With wind-brushed clouds dancing by in a richly changing
blue-gray sky, Carolyn Vehslage, husband Peter and their 17-year-old cat Buzzy,
cruise from April to November up and down the Mid-Atlantic coast aboard their 36'
Mariner Yacht, Fandango. To a casual observer, Fandango is just another attractive
yacht out for a sail, but for Carolyn, it's her floating "art studio."
"Water is very important to me," Carolyn states. "I grew
up on a peninsula in Rye, NY overlooking Long Island Sound. Most of my quilts
have water--ponds, lakes, bays, and gulfs, the familiar scenes I love." Barnegat
Lighthouse at the north end of Long Beach Island has served as a major inspiration
for many of Carolyn's quilts.
Carolyn notes of her work, "Currently I'm working on an
underwater scene. To achieve the flow of water on a static medium, I use several
patterns of textured looking fabric in a variety of shades blue and green. Since
water sparkles in the sunlight as well as the moonlight, I often use silver,
gold, white, and blue metallic thread to highlight the waves and ripples. Pearls
and crystal beads become bubbles and surf. One of my first commissions was to
create "Moon Dance" with dolphins dancing in the moonlight along Long Beach Island, NJ."
Most of her Spray Beach Collection has been quilted
aboard the yacht. Peter custom frames the pieces to her client's specifications.
To accommodate Carolyn's storage needs, Peter created four special bins under
their "bed" in the v-berth section of Fandango. In addition, he plans to create
siding doors to enclose the two six-foot long shelves that run along either
side of the bunk.
Most of Carolyn's art quilts are created by hand to
accommodate Peter's and her lifestyle on living aboard the boat part of the
year. For a recent commissioned art piece, "Hall's Hobies", Carolyn used the
portable sewing machine to apply the binding. "I placed the machine on our
navigation station and stood while sewing," Carolyn noted, "at least until
our AC/DC converter failed. Then I ended up hand-cranking the needle."
Carolyn graduated from Lafayette College with an Economics
and Business degree and Computer Science Concentration in 1983. While in college,
she took every Fine Arts course available. Selecting quilts as an art media
was perhaps partly influenced by her studies under instructor and professional
artist Ed Kerns. His early 1980s abstracts were much like quilts with layers of
paint and canvas that were slashed and then stitched together again.
Although Professor Kerns helped guide her as an artist,
it took until June of 1999 for Carolyn to create her first art quilt. "It's all
my mother-in-law's fault!" Carolyn claims. "After Peter's parents built their
retirement home on Long Beach Island in New Jersey, his mother, Sue, created
backyard very much like an English country garden. Each time we visited them
during the summer, there were always be different flowers at different heights
and stages in different colors. "Nana Sue's Garden" took shape from that garden
and inspiration from a book by Gai Perry, Impressionist Landscapes.
For the "English Garden" and "In the Vineyard" series,
Carolyn assembled "sandwiches" of fabric, batting, and backing in bunches, and
stored them individually in Baggies. "In this way I had something portable to
work on while sailing on the boat."
Carolyn's work generally involves her own hand painted
scenes or commercial fabric, which is then accentuated with trapunto (additional
stuffing added to the front of the quilt from the wrong side), beading and
three-dimensional embellishments, and acrylic iridescent paints. She notes:
"My work is extremely stylized and dimensional from the use of the trapunto and
a technique I've developed that I call "layered appliqué". Some of my pieces are
up to 4" deep in some areas - not including surface embellishments. Luckily, I
have always had a fondness for acrylics over watercolor, oils, or pastels. They
are easy to store and use aboard a sailboat."
Carolyn has adopted some innovative techniques for
marketing her work as well. "For commissions, since my studio is our sailboat
for over six months a year, my work is highly visible. I keep my gallery book
on board and show it to those who ask about my work. Like my web site, it
features stories for the artist to read about the photos of each of the pieces.
"Years in the computer network sales and installation
business ingrained the need for 'tickler files'," Carolyn states. "I have several
email lists that I send announcements to on a regular bases. One targets
prospective leads; one that's of galleries with which I have had actual contact,
and one called Update that consists of 'good contact people'; and miscellaneous
"I think that one of my strongest tools is having an
online gallery that I update at least monthly. Several commissions came about
from people who 'surfed' into my web site: 'Underwater Odyssey,' 'The Fathom Elephant'
series (Lone Calf at Sunset), and three others that were sold to a couple in
the United Arab Emirates. I also consign my work to retail galleries and museum
shops, and work on having a solo exhibition once a year." Carolyn notes. "To date,
I've sold over 50 art quilts."
Carolyn and Peter are renovating Fandango for a two-year
cruise in beginning in 2003, first to Maine and then down the entire East Coast
before extensively voyaging the Caribbean.
Carolyn's recent work may be seen at her web site:
http://www.clvquilts.com. Other recent work was featured at the following
- "Peace Among Nations One Piece At A Time" Winter Olympic & Paralympic
Games special exhibition Salt Lake City, UT January 15-April 8, 2002 "Gardens of the World"
- "Art Quilts at the Sedgwick" Sedgwick Cultural Center, Philadelphia,
PA April 6 - May 5 2002, "Lake at Chatsworth"
For commissioned quilts or quilts for sale, contact
Carolyn Lee Vehslage, CLV Designs, 24 Pine Glen Drive, Erial, NJ 08081,
firstname.lastname@example.org or (856) 232-9109 or hail her on the VHF next time you see
Fandango sail by...
Click on the Pictures of the Quilts to find out more about them.
Read an article written by Carolyn Lee Vehslage
©2003 Anne Copeland