There were many wonderful and inspiring quilts on display at Festival of Quilts this year, but for me the show was stolen by Danny Amazonas. Being an avid fan for several years, I was really looking forward to seeing his beautiful work up close and his exhibition 'Vibrance in Larger Textured Life' did not disappoint.
Who is Danny Amazonas?
He is an internationally known Taiwanese fibre artist with a background in oil painting, floral design and mosaic art who didn't actually start sewing until the late 1990s, when a chance walk past a quilt shop had him mesmerized and changed his life - something many of us can relate to!
Where does he get inspiration from?
Danny, like so many artists regardless of medium, is inspired by the world around him but has a particular love for portraiture which he credits to his idol Chuck Close, who himself is a photorealistic painter. He has also said in numerous interviews that he's heavily influenced by Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably and Philip Jacobs and the 'wonderfully exotic' prints they create, it's obvious when looking at the pieces of work Danny creates just how much he loves to use these fabrics - his stash is said to include over 1500 fabrics!
Travel plays a big part in the inspiration and design phase of his work as well, anywhere that can capture people or animals from different angles or in different lighting which can later be further modified to increase creativity and turned into one of his jaw dropping Freehand Patchwork pieces.
What is Freehand Patchwork?
Freehand Patchwork is a technique developed by Danny in 2012 to combat fraying fabric in his work. In basic terms it's fabric collage, but where we as quilters are most likely to use fabric glue, pins or some kind of fusible webbing to hold the fabric down before sewing, Danny does something a bit different.
He stiffens all the fabrics using a sweet potato starch, which he buys in powder form and then hangs the starched fabrics to dry, adhering them to fusible webbing afterwards. The starched and fused fabrics are cut into strips and sorted by colour value, ready to use in any project currently on his design wall.
Danny then sketches out the design/image he wants to create onto a base fabric on his, using a rotary cutter to cut small pieces of the prepared fabrics, in his own words giving him the freedom to paint with fabric, and irons them into place on the base fabric.
“If I don’t like how it looks, I just rip them off and put something else”
Danny overlaps layers of fabric, all of which have raw edges and once satisfied with how the piece looks, he sews everything down using invisible thread and a free-motion, zigzag stitch. Many of his pieces are large—often measured in feet rather than inches—and each one might include 1000s of pieces of different, brightly coloured fabrics.
Up close, the work looks like a beautiful but can seem unorganized and just a jumble of colour. However, from a distance the subject comes surprisingly into focus and the overall effect is unlike anything I've ever seen, absolutely breath taking.
The exhibition at Festival of Quilts showed his works from 2000 and how they have evolved from more basic fabric mosaics to the amazing Freehand Patchwork pieces he's now famed for.
Aren't they just gorgeous?