Thursday, April 12, 2012

Colorful Interviews : Melanie Testa

Today's post is an interview with my friend Melanie Testa. An artist and art quilter who has dyed a lot of her own fabrics and has a passion for white fabric, as it can be turned into anything!  Melanie has a wonderful book called Inspired to quilt,and has a NEW book coming out in May, Dreaming from the Journal page.


Name 5  you think are "ODD" together....  or weird combos?
Burgundy and Burnt orange
Mushroom and teal
earth brown and red
Plum and deep dark red
yellow and grey

Is there a color you find you always use? 

Yellow Ochre. I love yellow ochre, it is so rich and steady, it doesn't pull any punches (fuchsia pulls some punches), mixes well with other colors and clearly states it own personality. 
three colors you use most together?

Indigo, Yellow Ochre, Grass Green 
Can you relate your favorite color to something in your childhood?

Plum is my all time favorite color. The first (autumn) coat I bought with my own money, from my first job was plum color wide whale corduroy (which is also my favorite all-time fabric). This coat was hip length, had patch pockets, a cinch at the waist line, a funnel collar and was lined in cotton flannel. The plum color was rich, saturated and comforting.

I know this is not part of the question but wide whale corduroy is my favorite cloth because my mother made me a rag doll from rust colored wide whale corduroy. The doll's name was Attach Baby. I scratched the corduroy against the grain as a soothing comfort. 
What color makes you feel happy? 

light pastels make me happy, they are fresh and clean with lots of white mixed in. 
Can you tell me why?
I am going to answer this question in a manner it was not intended. 

I love color, thinking about color, abstracting why a color combination works well together, discerning how a color is mixed, I love thinking about color names and what they say about the color they describe. Color is an interesting topic and can be a lifetime of exploration. I like to dabble in color, use it according to whim, mood, need. Color is a 'draw', inviting the viewer to take a look. Color is often the first thing a viewer is attracted to, composition will help a viewer to connect but color starts the conversation. It doesn't matter what you are making, a quilt, a painting, clothing. As a result, color is a very important topic for an artist to create relationship with.
I love painting, with any sort of media I can get my hands on. After learning to use watercolor and gouache at The Fashion Institute of Technology, I took a few classes in learning to use Procion MX dye on cloth. When I found out I could thicken dye and use it just like paint, it was like I had gone to heaven! It meant I could paint on cloth without that heavy plastic feel that can be found when you use acrylic paints on cloth, in school we talked about the 'hand' of cloth and painting with dye certainly gives good 'hand'. So I started to paint images in two layers, using both cotton broadcloth and silk organza. The organza is sheer and becomes the topmost layer of my quilts, the sheer nature of the fabric lends itself to being collaged under and that is when the beauty of the technique really begins to shine. That is where I can cut butterflies from commercial fabrics and place them between the layers. The painted and printed organza lends the commercial inserts a painterly feel and the whole piece starts to seem magical and rich. 

I think that whatever media I use, layering is the most important thing, I want to create depth and visual intrigue. I want my viewers eye to dance across the quilt, the painting, the page and to settle with a sigh of relief on the central portion of the image. I know that color really draws the viewer in, so learning color mixing, staying present to what color really highlights and plays well with its neighbor is important. Playing with tones, value, hue, and not being afraid to make mistakes is key, beside which, making mistakes helps you learn and creates opportunity for more exploration.
Thanks Melanie. Your art works are inspiring as are your palettes of color!  


  1. I like the idea od painting on two layers at once. A heavy and light look of same design, and then adding cut out in between. will try this idea. Thanks!

  2. I love orange and pink together!

    Thank you for the introduction to Melanie! ♥♥♥

  3. i loved meeting Melanie... what amazing work she does!

  4. Thanks for an interesting interview. I have always love Melanie's work. Her use of color, layers, and texture just sings to me. Thanks for the insight into her use of color!

  5. Silk organza has a sheer shine that makes me melt. I would love to try Melanie's layering technique.

  6. Great interview by two women I love dearly.
    Thank you!

  7. Great interview! Her comment about "Color is a draw" clarifies for me why the old quilt adage that "value does all the work but color gets all the credit" holds true.

    I had to laugh though---I have WIP that features two fabrics in it that have all the "weird colors" she picked in them with the first two colors the most prominent in both! Ironically, one of the fabrics was purcahsed in the late 80s or 90s while the other is a recent Kaffe Fassette print. Go figure!


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