A Part of the Story

According to the Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc (SAQA) website, they are “a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the art quilt through education, exhibitions, professional development, documentation, and publications.”


SAQA artists represented on the website homepage.

According to me, they are an amazing organization where I can go to learn to be a better professional quilt maker. Through SAQA, I learn about the business side of being an artist, I meet collectors and like-minded makers, I have numerous opportunities to show my work both in traveling exhibitions and online, and I get to be part of this great story that is unfolding in real time. That is the story of the quilt maker–artists whose primary medium is the quilt–claiming their space in the larger world of art.

The crowd gathered for the opening of the SAQA exhibition Earth Stories at the San Jose Quilt and Textile Museum.

The crowd gathered for the opening of the SAQA exhibition Earth Stories at the San Jose Quilt and Textile Museum.

Last May, I spoke at the 2015 SAQA Conference in Portland, Oregon. The topic of my lecture was The Art of the Word: Getting Grants and Other Art Opportunities by Crafting a Well-Written Proposal. This subject matter was so exciting (NOT) that I had several attendees come up to me after the lecture to say that while they were really glad they showed up at 9AM on a Saturday morning to hear me talk, they seriously had to force themselves to do so. They are right.

Maria Shell The Art of the WordIt’s a boring topic. Who wants to learn about writing when we can all be in our studios stitching away. The sewing machine humming, the iron hissing, the scissors snipping, the ripper silent. The music of making. We love the zen benefits of stitching hour after hour.

HOME by Maria Shell and the Residents of Moore PlaceStill the truth of the matter is–if we want to move forward as an art medium, we have got to learn how to put ourselves out there. And the process of doing that is what my talk was about. If this intrigues you, I have broken the lecture down into six sections, two of which I have written blog posts about.

The Art of the Word–Writer + Quilter = Opportunity

The Art of the Word–Start Where You Are

And YES. there should be more posts to come. Someday when my sewing machine is broken, and it is below zero, but still warm in my“attic”office, I will write them.

With the help of the SAQA webinar team, we created an online version of the talk which is available to SAQA members.

During this talk I mentioned the Sustainable Arts Foundation. They are a small San Fransisco based non-profit that funds artists and writers who are in the thick of parenting while also trying to produce creative work. In the winter of 2011, I received an award from them to build a small off-the-grid sewing studio out in McCarthy, Alaska.

Maria Shell Sewing Studio- McCarthy StyleI was one of the first artists to receive an award from them. Since then, the competition and the prestige that go along with this award have gone through the roof. Twice a year, more than a thousand artists and writers with families submit proposals for funding. The competition is incredible. To catch the eye of a juror and move into the final rounds of review is nearly impossible. I don’t want to be all negative like, but it is a FEAT.

In the end, twenty artists and writers are recognized for their outstanding abilities. Despite these crazy odds, TWO of the artists–LISA KIJAK and AMY MEISSNER— selected for recognition this winter are quilt artists who are members of SAQA and heard about this funding opportunity through hearing me speak and/or reading my blog. Isn’t that fantastic?

Let me introduce these well-deserving artists.

In the words of the Sustainable Arts Foundation, “Lisa Kijak is a quilter with a contemporary, painterly aesthetic.

kijak_odysseyliquorHer works are painstakingly constructed reproductions of photographs, pieces that read beautifully at a distance,

kijak_odysseyliquor_detailand whose surfaces are alive with the rich textures of minute fabric detail.

kijak_elcortezLisa lives with her wife and two daughters in Laguna Hills, CA.”kijak_elcortez_detailFellow Alaskan artist and SAQA-AK co-rep, Amy Meissner, was also recognized for her work.

Reliq11_Halo_detail4_webYou can see hi-lights of her solo show at the Bunnell Street Arts Center  by reading this blog post.

Reliq10_Corazon_full_webHer conceptual work explores the use of vintage and abandoned textiles, found objects and text, often exploring themes of the body and loss.

Reliq9_Core_full_webShe writes an incredibly thoughtful blog that you should really check out.

Reliq 2_Keep_cafeI hope you will take a moment to explore Lisa and Amy‘s websites and blogs. I think you will find both artists offer authentic visual feasts for the eyes.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I am truly grateful to be a part of this community of makers.

We are doing it, and it is AMAZING. But think about it, who can really stop a bunch of artists with sewing machines and scissors? I hope this story inspires all of you to get your grant on. Write on.

Happy Thanksgiving dear readers!

This entry was published on November 25, 2015 at 9:37 AM. It’s filed under News And Events, Thoughts and Opinions, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

7 thoughts on “A Part of the Story

  1. Your SAQA talk was an inspiration to many of us. So cool to hear that these 2 took action and went for it. Congrats to them and to you!

  2. I’m assuming the Sustainable Arts Foundation is an American Foundation. How does a Canadian find foundations that they can benefit from?

    • Arja- the Sustainable Arts Foundation is U.S. based but they fund artists from around the world as long as they are raising children. My suggestions for starting research for funding would be to look at your local and state arts councils. Good luck!

  3. Pingback: SAQA Members Lisa Kijak and Amy Meissner Recognized | SAQA Blog

  4. Hi Maria… I have been away visiting adult children and grandchildren, but just read your post and will be spending some free time this weekend exploring all of the links. I met Lisa Kijak at Quilt National in 2013 and she is a stunning and yet timid artist – and her work speaks volumes. So excited to read more about Amy – I have followed her work for a few years, and like YOU, she is growing by leaps and bounds and well known throughout the art quit world for sure.

    Have a wonderful set of holidays – will you be in McCarthy? We are promised a wet but warmer winter than our 72″ of snow last year in Kingston, ON. See you in the spring in Philly!


    • Yes to Philly! Amy and Lisa are both pretty amazing. And it is super exciting to see them receive recognition along with the other visual artists and writers. Happy Holidays! It is cold and bright today–lots of hoar frost right now which I LOVE.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: