Kathleen Loomis became a full-time artist once she retired in 2000 from a career in writing and communication. At first, she worked exclusively in fiber and quilting but has since branched out to hand-stitching, mixed media, collage, sketching, and most recently calligraphy. She is a member of PYRO Gallery and is the author of Pattern-Free Quilts: Riffs on the Rail Fence Block.
How did you know you were an artist?
In the early ’90s I was making functional quilts, baby quilts, and had graduated to quilts for the walls. I thought to myself, ‘You know, this could be art. I could be an artist. I am an artist.’ Start telling yourself and others you’re an artist and pretty soon you are an artist. And, of course, you have to make a lot of art.
I used to make huge quilts, which was very taxing physically to do on a home sewing machine. I got to the point where it was too much for me so I transitioned to other forms of fiber arts that are handheld and smaller in scale.
Where do you create?
My studio is a big room in the basement that used to be a rec room with a pool table. When my sons left home, I decided I needed a better work table so I covered the pool table with two pieces of plywood and now have a work surface that measures 4 by 8 feet. There’s a sewing machine and a design wall so I can hang things and stand back and look at them from a proper distance.
What about your daily practice?
For 20 years I’ve been doing daily art. Every year on January 1, I write new rules for what that daily art will be. For 2020, it was calligraphy, and I practice in a sketchbook every day. Other projects have included daily photographs, sketching, postcards, collage, and quilt blocks. (kathysdailyart.com).
How has this helped you?
I use my daily art as a way to force myself to work on things that I want to learn. I want to commit to a year of daily work and use a specific technique.
It’s a commitment to doing something regularly. Repetition is the key. Something happens that wouldn’t happen if you hadn’t done it the second time. So it doesn’t matter if you do something once a week or once a month, it’s the repetition.
My daily practice is not my studio art. I try to be in the studio every day. The hardest part of maintaining an artist routine is to figure out what you’re going to work on next. If I have a project already to work on I will pick this up and keep doing it.
A real life situation that inspired you?
When the war in Iraq started I was upset and disturbed. Military bodies in flag-covered coffins arrived back in the U.S., but no press could take photos of the coffins. I’ve always been an American flag junkie, and I started obsessing about flag-covered coffins. From that came the Kentucky Graveyard (Iraq) quilt. It was inspired by the Kentucky Graveyard Quilt (1843) and represented the soldiers from Kentucky who had died — there were 43 as of September 11, 2006, when I finished the quilt. Another one, Memorial Day, is made up of 4,083, 1.-by-1.-inch flags and honors the number of U.S. military dead in Iraq as of Memorial Day 2008.
That is an award-winning piece, and I donated it to the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Your dream project?
Over the years I have collected euphemisms people have used in obituaries to say that the person has died. I’ve got hundreds of them. At an antique store a couple of years ago I purchased a crudely made nightgown and thought it would be perfect for the project. My plan was to embroider different euphemisms onto the nightgown. I even bought the embroidery floss in colors of mourning — mauve, gray, and black. I’ve misplaced the nightgown, though, and as soon as I find it, that project is getting underway.
BY LUCY M. PRITCHETT | PHOTOS BY KATHLEEN LOOMIS