Sonja Dahl "Colonial Glory" (detail) 2016

“Bits and Bobbins: Tricia Royal” by Rachel Henry

Gone are the days of the quilt being relegated to a merely serviceable textile for the home. Chicago’s Lillstreet Art Center will host two exhibition openings featuring examples of the modern quilt starting Friday, May 26. The first, The Postmodern Quilt, will showcase quilting artists whose work “fits neatly inside the paradigm of Postmodern Art.” The second exhibition is Echoes: Colors, Pattern & Design, which focuses on artists who play with patterns, geometries and colors as a way to explore material hierarchies.

Lillstreet textile Artist-in-Residence Tricia Royal has work featured in The Postmodern Quilt. A former student of fashion at Parsons School of Design in New York, Royal initially took up quilting as something to do, while job searching. Her skills in sewing and eye for unique fabric relationships gave her a leg up on creating vibrant and beautiful work.

Tricia Royal Housetop 2017, vintage and new cotton fabric, cotton/poly, 48″ x 49″.

After moving to Chicago in 2011, Royal joined the local chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild and started immersing herself in the quilting community. She says this was the start of taking her work more seriously.

Tricia Royal Totem 2017, Shibori indigo dyed cotton, vintage cotton, cotton/poly, 41.5″ x 41.5″.

Royal cites 60s and 70s vintage fashion as part of her inspiration for quilting. She loves taking eclectic colors and patterns that the passive eye would not pair together and making them work. Even as a preteen, Royal says she had a penchant for juxtaposition. Totem’s use of indigo, a traditional natural dye, coupled with the 60s style dye pattern and bright vintage fabric colors is a classic example of Royal’s nod to tradition while bringing quilting into a modern light.

Through a combination of sewing, improvisational piecing, and fusing materials, Royal creates close fabric relationships that allow different graphics to coexist effectively.

Tricia Royal Untitled 2016, linen, cotton, cotton/poly, 33.5″ x 40″.

Royal says when she is looking around some of her favorite fabric stores or digging through a scrap swap at the Modern Quilt Guild gatherings, she loves the surprise. “I just love the serendipity of findings things…I almost feel like they have to stay together.” She is clearly able to see the possibility behind combinations that are not obvious to the traditionalist eye.

Results of the above experiments with shibori and indigo. Fall 2016.

Royal’s unorthodox coupling of graphics begs to be looked at and challenges traditional notions of what it means to be aesthetically pleasing. Indeed, one of the questions that forms her quilt-making is, “What choices could I make (via fabric, design, or color choice) that might push the commonly accepted notions of ‘taste’ and ‘acceptability’”?

Tricia Royal 4401 2017, vintage and new linen fabric, cotton and cotton/poly, hand dyed, hand printed, found fabrics (many collected from the scrap bins at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago), 49″ x 57″

She enjoys exploring vintage shops for fabric ideas and cites her classroom at Lillstreet as another source of inspiration. Royal’s students often leave fabrics they don’t want, which offer options for creative work. Many of these pieces made their way into her quilt 4401, a shout-out to the numerical address of the art center.

– Rachel Henry

Rachel Henry is a writer who covers topics ranging from art, books, careers, and beyond. She is also a member of LADY ART NATION CHICAGO.

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