Look into Carol Schepps eyes, and you see her quilts. Or maybe this is what she sees when she looks out of her eyes, and it is this vision enables her to create her dazzling concentric circles of fabric.
She is busy getting ready for her exhibit at The Works Gallery in Philadelphia (www.snyderman-works.com), opening Feb. 6, 5:30 p.m., and running through Feb. 28.
The circle is a symbol of eternity. Ms. Schepps constructs hers of fine fabrics in wildly exciting colors and textures – she’s spent her entire life becoming a connoisseur of fabric.
Part of what makes her circles so arresting is they are not perfectly centered within each other. Rather, they skew in a way that makes you want to care for these wayward creatures.
There are circles within circles within circles. Then there is a series of stitched circles within the fabric circles. And the reason these are so pleasing to the eye, and you just want to stare at them forever, is because of how the color is arranged. Just to give you an idea of how addicted to color she is, she once quit a design job because she was surrounded by too much white fabric.
Ms. Schepps, who studied and worked in fashion and graphic/ communications design at Pratt in the early 1970s, knows how using yellow can lighten up her other colors. By using darker backgrounds, the circles seem to take on movement. It’s like looking at a grid of lots of colorful pupils.
The circles had been her stock in trade – in fiber art, that is – for some time. From the circles, she created other celestial shapes by the leftover cutouts, and made new circles out of the crescents. Deconstructing the circle even more, she cut them apart and made vortexes. She also creates magic with squares.
But the circles are only one part of what she does. She also creates scenery, such as an autumn woods, or a landscape with trees. The fabrics are hand-dyed to take on color and texture.
Other “paintings” she has made in fiber are a series of wine bottles, still life with bicycle and piano and vintage cars, using shades of fabric to create shiny metal fins. These are not quilts for throwing on the bed, but for hanging on the wall. She uses the term “fabrications” to describe them.
One of her fabrications, in silk, linen and cotton, depicts architectural sites in foreign lands.
Quilt making was the natural melding of her two pursuits, graphic design and textiles. Fabric and thread appeal to her more than paint because of their flexibility, texture and movement, she has said.
A visit to her West Windsor home confirms her finely honed sense of color. She has created murals made of broken tiles in fantastic color – even the tile mural is a kind of quilt. Her coffee table is made of glass over an old printer’s box filled with colorful spools of thread.
Just as her quilts look like paintings from a distance, her walls are a colorful patchwork of her own work, artwork she has purchased, and her children’s art (Rebecca, 26, is a copywriter; Adam, 23, works in corporate restructuring). When they were small she gave them professional art materials to work with “just in case.”
For many years, she worked as a dressmaker out of her home. To jumpstart that business, on the advice of her grandmother, she went to get her nails done and told everyone about the work she did. Then, she went to another nail salon, and so forth, until she had more customers than she knew what to do with.
After she’d raised her children, she gave up the dressmaking business to become a fiber artist.
Now, Ms. Schepps is working in paper, making quilts, or fabrications, from the pages torn from old books. Having recently suffered the loss of both her sister and her father, she has come into possession of enormous quantities of old books. Her father, an MIT-educated engineer at Bell Labs, loved music and lectures and reading, and had quite a collection of math and science books.
At first Ms. Schepps thought she’d rip them up and make journals, but as she ripped the pages out she began to conceive a new way of using them. She glues these to watercolor paper and paints them from her extraordinary palette.
“It was so cathartic,” she says. “Now I wish I had kept more books.”
Next up, her own bailout package for the financial industry: She plans to create new works by ripping up mortgage and banking books.