's Hospital (Boston, MA) - Runner
- Centerpoint Advisors Corporate Office (Newton, MA) - Boston Skyline
- Cheshire Historical Society textile collection (Cheshire, CT) - Anticipation of Discovery
- Afro American Cultural Center at Yale (New Haven, CT) - 40th Anniversary: Timeline
- First Place – “CT Science Center”, Celebration of Fiber Art, Art Center East (Vernon, CT)
- Juror, SAQA: Northern California Inspirations – San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (San Jose, CA) 2014
- Juror, Out of the Loop 2013 – West Hartford Art League Clubhouse Gallery (W. Hartford, CT)
- Honorable Mention – “Leaving a Mark”, 2014 CT Artists Exhibition, Slater Memorial Museum (Norwich, CT)
- Selected Artists Panel, SAQA-Sponsored Symposium at Quilt National ’13 (Athens, OH)
- Young Emerging Artist Award – Quilt National ’11 (Athens, OH)
- People’s Choice Award – “Dandelion”, Quilt National ’11 (Athens, OH)
- “Fly Me to the Moon”, Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine, March 2017, p.28
- “Let’s Talk Art Quilts with Kate Themel”, Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine, Vol. 24 No. 10, p. 120-122
- Wolfrom, Joen: Color Play: Second Edition, C&T Publishing, 2014, p. 10
- Art & Beyond magazine, May/June 2014, Back Cover and p.28
- Quilt National 2013: The Best of Contemporary Quilts, Dairy Barn Cultural Arts Center 2013, p.55
- Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine, July/August 2013, p.28
- “Figurative Quilt Art: A Conversation with Kate Themel”, Quilting Arts magazine, Apr/May 2013
- Sielman, Martha: Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits, Lark Craft Books, 2013 p.55
- Themel, Kate: “What is it about Faces?”, Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine, May/June 2012 p.18-24
- Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine, Cover, Jan/Feb 2012
- Themel, Kate: “Painting with Fabric & Thread”, Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine, Jan/Feb 2012 p.40-44
- Fiber Art Now magazine, spring 2012
- Juried Artist Member, CWA (Connecticut Women Artists)
- Juried Artist Member, SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates)