by Mary Beth Krapil
Here is the continuation of my conversation with Lea McComas. Read part 1 here.
HQ: Who is your inspiration or muse?
LM: Definitely, my husband. He is an accomplished artist in his own right. He studies the old masters, relentlessly. When I’m struggling with a composition or color scheme, or something just isn’t right, I can process with him. He always has a helpful insight, or constructive critique. I do the same for him. At the same time, we are each other’s biggest fans.
Recently, we purchased a small plot of land with an old barn, next to our home and we are beginning the process of converting it into a joint studio. We will both be retiring from our current jobs in the next few years to become full time artists. Who knows, maybe we’ll host a joint exhibition in a few years.
HQ: That sounds like a dream come true! A studio with room for all your tools and equipment. What are your favorite tools that you use in your work?
LM: In my studies of portraiture, I learned about the golden mean and how this ratio occurs over and over again in the human body, and particularly in the face. From that, I discovered a tool called Golden Mean Calipers, It’s a measuring tool with 3 points, the center point being slightly closer to one side than the other. It will open and close to different measurements, but the distance between the points always maintains the golden ratio: roughly 3:5. It is useful for me when the face I’m working on doesn’t look quite right, or my reference photo doesn’t clearly show enough detail. I use this tool to make sure features like the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, are in the right location and are the right size compared to the other features.
HQ: What type of machine do you use to quilt with?
LM: As for sewing machines, I have a Janome 6600 domestic machine, and a Handi Quilter Avante longarm machine. I’ve had both for over 10 years and love them. They get regular cleanings and fresh needles. Once a year, they each go in for a full tune up. I take care of them, and they take care of me.
HQ: Glad to hear you are enjoying your Handi Quilter Avante! Of all the “tasks” in creating a quilt, which is your favorite and least favorite?
LM: I love thread painting faces. It is the phase of the work where I can smooth the transitions between fabrics and add the details that have gotten lost. It is the time when a few, well-placed stitches can make a piece really come to life and jump out at you.
The part I really don’t like is the finishing: hand stitching the facing or binding, adding the sleeve and label. And then, there is the cleaning up of the studio to get ready for the next project. Ick!!
HQ: Do you have any other hobbies / interests?
LM: I love to travel and explore other cultures. Many of my portrait works are from photos I’ve taken in my travels. Since moving back to the states, I don’t get to use my passport as much I would like, but that will change after I graduate. Places on my bucket list include Africa, Antarctica, and South America.
Also, my husband and I share a love of the mountains and being outdoors. Early in our relationship, we did a lot of backpacking trips together. We actually hiked up to a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, with Long’s Peak in the background, to get married. Now, we live in the mountains above Golden, CO. While we still enjoy hiking in the woods, these days, we sleep in a comfortable bed and just walk out the front door.
HQ: How can readers get connected with you?
LM: If you visit my website: LeaMcComas.com. You can see my latest work along with information about the lectures and workshops I offer. I also post fairly regularly on Facebook and Pinterest. If you search for Lea McComas Fiber Art, you can find me and follow along.
HQ: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
LM: There is a new collaborative enterprise I started a year ago: The Border Wall Quilt Project. The intent is to promote civil discourse and bring people together at a time when we seem so divided.
The BWQP is a collection of small quilted pieces, 8” x 16”, donated by artists across the United States, and around the world, expressing ideas, concerns, and opinions about the proposed border wall between the US and Mexico and issues related to immigration and border security. I organize these quilted bricks into panels, 10 feet wide and 8 feet high. Panels can be viewed from both sides. As viewers examine each brick, they may also look through the wall to see and hear viewers on the opposing side.
We are about to complete the 5th panel and and are actively looking for venues to exhibit the work. It has been seen at a number of quilting events and festivals, but I’m hoping to share the exhibit with audiences that may not be familiar with fiber art, through universities, libraries, cultural centers and art galleries.
Quilters are fascinated by the collection of work, but non-quilters are blown away.
We set it up on the White House grounds last September for a weekend and shared it with people from 27 different countries. Most memorable were 2 young men from China. They stood silently, staring for the longest time. Eventually, one of our group approached them and their comment was, “We could never do this in our country.”
Information and galleries of the bricks can be found on my website, LeaMcComas.com. The bricks can also be seen on Pinterest and a full prospectus and online entry can be found at BorderWallQuiltEntry.com
HQ: Thanks so much Lea for sharing about your work and life. We certainly enjoyed having your collection on display in the HQ gallery.