Reading what the others have posted, it sounds like there are a lot of similarities in what brought us to this stage of our lives in quilting. I also grew up surrounded by needles and fabric. My mother sewed and knitted, my grandmother quilted, and my aunt does all of it. I was making most of my clothes by the time I hit high school.
When I was first married, my husband's aunt had a quilt store. I worked in it occasionally, and did some small pieces. One was a really awful landscape done with 70's calicoes- I finally gave it away as a white elephant Christmas gift a few years ago. I didn't keep up with the quilting, and didn't do anything else until my youngest and only daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at age 6. A friend saw that I needed something to occupy my mind and hands, and got me back into quilting. I made a couple of Margaret Miller Strips that Sizzle quilts, and have been at it ever since. I'd also say that Margaret Miller has really influenced how I look at color and value.
I've never done much with traditional bed quilts- I got seduced by the art side pretty early. I don't follow patterns well, and I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with my own designs. About ten years ago, I took a fabric painting class- and fell in love with designing not only my own quilts, but my own fabric. I taught myself dyeing from books, and have been at it ever since. I'll still use paints occasionally, but dyeing is my real love. The serendipity intrigues me, and the moment when you pull your fabric out of the dryer and start ironing it is just magical.
I've also added other surface design skills to my repertoire- I discharge several different ways, I screen print, make my own stamps, and stencil. I am trying hard to prevent myself from being a slave to all the different techniques that are out there, and being selective and judicious in choosing those techniques that can best serve my vision.
There is a certain amount of irony to that last statement, because some of my best work has not been the result of careful planning- it has been more of a "let's try this and see what happens!" That's how this piece that I completed last year came about.
Reap the Whirlwind, 2010
This is a wholecloth quilt done with a piece of fabric I drip-dyed. It's based on a photo I took of wind turbines that are close to my home. I painted the wind turbines using freezer paper stencils I cut. The mountains and sky are defined only with the quilting, using many different colors of thread. It was the first time I'd attempted anything so ambitious with free motion quilting, and I was very happy with how it turned out. It was part of an exhibition that the Art Quilt Association (AQuA) of Grand Junction, Colorado had at PIQF last fall. (Yes, I belong to a group based in Colorado!)
I think I am still trying to find my voice- that unique something that says "Beverly made this." I think continuing to create, to just do the work, is all part of the journey.
On a more personal level, I'm married (although not to the husband with quilt shop aunt), with two sons and a daughter. My husband also has a son, so between us we've the four grown children. My oldest is married and lives in Tampa, Florida- as does my beautiful granddaughter! My younger son lives in Chicago, and my daughter is still at home working and going to school. My husband's son lives locally, and has two children that we see frequently. I work full time as a social worker- and I'm really looking forward to retiring in a few years. I decided years ago that quilting and fiber art are the best forms of therapy for me.
I'm especially excited to have an international component to the group. I was fortunate enough to spend a year traveling Europe and North Africa when I was in college, and another year living in Belgium after college. I also taught for a year in central Africa after college- another eye-opening, life-changing experience My daughter-in-law is from Colombia- I'm having fun watching my granddaughter Michelle learn two languages. She'll have to be bilingual, the maternal side of her family doesn't speak English, and the paternal side is pretty much English speaking! I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to experience life outside the US, and wish more Americans did.
I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone, playing, and growing artistically.