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Column #59

Thread Wit

B.J. Adams' studio
B.J. Adams’ studio

Late Summer
Late Summer

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
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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Archived blogs:

Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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