Friday, July 22, 2011

Elin Noble - inspiring creativity

Post by CQA member, Lorraine Edmond

Elin Noble spoke to a standing-room crowd at our July 9 CQA program, where she dazzled us with her clamp-resist dyed fabric, her variegated thread, and her finished work, in the form of both art cloth and quilts. Elin has been dyeing fabric for about 30 years, which included a stint as the lab manager for ProChem. As a result of being asked the same process questions over and over, she wrote the popular and award-winning book “Dyes and Paints: A Hands-on Guide to Coloring Fabric,” which is now in print once again.

Elin talked about her sources of inspiration— her travels, her awareness of the “theatrical quality of light,” and reflections through windows that illutrates what she calls “different kinds of the same reality.” Her current work uses carved wood blocks as clamps for resist, and some pieces are the result of as many as 38 steps of dyeing and resisting, clamping and re-folding. The result is fabric with a luminous quality that seems to glow even when seen across a room.

About ten years ago, Elin began making small quilts to use as teaching examples, and about three years ago, she began a series of whole cloth quilts. This year, one of her Fugitive Pieces quilts was included in Quilt National, where it also won a juror’s award. And if that isn’t envy-producing enough, you should see the pictures of her gigantic studio, which she shares with her husband, who is a sculptor. She now works on a long arm quilting machine, which makes it easier to do her intensive threadwork, especially on large pieces. She has a 16-foot-long work table as well as a separate dye and discharge room, with its own ventilation system, so she can work there year-round.

Marbling fabric is another interest, as is vat dyeing and working with degummed silk. Elin is no stranger to the Pacific Northwest (many of us have taken classes with her mother, Maurine Noble, over the years), and this time, she is in town on her way to teach at Coupeville, at the Pacific Northwest Art School. I am sure I’m not the only member of the audience who had a serious temptation to follow her right over there after such a tantalizing peek at her work.

You can see more of Elin's work as well as her teaching and exhibition schedule at