Like many of you probably did, I met Malka Dubrawsky at her booth at QuiltCon. Malka was there promoting her modern quilt patterns and fabric prints through her business, A Stitch in Dye. Malka wears many artistic hats; she designs and makes quilts, but she also hand-dyes her own fabric to use. In addition to having published two books on quilting and hand-dyeing and countless projects in craft magazines, Malka also offers workshops, designs for Moda, and teaches a patterning Craftsy course. WHEW! I’m so excited to have Malka on RST; I know she’s extremely busy, but I think her dual focus in textiles has a lot to inspire the rest of us. Here’s what she has to say:
What is your story as an artist? How did you get into design?
Wow, my story is pretty long. I started out with a BFA in Studio Art focused on printmaking and never really saw myself as a commercial artist or designer. If printmaking–especially lithographs–was something I could do in a simple home studio, I would have, but that required more equipment and money than I had. So I started making drawings, which, though I had no background in quilts, reminded me of quilts. So I started making quilts. At this point I didn’t own a sewing machine or know how to sew, but that didn’t stop me. Eventually I decided that the fabric that was available for me to work with wasn’t my cup of tea, so I learned how to dye and pattern fabric, primarily with wax resist, but I also learned various shibori techniques. I spent several years making and exhibiting art quilts before I came to selling my hand-dyed fabric and designing quilt patterns.
In your background and in your current practice as a designer, which comes first: quilting or dyeing?
Dyeing, definitely. That’s where my inspiration really comes to fruition. Oftentimes a dyed pattern will spark an idea for a quilt pattern, but it’s not the other way around.
If you’re not doing either of those, what are you doing (either creatively or non-creatively)?
Creatively, I sew my own clothes and knit. Non-creatively, I’m a bit of an exercise nut; I run, swim, bike, do a lot of yoga. I also love to read and listen to audio books (I do a lot of my listening while patterning fabric or sewing).
Besides your own fabrics, what are your favorites to work with?
I love working with solids because I’m often translating one of my dyed patterns into a pieced pattern and solids are best for that process. When I sew clothes, I love linens and knits and, of course, beautiful cotton lawns like Liberty.
Where do you feel you fit into the whole traditional-to-modern spectrum?
Though I didn’t set out to update a traditional technique like batik, I do think that has been the outcome of my work. Looking back, I really love that my work is rooted in a very old process, but that the patterns and fabrics are new and modern looking. As to where I fit in the spectrum, I don’t know. As far as I know, I’m the only one who uses this process to design fabric for a commercial company as well as sell this type of artisan fabric to customers.
Do you pay attention to fabric trends, or do you just make what inspires you?
When I was in art school, I had a teacher say to me that he liked to keep his head as empty as possible. At the time I thought that was a pretty idiotic thing to say, but now I realize he meant that he wanted to keep his head free of the influence of other people’s images and interests. He didn’t want to be pulled off track. I feel the same way. I try not to pay attention to trends or what others are making. I do keep very active Pinterest boards filled with inspiration and interesting patterning, but I choose those images because they feed me or inspire me, not because I’m trying to discover what’s popular.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m doing a lot of design work, so look for lots more quilt designs from me, both in terms of my own PDFs and paper patterns, and look for my designs to appear in your favorite quilt and sewing publications. I also have a new collection for Moda previewing this fall at Quilt Market, so I’ll be designing up a storm to support that line. Also look for loads of new hand-dyed fabrics in my Etsy shop.