Who is Sarah Ann Smith?
Color. Line. Texture. Imagery. Stories. OK...hang on....Artists’ statements are often so stuffy—erg! But quilters aren’t stuffy, and most artists aren’t either when they are in the creative zone. I want to share this passion to create and the quilts that I make, and to show people that they, too, can be creative. Not all of us create in the same way; one friend is a much more inventive cook than I will ever be, but I can enjoy reading her e-mails about what’s for dinner---and wish I were eating her dinner instead of mine! In much the same way, I hope that folks who love quilts will enjoy and be inspired by mine, even if they want to make something different.
I want to make the art, and hope that people will like and respond to it. When I read, I love good fiction. Too much reality becomes tedious: I like to be entertained with a story. I hope that in some way my quilts tell stories, too. It doesn’t matter if the story one person sees in the quilt is different from mine or another viewer’s, I just hope that folks will enjoy the quilt.
My subject matter varies. I focused on people first because I felt they are the hardest to do well. I find the challenge of capturing a representation of a person (or a part of them, like their hands) to be one of the hardest things I could do, and I love it when I actually get the image in my head into the cloth successfully. I am always learning; I’ve never made a quilt from which I didn’t learn a new method (even if it was after the quilt was done, when I think…Oh! Geez…if I had done it that way instead it would have been so much easier). But I loved the technicolor portrait of our family pug and think doing the cats would be fun, and am feeling a pull to return to some landscape quilts, too.
Now I'm working on work that celebrates where I live in midcoast Maine. Lurking in the back of my head is the tiny seed of a larger story, to create a new place or world—perhaps infused by the fiction I read and mythologies from various cultures. I’m hoping for time (ever elusive) to let that seed germinate and grow until it is ready to move from the dark confines of my brain and into quilts. Inspiration is everywhere, we just need to be open to receive it and transform it into art. As far as the actual techniques, I use whatever I need to achieve the desired effect including dyeing, painting, hand and machine quilting, embroidery, embellishment with beads, yarns, and any suitable object, piecing, and applique (hand, machine, raw-edge, fused or not...you name it!), and many more yet to be discovered and tried. I stitch intensively on my home sewing machine with a variety of threads that would make a beginning quilter shudder at the cost! The good news: if you add a few at a time, you can build a lovely stash of color! Background.
As a young child, Sarah Ann Smith lived in Spain, Thailand and Argentina. Shortly after her sixth birthday, her family returned to the United States to live. That year a neighbor girl made an apron for Sarah's favorite doll, sparking a fascination with fiber that continues to this day. Before long, Sarah began making clothes for her dolls and trolls, then graduated to clothing for herself. At the San Domenico School in San Anselmo, California, Sarah learned to love learning, and is grateful for the nurturing environment provided by the Dominican Sisters. It was here that Sarah seriously began to learn how to sew, and first saw someone making a quilt and knew instantly that she wanted to learn how. It was also in high school that her art teacher expressed disappointment that, when Sarah had to choose, she opted for sewing over art classes; thank you Mrs. Hoffman for that vote of confidence! It took nearly fifteen years until Sarah found her first book on quilting. By that time, she had graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service; worked as a Legislative Assistant for a U.S. Congressman in Washington, D.C.; earned a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Mass.; volunteered in Guinea-Bissau with Operation Crossroads Africa; met her soon-to-be-husband, and became a U.S. Foreign Service Officer (diplomat). Sarah's first tour with the U.S. Foreign Service was in Toronto, Canada, where she took her first drawing classes while living across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario. Finally, fate picked up a thimble: while assigned to the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, Sarah came across someone's discarded Keepsake Quilting catalog, which opened up the doors to the quilting world. Sarah hasn't looked back since--at long last, a way to marry her love of sewing with her love of art! Much later, in 2002, another set of doors opened when Sarah joined the artquilt list (www.quiltart.com), which she has called her education in the art and business of art quilting. After returning to the States in 1991, her first son was born and, in 1997, the Smith family opted out of the rat race. Just as her husband was ready to retire and Sarah resigned from the Foreign Service to raise their family, their second son was born. From 1998 to 2004 they lived on San Juan Island, an island paradise 20 miles off the coast of Washington State. While there, Sarah began her own business doing custom sewing for the home, providing great experience in creating one-of-a-kind patterns for home decorating projects.
A quest for better schooling for the boys led the family to Camden, Maine, in 2004, where Sarah relishes the supportive environment for fiber art and art quilts. In 2011 the familly moved to next-door Hope, Maine. Sarah considers herself most fortunate to have two wonderful sons, a husband who believes in her art and be able to do what she loves—sew and make art.