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Carol Taylor, Sew Professional posted: 1/22/2003
by Carolyn Lee Vehslage Printable Page
Category: Art Method: All Series: In the Studio
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Like a skydiver, once Carol Taylor makes the decision to go for it, she takes the leap and is fully committed.

Carol Taylor

Prior to learning how to quilt, Carol Taylor describes her sewing skills as minimal. She says, "I was a Sweet Adeline who NEVER sewed her own costumes!" Looking for a new hobby in January of 1993, Carol went to the local quilt shop to sign up for a lesson. But the next available workshop wasn't until March, so she bought a book and within the month created a Bargello queen sized quilt. By the time the class rolled around, she no longer needed it because she had already completed three other quilts including a Contemporary Block king sized bed quilt.

After Carol ran out of beds to cover, she moved on to walls and started to take classes from master quilters such as Michael James and Caryl Bryer Fallert. And in 1995 when the walls of her house, her office, and her children's houses were all redecorated, she built a 1,570 square foot studio with four 8'h by 16'w, flannel covered, sliding design walls. Push the walls aside and they reveal Carol's enormous collection of her own hand-dyed fabrics as well as those by Heide Stoll-Weber and Judy Robertson, and Lonni Rossi's hand-painted, silk-screened, stenciled, and stamped cottons. (Oh, did I mention she also built a dyeing studio?)

Carol's Quilt Studio

1995 continued to be a very busy year for Carol. In weeklong workshop by Libby Lehman at QSDS, Carol took the leap into designing her own "Art Quilts" and has never looked back. She created beautiful underwater pictorials and vivid abstracts. She honed her design skills as well as her quilt construction methods.

As Carol's passion for quilting deepened, so did her need for large quantities of what has become her bold signature palette of Blue-Violet, Royal Blue, Peacock Green, Sunshine Yellow, Tangerine, and Cranberry. In 1997 after a weekend's lesson in dyeing by Melody Johnson and Laura Wasilowski, Carol turned the basement space below her quilt studio into a dye room. She installed a 10 ft restaurant sink and built a 60 x 60 table on wheels with gutters to catch the drips when she dye paints. Restaurant mats cover cement floor and she added cabinets and shelves to hold her Procion MX dye powders and surface design tools. To create her colored cottons, silks and sateens, Carol dye paints on her tabletop and immersion dyes by the bucket load.

To learn more about dyeing techniques, Carol took a one-week course with Ann Johnston at Quilt Surface Design Symposium in Columbus, Ohio. Yvonne Porcella taught her silk painting in a class at the Vermont Quilt Festival. And for instruction in "complex cloth" surface design, she spent a week in Jane Dunnewold's studio in San Antonio.

Like many artists, Carol's creative time is scheduled in around the edges of her "day job". Working into the night can cause problems for others if they run out of just the right shade of vivid blue-violet (her personal favorite), but not for Carol. Having a well-stocked dye studio takes away the need for the fervent wish of most midnight quilters - a 24-hour drive through fabric outlet. Carol says, "It is great to be able to go down and create a color I need at will and have it instantly."


February 2000 in Nancy Crow workshop was a pivotal moment for Carol. Nancy's challenging exercises encouraged Carol to create her first Gong Motif style quilt titled Funky Motif. She has taken this simple design of quarter circles and crossed-bars and developed it into an impressive series of complex compositions.

Each time Carol decides to expand upon her Gong collection, she selects a different method to manipulate it. She started by changing the arrangement of the Gong Motif, moved on to changing the color palette, studied the differences of hues and monochromes, adjusted the scale, and then on to random placement of the motif. Currently, she is working with optical illusions by using modifications in the value and position of the Gong Motif to achieve the look of layers or tiers.


When Carol works within one of her many art quilt series, she often imposes an exercise to get the design process going. For instance she might restrict herself to a limited palette to suggest a mood, or divide the space in squares or rectangles to see where the structure will lead her. Carol often likes to balance a single large Gong Motif among a cluster of smaller Gongs and further differentiates the two by contrasting dark values against lighter ones. She starts with a concept sketch and quickly moves to her design board. While she carefully selects the colors and fabrics for the developing quilt, her method of cutting and piecing is very improvisational.

What sets Carol's method apart from many quilt artists is she doesn't wait until the entire quilt is laid out on the design wall. She sews the sections as she goes. Carol has become proficient at curved piecing to the point where she doesnít even use pins. When she is satisfied that she has explored the exercise to its completion point, she spray bastes the quilt sandwich and begins the free motion machine-quilting phase.


For Carol, the design of the quilting is as important as the arrangement of the fabrics. A secret to what makes a finished "Carol Taylor" look so professional is she steam irons early and often during the quilting process. Like her signature palette, another "trademark" that makes a Carol Taylor art quilt instantly recognizable is her continuous circular quilting. The outer circumference on a circle in Vibrations measures 5 1/2 feet!

It's the intersection of multiple expanding spirals from the centers of each Gong Motif that makes her artwork emote sound and motion. When looking at her work, you eye never stops moving across the piece. You can feel the vibrations resonating through your mind if not your body.

Even her titles move you: Sound Waves, Syncopation, Asian Echoes, Cacophony, Chromatic Rhythms, and the playful, Going, Going, Gong!

Recently, Carol manipulated the Gong Motif into a Drum Motif by revising the order of the circle-in-the-square by placing the square-within-the circle. Being innovative enough to take a highly successful design element and turn it inside out is a testament to Carol's creativity and will lead to her longevity in the art quilt medium.

Too Tall

The expressiveness of the Gong Series has garnered Carol Taylor critical acclaim both in the quilt world and in the art world. The American Craft Museum's recently acquired Reverberations, which is now on the "Six Continents of Quilters" two-year tour. Cymbalism was part of the opening exhibition of the American Folk Art Museum in NYC is also touring the country.

Carol's huge investment in her quilting and dyeing studios, her on-hand supplies, her commitment to education, and her inherent drive to continually challenge herself to explore new options shows through in her impressive body of artwork.

Carol's adult children Trish, Tammy, and Trent all are very supportive of their mother's flourishing art quilt career. They have each been very vocal about which quilts will hang in their own personal collections after they have made the rounds of the national and international exhibitions. Trent even helps compose the quilt statements for all those entry forms. Humorous slides they took of how they use their "blankies" (a.k.a. master-pieced quilts) have shown up in Carol's lectures. With kids like that, Carol's a winner every time.

Carol Taylor is an accomplished artist with a portfolio of 350 quilts and counting. A member of Studio Art Quilt Associates and Surface Design Association, she is also the president of Taylor Search Associates Inc., a recruiting and placement firm in Fairport, NY. To see Carol's quilts, visit


Carolyn Lee Vehslage maintains an onboard studio on her Mariner Yacht "Fandango". Several of her quilted wall hangings that were created while cruising, are viewable online at

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