Elly Sienkiewicz answers 5 questions about her art
What is your first fiber memory?
When I was perhaps 3, my mother was making my sister and me peaked caps, each made from the corner of a worn-out wool sweater. She’d sewn one seam and put a tie on either side, they made a cute Dutch-girl looking hat, without the starched Dutch-girl wings. They were serviceable black.
My interest picked up when she asked, what would you like me to embroider on it? I said “leaves and flowers.” Her look encouraged me to ask for more … birds, a butterfly, … a caterpillar, some berries … alright, she said. Come Christmas time, I could hardly believe my eyes. I was given the most beautiful hat with all I had asked for. I remember a picture of Erica and me, in the snow, with our hats on. Nothing lasts like a happy memory!
Who got you started in the fiber arts and what technique did you learn?
Erica learned to read at 4. My paternal grandmother (who had taught her) tried to teach me to read at that age. I was not at all interested. Instead she taught me to embroider. I remember the chain stitch that was like a crayon … it could draw anything! My aunt followed with printed pillowcases to embroider. I remember learning to embroider as pure joy, a light I could turn on by myself. 50 years later I learned how to keep my flosses untangled!
What drew you to the techniques you have now mastered?
My great aunts in West Virginia, whom we visited every summer. Great Aunt Orpha was a rug hooker with a pile of quilts. Great Aunt Atha was the quiltmaker. Aunt Orpha taught me how to hook rugs in burlap (they haven’t lasted) — but when my second child came I called Aunt Atha, who taught me to become a quiltmaker, over the phone. After I made one pillow, I hung out my shingle and have been teaching quiltmaking ever since. At first I was a piecer and a quitter. Then I became a machine appliquér and sent my quilts to be quilted (to W.VA). Then I fell in love with the Baltimore Album Style and its history. This has been my love ever since.
What does fiber art mean to you?
Art made with fiber.
Where do you want your fiber art to go in the future?
From earliest memory, beauty has drawn me. From four years old I’ve adored fiber arts. From adulthood, teaching has been my vocation and avocation. I’d become a teacher first. Now I’ve become more of a writer than a fiber artist. I have three more books on appliqué I’d like to get out. The first is Spoken Without a Word, 30th Anniversary Edition 2/2013 (order now to save shipping from ellysienkiewicz.com). The two others will be listed in the back of that book and I expect them out in 2014-15). After that I’d like to write some fictionalized family history and self-publish on my press, Turtle Hill Press.