B.J. Adams’ studio
Entering the second-story studio of Washington, D.C.-based fiber artist B.J. Adams is like walking inside a rainbow. Boxes and spools of thread in every conceivable shade of every imaginable color line shelves along the walls and cluster around her self-described “old” Bernina sewing machine on the work table. Light filters through treetops visible from the windows that surround the airy space, while sketchpads, fabric, and works-in-progress coexist and add still more color to the mix. It is a reflective place, both in terms of light and creativity.
This is where Adams fashions the pieces that have been shown all over the world (including at three Quilt Nationals), that have been featured in numerous publications—both in North America and abroad—and that are included in corporate collections across the United States. This is where she executes the ideas that fill her sketchpads and where she turns them into fiber art. And while the witty, playful touches that can frequently be found in her work may be realized here, they start somewhere deep in the artist’s imagination.
Adams’ formal education in fine art dovetailed with her love of sewing and fabric to form a happy merger of skill and interest. “My artistic life began with painting and drawing. And, I always designed and made my own clothes,” she states. “These two pursuits found a common end with fiber art. When I discovered fabric and thread as a medium, a whole new textural world opened and ideas poured forth. The sewing machine has become my brush and pencil; hundreds of colors of thread have become paint for realistic and abstract images set on various backgrounds.”
First she makes a drawing of the image she has in mind—either from a model or from a photograph, and then uses colored pencils to define it and to serve as a template, of sorts, for which threads and fabrics she will select to create the finished piece. “I only need a straight stitch and a zigzag,” Adams says. “A single line of thread is like a single line of a sketch, although thread colors are much more intense than those of colored pencils.”
Chairs - Medium
In addition to the beautiful colors and artistic flair always evident in Adams’ work, many of her pieces contain elements that reflect her sense of humor.
For example, her series entitled Wing Chairs features various types of chairs with a bird or an insect perched on the arm of each one. Late Summer contains hands holding the top of the quilt. The hands were added after organizers of the exhibit for which the piece was being submitted for consideration told Adams that the quilt had to be “professionally photographed, with no hands holding up the quilt.” Kiss features hands finger-spelling that word in American Sign Language, surrounded by translations in many other languages.
To commemorate entering her eighth decade, she is now working on a series of 80 eight-inch by eight-inch pieces in groups with different themes. “I like to put real things in my work in unexpected ways,” Adams says, with a twinkle in her eye. It will be fun for the rest of us to see what she comes up with.
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