Blog Post Image: Land and Nature Scapes

Carol Ann Grotrian


For over thirty years, I’ve combined traditional American quilting and Japanese shibori dyeing, an ancient form of tie-dye. By 1989, shibori’s organic patterns helped me find my voice in landscape quilts.

Why landscape? The subtext is ecological, but my subject is a quiet sense of place, mostly based on places I’ve experienced, away from the minutiae of day to day—what I call “breathing spaces.” My art stops time, whether cycles of seasons, tides or day to night. It’s that bigger-than-human natural world, a gift of great beauty, whatever one’s spiritual beliefs. It always gives me more ideas for quilts than I have time to make them.

Shibori is found in many cultures in Asia, India, Africa and the Americas; but was primarily developed from the 8th century to today in Japan. A “shaped resist,” fabric is shaped into three-dimensional bundles by stitching, knotting, pleating, binding, clamping or pole wrapping. The shaping controls how the dye is absorbed when the fabric is submerged. As the dyed fabric is opened out, the resulting patterns are revealed.

Like much contemporary art, my quilts are an abstract balance of shape and color, which is overlaid with line—the quilted stitches. I’m grateful that the struggle to make art decisions is balanced by the physical labor of fabric dyeing and the calm of stitching.

My quilts begin with white cotton that I dye using fiber reactive dyes. Indigo often colors my work as well. A measured, calm handling of the indigo vat not only prolongs its life, but also helps center me in a meditative way. My indigo quilts are often whole cloth, with the tops made of one piece of dyed fabric.

My current work has me shifting from traditionally sewing pieces of fabric together with finished seams Reminiscent of mending and inspired by Japanese boro textiles, I’m using a raw edge approach, where the fabrics are layered and stitched directly to batting and backing. I love stitching and quilting by hand, especially in an era that moves too fast.

My sense of place emerged in the northeastern part of the U.S., where I’ve lived since 1979. My quilts are in corporate, private and museum collections. They have been exhibited nationally and internationally and have appeared in various publications, including Mary Schoesser’s Textiles: The Art of Mankind.

My best critics are my husband of 50 years and members of my crit group, who have given me good advice for over 25 years. I’m a member of the Surface Design Association and the Studio Art Quilt Association. I’ve made my living from my quilts, from shibori dyed wearable art, from teaching and from bookkeeping. My studio is in my home in Cambridge, MA.

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *