Janet Spencer, Expert Quilter in Amador City
Photo © Karrie Lindsay
Name of Person: Janet Spencer
Janet Spencer began sewing at the age of 10 when she joined the East Lake 4-H Club in Lake County, Ca. At 14, she became the Lake County Dress Review winner, then competed in State Competition. She was inspired by the color and light of this rural environment.
She loved early U.S. pioneer quilts. With the Centennial celebrations of 1976, there was a growing interest in quilt making and their part in American history.
Her first art quilt was a huge challenge: make a wall hanging where each and every piece was different and still have a wonderful color palette. This quilt is highlighted to the left.
In the early 1990s, she took a class from the well known, Michael James, currently the Ardis James Professor of Textiles, Clothing and Design and Department Chair, Textiles, Clothing and Design at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln Campus.
He wanted students to look at color in nature. How does it harmonize? Does it blend? How many variations of white do you see? Do you see anything that doesn't resonate with you? He urged students to mentally assemble these visual records and translate them into a design in cloth. As a mental exercise, this is not a challenge, but try to accomplish it with hundreds of pieces of fabric! Janet realized that her sense of color and design had not been taught, it was from within.
A move to Amador City in 1998, provided Janet with a work room of her own, a room dedicated to quilting. Living in the Foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the colors, the seasonal changes and the clear country light, opened up a new vista of natural color and inspiration.
Janet's quilting friends give her 100% cotton scraps left over from their projects. This makes the variety of her stash huge! After making them into 2 inch squares and strips, colors are sorted and readied for layout. Rather than use the traditional form of selecting a few shades of each color in a quilt, Janet uses hundreds of different fabric prints in specific tones to add depth and excitement to a piece.
Her light colors are patterned or textured. So, from a distance, there is a lightness in these areas, but close up, they are carefully selected and arranged. Who would do this but an artist! Each block is laid out and arranged for proper contrast and blending. Then, after the blocks are made, the arranging and rearranging of them continues until a perfect balance is achieved. Finally, the whole is sewn together and quilted. Janet is to quilting what Chuck Close is to painting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Close
This painstaking process gives a depth and color that makes her work easily recognizable. Even the smaller coaster pieces are individually laid out and assembled. Whether it is a coster, a pot holder, a place mat, or a large table runner, or major wall hanging, each has her keen color signature.
Completed wall hangings have between 2,400 and 5,000 plus individual pieces of fabric!
A fine selection of Janet Spencer's quilted work is on display at The Kitchen Store in Amador City. Seasonal themes are available. Her work is also available in craft fairs throughout the area.