Teresa Coates' quilts show how mixing your textiles can really bring a quilt to life. Her gallery exhibit makes you feel like you are on a road trip by showcasing various landmarks throughout the country. There is something special about traveling and experiencing new places and Teresa likes to put a new spin on what she experiences by translating it into a quilt. We were excited to feature her work in our gallery and be able to sit down and virtually chat with her about the travels that inspired these quilts. Watch the video to see her exhibit and read below for a one on one interview.
AccuQuilt: We’re so excited to feature your work in our gallery! How did you choose the pieces to send?
Teresa Coates: There were a couple of things that played into my choices of quilts when I made them (all in the last few years) and what techniques they used (as many as possible). Then, of course, I had a travel series that I’d started working on, so I wanted to make sure to include those.
AQ: Is there anything we should know or think when we view your gallery?
TC: I want viewers to see the quilts as an avenue to exploring technique, as well as subject. I really try to vary the textures, both physically and visually, and dare to try new things and see how they will work. I hope the sense of adventure comes through, as well as the inspiration to be brave when it comes to choosing what you’ll make your own quilts with.
AQ: How did you find quilting?
TC: My great-grandmother, Emmie Mae Massingill, was a prolific hand quilter and we had quilts that she had made in our home growing up. I’d like to say that the tradition continued on, but really it skipped a few generations. My mother was a garment sewist and crafter, so the making was definitely there, but I discovered quilt making at the library.
AQ: Tell us a little about your first quilt.
TC: I made my first quilt in 1992 with a library book, paper scissors and cereal box templates. I had a new son and he needed a patchwork quilt, I thought, so I made him one using small blue gingham and cotton fabric. I sewed it quite imperfectly, stitched in the ditch to quilt it and bound it using the backing fabric that I brought around to the front. It’s a fine first-go, but I only recently realized that I made the boats wrong!
AQ: What are you working on now?
TC: Lately, I’ve been exploring more art quilts with the travel series I mentioned. My partner, Hawke Hamilton, and I like to do road trips and last summer we spend a week camping our way around the western states and it really inspired me. The colors, the locations, the people (and because of the pandemic, the lack of people), so I’ve been exploring the feelings, thoughts and ideas brought up then and then beyond in my travels as a sewing teacher and my own explorations of the southern California desert.
AQ: From where do you draw inspiration most often?
TC: Traveling, obviously, and seeing new places or familiar places with a new eye. I try to take the time to really sit in the moment and let myself feel… the air, the light, the history. Then I try to translate into a sketch and hopefully into a quilt. I’m always trying to take those inspirations and spin them to try more techniques, just to add another layer.
AQ: You seem to always have so many amazing projects going on at one time, how do you keep it all straight and keep yourself organized in your quilting room?
TC: I’d like to say I had some fancy way of organizing my studio! I have a couple of IKEA rolling carts that I keep current projects on and work through those as I can. For the travel series, I finally made a spread sheet to keep track of where I am in the process for each. But generally it’s a little cacophonous!
AQ: You appear to be a pro using cuddle and minky fabric, what are your tips to all those newer quilters who may be wanting to use that type of fabric?
TC: Cuddle® is amazing for quilt backs and I absolutely love it. I hadn’t started using the fabric until I was hired by Shannon Fabrics and I was on a work trip in Utah the first time I saw Cuddle® on the back of a quilt. It’s amazingly soft and pliable. Using it on the back of a quilt is really not much different than using a cotton, but there are a few things to remember:
● The backing should be loaded so the stretch is widthwise on the machine.
● Any cuts should be vacuumed to keep the Cuddle® dust out of the machine.
● Use a solid Cuddle® to really show off the beauty.
● Use a woven interfacing, such as Pellon SF101/Shapeflex, to make patchwork with Cuddle easier.
AQ: Where are some of your favorite places that quilting has taken you?
TC: Because I teach, I’ve been able to travel all over the country visiting quilt shops and honestly those are some of my favorite places. I’ve seen all kinds of quilt shops and fabric stores, met people of all types and talked sewing and quilting with quilters my kids’ age, or could be my own grandma. Those are my most treasured memories of traveling and teaching, the conversations with quilters.
AQ: Who or what influences your art most?
TC: Conversations with my partner, Hawke. As a trained fine artist, he has an understanding of styles, fundamentals, and details that I am just learning, but as someone who has sewn for 40 years, I understand fabric and techniques in ways that he is just learning. So these conversations when we discuss art and life and nature and materials are really inspiring to me.
AQ: What are you most excited to be working on in the next year or two?
TC: I’m looking forward to exploring more small art quilts and plan to create more in the series. I’m hoping to incorporate more videos and bringing more collaboration with Hawke and other artists.
AQ: If people want to follow your work, where should they go?
TC: They can see what I’m up to on my blog at teresacoates.com, follow me on Instagram at @teresacoates or join me on Facebook at facebook.com/coatesbespoke.
● Favorite project you’ve worked on: My great grandma hand-sewed a quilt top and I’m hand-quilting it. I’ll finish someday, but it’s really one of the best things I’ve ever worked on.
● Favorite time to work: Early mornings before the day-job.
● Favorite quilting snack: I don’t snack in the studio, but I almost always will have a coffee or chai tea nearby.
● Favorite thing to listen to when quilting: Audiobooks! I’ve listened to hundreds and I love the balance of letting my brain do something while my hands stay busy.
● Favorite way to unwind: A weekend in the desert.
● Favorite hobby outside of quilting: Writing and reading creative non-fiction.