time to work on quilt art can be tough for Lisa Kristen-Scott. Her
list of projects is a long one: teaching art to at-risk students
in middle and high schools, facilitating two ongoing support groups
for women artists, performing wedding ceremonies and rites of passage,
sewing pillows and making jewelry to sell in stores and craft fairs,
cleaning houses and doing finish work for an internationally known
quilt artist. A San Diego native, Lisa settled in Portland almost
10 years ago after stops in San Francisco and Seattle.
Stitches in time
Lisa Kristen-Scott combines bits and pieces of old and new to create
mixed-media quilts that tell the tales of her life, hopes and dreams.
"At first I used only fabrics in my quilts," she said.
"I learned the nuts and bolts of quilt construction from Elaine
Spence at the Oregon College of Art and Craft four years ago. But
to better convey my ideas, I began to incorporate different objects
into the quilts framed photos, feathers, bones, shells, metal,
beads, ceramics and other found objects."
Memory," 25 x 21 inches, hand-pieced, hand-quilted, using
antique lace, sheers, hand-dyed cotton, burlap, shells, beads.
[Quilt photos by Grace Weston.]
"I'm often trying new things, so I'm inventing in the moment,"
she said. "There are a lot of logistical details to work out
when combining fabric with heavy objects. I also incorporate sheers,
which create a stained-glass transparent effect, but which are a
challenge to finish cleanly on both sides."
Technical issues aside, it's the internal process that's most fascinating
to Lisa. She's learned to trust her feelings and let the inner messages
reveal themselves in the quilts. Personal symbols fill her quilts,
yet they are also transpersonal.
"I've noticed that others respond deeply to my work in the
same spirit that I make it, even without knowing my personal story,"
she said. "That's how I measure artistic success: a work that
has the integrity to reflect the artist's intentions and then reach
beyond the artist to others, creating an interconnection.
"Quilts are the perfect metaphor for interconnection; they
integrate seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive whole. Mixed-media
quilts also connect the resourceful and valuable tradition of what
I proudly refer to as women's work quilts, clothing and cloth
production since the beginning of human societies with present-day
and Door," 44 x 49 inches, machine-pieced, machine- and
hand-quilted, with antique fabrics, a miniature wooden door,
Lisa is sometimes asked why she refers to her art as quilts rather
than wall hangings. Her response is self-confident: "I'm proud
to be a quilt maker. I use traditional quilting patterns like Nine
Patch and Log Cabin in my work to honor my ancestors. I claim all
women who stitch, past and present, as my people."
The mystery, power and endless expanse of the ocean inspires Lisa.
She likes to be surrounded by the enormity and complexity of nature,
where she feels she's "merely a thread in the vast intricate
quilt of life."
Lisa is also inspired by connecting deeply with others, women who
go for their dreams, the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, teaching
art to at-risk teens, dancing to live funk and blues, tall tales
and dizzying heights.
Besides other quilt makers, Lisa's favorite artists include: Hannah
Hoch, Joan Miro, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe and local artist Leanne
"As a Dadaist and a pioneer in turning mass-media collage
into an art form, Hoch was groundbreaking and brilliant," she
said. "Her sardonic humor and scathing satire questioned the
hypocrisy of post-World War I society. I admire her courage and
and Motorcycle," 62 x 62 inches, hand- and machine-pieced,
hand-quilted, with cut-up clothing, leather, metal, deer bones
and hair, sheers.
"Miro's dream-inspired paintings feed my creativity the most,"
she said. "The expressive lines, the sumptuous, evocative colors
and shapes, the whimsical creatures all make me want to get into
the studio and make something," she said. "His skill was
uncompromising, yet he never lost his spark for life or his spontaneity,
and didn't seem to take himself too seriously.
"Kahlo and O'Keefe have been crucial role models women
who remained true to their artistic visions, no matter what, against
many adversities," she said. "Their drive and dedication
"Palmer uses surrealist imagery to evoke the wide-open spaces
of consciousness and unconsciousness like the horizon line
across the ocean that opens doors in my imagination."
Rip what ye sew
Lisa remembers the joy of doing art in elementary school, but especially
in Brownies after school.
"We did a lot of collage and mixed-media-type stuff involving
dried macaroni on paper plates and mobiles made of plastic hair-spray
bottle caps," she said. "Sounds cheesy now, but I loved
and Motorcycle" detail.
The most important artistic skill Lisa learned was sewing. Her
grandmother Margaret, a professional dressmaker and mixed-media
artist herself, began teaching Lisa when she was seven.
"First I sewed Barbie clothes and then clothes for myself,"
she said. "Grandma taught me the importance of discipline in
creativity. 'If it's not right, rip it out and do it again,' she
always said, not from being controlling, but out of respect for
"Her discipline and integrity have been the foundation for
my art today. I work spontaneously and intuitively, always pushing
the medium farther, but I stay grounded with grandma's detailed
Lisa's father is a classically trained musician and teacher who
"often experiences the world from a right-brain, creative perspective"
and has always supported Lisa's creativity.
"I studied music throughout my childhood and I believe it
enriches my visual work," she said. "Other family influences
have been my sister, my great-grandmother and great-aunts, and all
the women who came before them who sewed out of necessity and for
58 x 61 inches, hand- and machine-pieced, machine-quilted, with
hand-dyed cotton, sheers, metallics.
Lisa took one art class in high school and loved it, but was intimidated
by the art scene in college. She minored in art history; diligently
studying the work of others throughout Western history.
Peace by piece
In her 20s, art became an emotional necessity for Lisa.
"I was working through some intense trauma and profound personal
losses at that time, and art became an outlet," she said. "I
studied drawing, painting, sculpture, photography and ceramics in
San Francisco and then at Portland State.
"Most of the stuff I made was horrible just throwing
up all the trauma! Yet I worked deeply and trusted my process, not
worrying so much about the finished product," she said.
"I learned to draw and paint representationally, but kept
finding myself ripping up my work and then stitching it back together.
Ripping and stitching, over and over. I also made ceramic pieces
to be stitched together after firing."
Ten years ago Lisa discovered several beautiful old quilts, hand-made
by her great-grandmother, and was fascinated by how she had used
items from everyday life bed sheets, work clothes, aprons,
etc. to create something new, useful and skillfully designed.
Never ending stories
A visit to a modern quilt-art show was the nudge Lisa needed to
redirect her focus.
of Joy," 39 x 55 inches, machine-pieced and quilted, with
antique satins, hand-dyed cotton, velvet, copper, beads.
Last year Lisa had a quilt-art residency in Rachel Baldwin's Women's
Studies class at the Portland International Community School. The
class included 11 high-school girls who were primarily immigrants
or first-generation students in the U.S.
The girls hand-stitched their own quilt block, which included a
photo of themselves in the center, transferred onto fabric, and
then stitched them together to make the quilt. The quilt was displayed
in the annual student art show.
Lisa considers herself an emerging artist, only having had small,
intimate public showings of her work thus far.
"I'd like as many people as possible to see my work,"
she said. "And, of course, I'd love to have it sold to private
collectors. Being accepted into the biennial National Quilt Show
would also be fantastic.
"That said, I mostly want to keep telling my stories, and
letting them come out as they will, without worrying about marketability
or potential buyers. Authenticity and skillful execution are the
primary goals for my work."