To celebrate the upcoming publication of our new book, Optical Illusions: Innovative Designs for the Modern Quilter, we’re highlighting each of the 10 designers who appear in the book. We’re starting with Karen Hansen. Her optical illusion quilt, Surf’s Up, was inspired by experimenting with leftover Bulls-eye blocks. In September, you will be able to see her quilt in Optical Illusions.
Surf’s Up detail. Karen used raw edge appliqué to create her optical illusion.
Karen started quilting in 2000, quickly transitioning from traditional patterns to designing her own modern and art quilts. She has taught workshops at local shops and guilds, and her work has been published in various books and magazines. Her quilts have won prizes in local shows and have been juried into the American Quilter’s Society show in Paducah, Kentucky. Her commissioned works are displayed in churches and homes.
Karen lives in Overland Park, Kansas, with her husband and three cats. She is a member of the Blue Valley Quilt Guild, Kaw Valley Quilt Guild, Kansas City Modern Guild and Studio Art Quilt Associates.
How did you learn to quilt?
I taught myself to sew as a child, making doll clothes on my grandma’s treadle machine and later made many of my own clothes. After attempting to make a quilt later in life (2000), I took a class to learn the correct techniques.
How do you approach quilt design?
I make a very rough sketch and then decide which colors, designs and techniques will best portray the subject or idea I have in mind. Then I pull fabric from my stash and place swatches on my design wall, trying out various patterns. In the case of a geometric design, I usually begin by doodling on graph paper.
Day at the Beach
What’s your favorite color to work with?
Over the years, my favorites have changed from more muted colors to pure brights, but some form of teal or turquoise is my default color. It goes well with almost any other color.
Steeples of Light
What’s the strangest inspiration you’ve had for a quilt?
I was asked by a church to create four abstract wall quilts depicting the stages of a person’s spiritual journey – Introspection, Enlightenment, the Dark Night of the Soul and Unity with God – to be used as meditation pieces at the church retreat center. Creating them was a challenging and interesting journey in itself.
What was your first modern quilt?
City Surfaces, for the Kandinsky Challenge hosted by the Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild.
What drew you to modern quilting?
I like the clean lines and bold colors of the quilts, but I especially enjoy the women in the Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild. It is such fun to see these younger women’s enthusiasm, creativity and developing skills.
How many UFOs do you have right now? (Be honest!)
About a dozen, but some I never plan to finish – I should pass them along.
What’s the next quilt you plan to make?
In my living room, I have a wall quilt of daylilies I made in a Ruth McDowell class a few years ago. I want to replace it with something more contemporary.
Our next Optical Illustions Q&A: Melissa Corry, Aug. 27