Judy Shapiro Answers Five Questions About Her Art

What is your first Fiber memory?

My mother divorced when I was very young and re-married an Englishman when I was four years old.  Grandmother Crockett was an accomplished pianist as well as running the Chevy Chase Doll Hospital in Chevy Chase, MD.  Every Sunday after church we went to her home nearby and had “English” roast and I can hear her say “come and see what I’m doing.”  I would sit by the hour untangling skeins of wool with her and learning to use the wool-winder.  At the age of four, she put knitting needles in my hands and I soon became a knitter – a skill that I have passed on to the little girls in my husband’s family.  I catch myself saying those same words to visitors to my home –“ come and see what I’m doing!”  I hope that Grandmother knows what an influence she had on my life, playing the piano and knitting and all the other skills I have gained over the years.  I’m sure she looks down frequently.  Mentors are so very important in children’s lives.


What got you started in the fiber arts and what technique did you learn? 

I remember going to the fabric store with my mother as a child and she said that I walked down the aisles of fabric with my arms outstretched – brushing by and stopping to feel the fabric.  The colors and patterns excited me – I dreamed of the beautiful clothes I could make that would be more flamboyant than others clothes.   Looking back now, I remember making some clothes that were really over the top color wise.  My former mother-in-law would look at me and say “only Judy!”


What drew you to the techniques you have now mastered?

I met a woman at a party one night and after talking to her I was fascinated that she was a quilter and asked if I would like to take a class that was offered at her home.  The class was learning random techniques, including appliqué.  I was hooked and in the first week I completed six blocks – Oh yes, I was hooked.  When I was divorced shortly thereafter, I took off two weeks – just for myself and completed a hand-pieced quilt top.  It wasn’t too bad, and it really helped me to focus on doing something for ME.


What does fiber art mean to you?

Fiber art IS me.  I think a lot of us feel that we were born with a needle in our hand.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a crochet needle, a knitting needle, a wonderful appliqué needle, or a long beautiful beading needle.  Materials available to us today extend to the unbelievable.  I have made paper and am a pretty prolific beader.  People often exclaim – beading is not a fiber art!  Of course it is.  Doesn’t it use thread and needle?  There are so many new products available to us in the art stores as well as the hardware store.  I have often worked with screen and screws as a component of a fiber project. The list just goes on and on.  Imagination is our only limitation.


Where do you want your fiber art to go in the future? 

I work on a day-to-day basis.  It is so hard to plan where I would like to go with my work.  I know for sure that I truly love and am called to my liturgical work.  I make rather outrageous chasubles, stoles, paraments, and banners.  I am sure that as an appliquér I will continue to recognize and imagine all sorts of patterns and possibilities of the things around me.  There will always be a quilt or two or three in my studio.  If I had MY choice I would love to be working with glass to incorporate with my fiber.  I have worked in fused glass and decided that this is something I will leave to others to do and I will pay them for those components for my pieces.  But there are aspects of glass that intrigue me and wish I had the time to do it.  My husband does not encourage me in that direction.  After all – where would we put it all?

I think working small on more intense pieces is something that I need to do.  Perhaps art quilting using lots of beads and I LOVE silk after making my church’s 100thanniversary banner in silk.  I love the intenseness of color not possible in cottons.