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It's Magic #5, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


It's Magic #3, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


Artist: Geri deGruy of Castle Rock, Colorado, USA

Interview 105

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Hi! I am Geri deGruy. I love to create with fabrics and yarn and thread and paint and words and music and just about anything I get my hands or eyes on. I was born in Pennsylvania and I've also lived in Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama and Colorado.

I've been a lot of things over the years: a daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend. A Brownie, Girl Scout, student (Duke University, University of South Alabama), teacher, occasional poet (and lover of poetry), cartoonist and artist. A nurse, healthcare administrator, classical pianist, mental health counselor, a bead maker, jewelry maker, paper maker, bookmaker (as in books, not bets), lace knitter, quilt maker and creator of original mixed media and free-form fabric and fibre artworks.

I am in possession of a broad mid-western sense of humour. I almost always drive the speed limit, to my family's chagrin. With at least eight hours of sleep, I am at my best and full of ideas and amusement. Meat is not in my diet. There are a number of reasons. As long as I can remember, I've been both a girl and a woman. I don't go to meetings if I can help it. If I can't be in my studio, I want to be outside with lively things. I can't go into a store that has any kind of fibre without touching almost everything. I'm incredibly thankful for my husband and "children" (they're all adults) and all we learn in our life together. My aspiration is to learn how to be in this moment, just as it is. Geri's website.


Artist: Geri deGruy
Nostalgia, Fiber art/art quilt, 2011, 20" x 30", machine pieced and quilted, photo: Geri deGruy


Tell us about your work?

First, most of my work is about using disparate elements (of materials and of self) and joining them together into a whole-ness. Art is a way that I creatively sew together the different fragments of my own life into something with a sense of integrity and coherence.

I create art quilts and collages, and mixed media artwork. They begin with smaller components: a deep red fabric, a piece of lovely old lace, a ripped triangle of wallpaper, a scrap of raw silk, the remnant of an old shirt; a group of small parts that become a unit that feels whole to me. It's like knitting two live rows of stitches together to make them one. It's like healing.

Second, my work is a longing to transmit feeling and beauty. Art gives me hope. It lightens the world. And my hope is to do just that through my own work.

Third, my work is based on my love of colour, contrasts, shapes, abstraction, whimsy, texture and the unexpected interplay amongst them.


It's Magic Series, mixed media, 2010, each piece 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


From where do you get your inspiration?

Primarily I am inspired by nature. It is so magnificent and varied and new at each moment.

Architecture fuels me with the varied structures, symmetries and asymmetries, repeating patterns and use of space. A window casing or an arch or girder will spur many ideas.

The same is true for other art forms such as painting and sculpture. Simple light and shadow across any surface and the dramatic way they can alter a room or a landscape or a face.

Materials themselves are inspirational to me. Give me a scrap can full of fabric remnants and I'm dumping them out and making something new from them. The colour of a piece of fabric or paper and the contrasts possible with other fabrics and papers will grab me. Paints and plasters and threads and beads all bring a myriad of ideas into my head. I have a very busy mind.


It's Magic #5, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy

It's Magic #7, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

In spirit, Frida Kahlo has influenced my work and me. She was a woman, dealing with relationships with men and women, dealing with illness, dealing with politics. Her life was complicated yet she painted and painted. Frida created multiple portraits of herself, dealing with life, dealing with self. Each represents an inner, as well as outer self. I love her courage and her honesty and her art. She gives me courage.

Georgia O'Keefe, in the same way, has had an effect on my work. She too was inspired by the land and by nature. And she was unflinchingly true to her vision without regard for others' approval, something I aspire to. I love her abstracts and her use of colour and shape.

I am a lover of Paul Klee who was an artist of colour, whimsy and optimism, something I too strive to achieve. He used many different mediums and materials. He too loved and played Bach and Mozart. And many of his pieces remind me of art quilts. His freedom of expression is inspirational to me.

Picasso, especially in his cubist period, has impressed his work into me—the apparent simplicity of his paintings, the bringing together of disparate, sometimes disjointed parts, geometric shapes.

Richard Diebenkorn. His work speaks to me. His abstract work has heart and his technique is something I study.


World of Threads Recommends:
Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series


It's Magic #3, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work?

I am in love with the paintings of American artist Brian Rutenberg! I want to make quilts like his paintings—brilliant colour explosions, contrasts that work together to create so much beauty.

American artist Bill Scott: I make quilts somewhat like his paintings. His work is full of light and colour and whimsy. They make me happy and that is most of what I hope happens when people see my work.

Ellsworth Kelly's focus on shapes and spaces and colours make him a favourite of mine. His works often remind me of art quilts. I'm learning from him about the use of space.

Claire Desjardins inspires me to simplify, to be freer with my work, to be more playful.

Then there are the fibre artists!

Jean Wells Keenan has influenced me so much, with her style of cutting without rulers, improvisational design and interpreting nature in colourful abstract ways. She is marvelous!

I've learned from Katie Pasquini Masopust how to abstract a small portion of a picture for a design and then execute it.

Jiyoung Chung and her astounding works with paper have taught me about the use of space, of holes, of apparent emptiness.

Maggie Grey has influenced my use of layers, texture, and surface design.

Jean Littlejohn and Jan Beaney have also influenced my use of surface design techniques as well as the importance of keeping an art journal.

Jude Hill has shown me the power and beauty of hand stitching.



World of Threads Suggests:
Brian Rutenberg: Paintings


It's Magic #4, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


Why did you choose to go into fibre art?

I love to touch things! I touch anything I'm interested in. And fibre is such a touchy, textural medium. The feel of a fine paper or a raw silk…yum! I started in art working with papers, but my sister is a traditional quilter and wanted to teach me to quilt. That led me into the wide world of fabric and art quilting. Fibre is flexible, malleable and a very expressive medium.


It's Magic #8, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy

It's Magic #2, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


What other mediums do you work in, and how does this inform your fibre work?

I work most frequently with collage and mixed media. The three work together in a wonderful way. For one thing, I often use fibre in all three. For another, all three media feel intertwined for me. I'll work on a fibre piece and find that I could express myself more fully by adding mixed media to the work. Or a collage begins to remind me of fabrics that would make the piece into a good art quilt. This creates a virtual cycle where each augments the other.


It's Magic #1, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


When & how did you realize that you had the confidence to proceed with your art?

It was a gradual process. A friend who owned a bookstore carried my cards, my first project. And they sold well. Then when I made fibre jewelry, people wanted to buy pieces off my neck. Each little "success" was encouraging but what really moved me into full time artwork was consistently trying and mastering new skills. About six years ago, my voice started coming through my techniques; the accumulation of techniques and skills and confidence freed me to be more creative and to put my work "out there."


It's Magic #9, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


If a good friend were to describe your style, what would they say?

I asked a few good friends:

"Vibrant. Inviting. Organic. Warm. Quirky at times. Very tactile. Colour rich."

"Geri deGruy's art is awe-inspiring. It is dynamic and each piece speaks a vibrant message. It may be beautiful or stark, but the message is always clear."

"Bold Contemporary Eclectic Jewel-toned Must-have Beautiful Vibrant Original Fibre Artistry. Yes."

"I have always been amazed by Geri's artistic achievements because she excels in a wide variety of arts and crafts areas without any formal art education or training.  Seemingly without a definitive plan, she blends colours and shapes into finalized pieces of art that draw my eyes back again and again to try to answer the question, 'Where in the depths of her mind does she find such beauty, time after time?'"


It's Magic #6, mixed media, 2010, 4" x 4", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


How have your expectations changed over the years?

In two main ways: I work harder than I used to and expect that of myself. Although play is always a part of creation for me, when I started making art, it was almost entirely play. Now there is also a discipline involved. I go to the studio every day, almost all day, to work. Some of that is playful creation and some is disciplined work and wrestling to realize my vision whether I feel like it or not. That devotion to work makes creation possible.

Second, my expectations about selling art have changed. Of course it's sweet to sell a piece of work to someone who loves it. But I will keep creating art even if I never sell another piece. It is who I am more than what I do.


Flying, mixed media, 2013, 14" x 11", mosaic, photo: Geri deGruy


What do you think is the future of fibre art?

I think we are in a thrilling era for fibre art. All over the world, fibre artists are innovating and creating and being recognized as true artists. Many museums are now opening fibre art exhibits, both temporary and permanent. There is an explosion of fibre art shows and venues. We are seeing the beginning of a true recognition of fibre art as an amazing wing of fine art.


Sewing room

Mixed media room

Sewing room-other side of room


Tell us about your studio and how you work:

My studio is about 800 square feet of basement space divided into three rooms. One room is set up mainly for painting, collage and mixed media. Another is a sewing and fibre room. In between is a large room where many of the finished pieces live for awhile. It's a sweet, peaceful space filled with light.

My style is improvisatory for the most part. Occasionally I have an idea about where I am going before I begin, but usually I create as I go. Colour is often the beginning inspiration. I fall in love with a fabric and its colours and create around that. It's like loving a pillow and designing a room around it. (I'll do that, too.) Sometimes a piece comes together quickly and other times it will sit on the design wall for months, until I decide how to complete it.


It Can Always Use Some Red #3, mixed media, 2013, 10" x 8", collage, photo: Geri deGruy


What are you working on now?

I just completed an art quilt called Colorado Autumn Blaze made out of raw silks and cotton/silk blends. It is abstract and somewhat geometrical with interesting colour harmonies. I'm also rummaging through some old pieces (from many experiments) that I like but haven't figured out how to use. An art paper from five years ago and a surface design that included a lot of melting of fabric and beading, found one another. So I'm finishing that piece. I usually have two or more projects going at once, at least one in the collage and mixed media room and one in the sewing section. I also experiment in my art journal as often as possible. It's such a freeing place where I can let go and try wild things or practice ideas.


It Can Always Use Some Red #2, mixed media, 2013, 10" x 8", collage, photo: Geri deGruy


Where do you imagine your work in five years? 

My current work includes both complex layered works as well as simpler pieces, but I would guess that my work is moving toward more abstract, spare expression. My longing is that my work will be even more a direct expression of my heart.


It Can Always Use Some Red #1, mixed media, 2013, 10" x 8", collage, photo: Geri deGruy


What interests you about the World of Threads festival?

I love fibre art! The World of Threads Festival displays and showcases wonderful art from artists all over the world. Multiple venues, innovative fibre art, all in one place. This is a wonderful festival.


Baby Blue Eyes, fiber art/art quilt, 2011, 30" x 24", machine piecing and quilting, hand stitch, photo: Geri deGruy


Is there anything we haven't asked you, that you would like us to know?

I have played classical piano since I was a young child and participated in choral music as well. Music has informed my art through an understanding of rhythms and harmonies, musical colours and the ways rests can make all the difference. My love of gardening and flowers has certainly influenced my choice of subjects. And I do live in beautiful Colorado!


Rose Garden at Night, fiber art/art quilt, 2011, 24" x 36", machine piecing and quilting, photo: Geri deGruy


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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.


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