Friday, October 26, 2012

Meet Vikki Pignatelli - Author and Quilter

I've seen Vikki's name in the quilting world for many years and recently heard that she had written a book that sounds like it should be a 'must read' for all quilters....and non-quilters too! Read about Vikki's fascinating story:

Tell us a bit about how you began quilting:

I never dreamed I'd have a career in any field involving sewing. I almost failed Home Economics in seventh grade because of sewing. In 1991, my sister, Augustine Ellis, asked me to take a beginning quilting class with her. The woman who planned to accompany her had to cancel. I promptly said “No” to my sister because of my dislike of sewing. However she coaxed and coaxed and I finally agreed to go. From the moment I started my beginning class, I quickly became excited and enamored with quiltmaking. Quilting is not just sewing…it is an exquisite art form and wonderfully therapeutic for the mind, body and spirit.

In 1994 my husband, Den, was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Worried about his health and other family issues at the time, I felt I was at my breaking point. Inspired by a tree in our front yard blowing violently in a spring storm, I became determined to create a healing quilt and drafted a pattern full of curved patches. I could relate to the tree as we both were fighting one of life's storms. With no experience in constructing curved seams, I experimented by trial and error to come up with the top surface technique I now teach today. I titled the finished quilt Breaking Point. I began to teach my new technique locally, then regionally. In 1994 Quilter's Newsletter published an article about my technique and my new "career" took flight. My husband is doing fine and now accompanies me on the road when I teach.

Engulfed by Vikki Pignatelli
Your emotions appear, often loud and clear, in your artwork and you may not even be aware it happens. It wasn’t until after I finished Engulfed I realized the quilt was symbolic of my current emotional state. I was feeling weary, overburdened and burned out. The hectic schedules and the constant busyness in my life were taking their toll. This quilt provided a sudden insight for me. It was a startling wake-up call to take more time to relax.
Your new book, Nurture the Creative Spirit seems to come from a different place. Can you tell us about your journey?

Anxious and stressed about Den, my deepest emotions and spirituality began to appear in my work with the creation of my healing quilt Breaking Point and continued with subsequent work. It's true when you work from the heart and soul in any art form, whatever is in you, everything that is in you, emerges. Your emotional state of mind affects your choice of colors and fabrics…even the progression and development of a pattern. Your feelings are reflected in your work.

Though unintentional, the quilts I created after Breaking Point revolved around spiritual themes or had a moral or story. Creating these quilts was very therapeutic and healing for me.


Over the years, my students have expressed an interest in my life, the symbolism behind my quilts and the personal stories discussed in my lectures. They urged me to write my thoughts and experiences on paper. Because of their encouragement, Nurture Your Creative Spirit was born.  As with my quilts, some of my most personal thoughts and spiritual feelings surface in the book.
To order Vikki's book, visit her website at:

How do you stay passionate about your work?

That is an easy question. I absolutely LOVE what I do!  I enjoy teaching, meeting and working with people…especially quilters. Art is…and has always been…a major part of my life. I live to travel. I am very blessed to have the opportunity to merge all my loves and share my work, techniques and stories with others. I feel it is my mission in life to help inspire and encourage others to use their artistic self-expression.

Do you have suggestions for building a good support network?

As I say in my new book, Nurture Your Creative Spirit, it is not only necessary, but crucial for us to have a good support system. A support system is a group of people who are your advocates. They believe in you. They encourage you. They advise you with constructive feedback and help you work through problems. They do not criticize, hinder or compete with you.

The persons in your support network can be family, friends, other artists or someone with whom you share a common ground. Above all, the one adjective that should describe your supporter is positive, positive, POSITIVE! An affirmative attitude inspires not only you, but your creativity and motivation. Your advocate should be honest and upbeat, a person you look forward to seeing and enjoy being around. Someone whose opinion you trust.

Your advocate should be someone you hold in high esteem, and one who respects you, your work, your ideas and your purpose. Your supporter should enhance you. By the same token, you must return the favor. Be his or her champion as well. Sources of support, comfort and camaraderie include family, friends, guilds, bees or gatherings of like-minded artists.

In the book I have a section titled "Critique and Criticism". All artists need critique to help them. Critique is positive. But no one needs negative criticism, which hurts and destroys self-esteem and creativity. Limit or avoid any contact with negative, critical people and do not ask their help or opinion about your creative endeavors.

You are the founder of Sacred Threads Quilt Exhibition as well. What is that exhibition about?

Founded in 1999, Sacred Threads is a two-week national biennial exhibit focusing on the emotional and spiritual aspects of quiltmaking. The categories are joy, spirituality, inspiration, healing, grief and peace/brotherhood. As important as the quilt is the artist's statement: the story behind the quilt …the reason for the quilt's existence. We were the first show of its kind at the time. Other shows were based on workmanship or artistic elements.
Sacred Threads is open to all quilters in the USA and Canada whether professional or novice. The show is juried only for space and category relevance…it is not judged….as these types of quilts depicting one's emotions should never be judged. There is no time limit for the age of the quilts as they are timeless. What IS required is passion….quilting with one's heart and soul. Our artists put themselves into their work…thus the show is a deeply powerful and intense exhibition, reflecting human conditions and situations. Visitors to the exhibit spend hours reading the statements and viewing the quilts. They are encouraged. Comforted. Filled with enthusiasm. The quilts symbolize triumph of the human spirit.

Although Wendy Bynner (my co-chair, then chairwoman) and I both retired after the 2009 show, another committee member, Lisa Ellis, took the reins. Lisa, who lives in the Washington DC area, moved Sacred Threads to Herndon, VA, where the show is quickly growing and gaining wonderful support. Lisa is infusing Sacred Threads with new life and passion and merging her love of Sacred Threads with her personal mission of putting quilt exhibits into hospitals.

The next Sacred Threads will be in Herndon, VA from July 10-28, 2013. For more information, and to signup for the newsletter, you can check out the website at:

 I hope you will consider submitting quilts (call for entry is January 9 to March 9, 2013) and visiting the show. It's an amazing show to see and one you'll never forget.

1 comment:

Jan said...

Susan-I took your theromfax class at AQS Grand Rapids and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for the wonderful article on Vikki. Was fortunate enough to take a workshop from her in the past. She is very inspiring and am looking forward to her coming back to our area for a workshop and lecture next year. Jan