Judy Kirpich. Artist. Mother. Wife. Friend. Founder/Grafik.
For 37 years I ran a successful design agency, Grafik, outside of Washington DC. Business came first and my art took second place- sometimes third place when my children were young. I had always loved tailoring and a passion for Issey Miyake, and all of my free time went into sewing. But after a while I had simply too many clothes, so I needed to find another outlet for my passion. I was bored by traditional quilting and honestly did not know that an alternative to the repetition found in most quilting blocks existed. That is until one day, skimming through my old copies of Threads magazine, I came upon an article on Nancy Crow. Looking at her pieces I was transfixed. They redefined what a quilt could be. I immediately did a search online and found that she gave classes. I signed up immediately and my life has never been the same since that day. Starting in 2007 I have made yearly pilgrimages to Baltimore Ohio to study with Nancy. She has been a demanding teacher, a wonderful mentor and now a dear friend.
Like Nancy, I practice improvisational quilting- I do not use patterns and prefer to cut pieces that I pin to a large design wall. I work until I like a composition and then figure out how to engineer the piece and sew it together. From my tailoring days I prefer very complex compositions that are difficult to construct. It is not unusual for me to stare a my wall for a very long time trying to figure out what shape to sew first. Piecing is my favorite form of a puzzle.
My work is directed by my emotions, and I am a somewhat half-empty, anxious person. The complexities of running a 35 person agency, the war in Syria, Mexican druglords, the Great Recession, mental illness and cancer have all informed my work. My art is a mirror into my soul, and sometimes it has been somewhat dark. I work in a series and often come back to a subject matter over and over.
I love the juxtaposition of spontaneity and precision. To get a composition to look free flowing and gestural demands great control and exactness. This is my holy grail and I still have not cracked that nut. But I continue to try. I do not applique or use any fusing whatsoever. All of my work is machine pieced and machine quilted and while it would be far faster and easier to fuse fabric together, it is not a technique that I use.
I work large. My new pieces are about 80" x 90" which is a challenge since I only have a design wall that is quite small. My "studio" is my son's old bedroom, an 8'x11' space that is somewhat oddly shaped and confining. I am happily in the process of building a studio space in Lewes that will be 28' x 32' and I expect that will have a tremendous effect on my work.
While my art may seem dark at times, I have a wonderful life with my husband David, two marvelous grown children, Max and Jody, and a loyal Golden Retriever, Barley. I am lucky to have a close family that I do not see often enough. I split my time between our house near the nation's capital and an old 1880's farmhouse in Lewes, Delaware only minutes from the ocean. I am indeed lucky.