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Karen Eckmeier: Creating Landscapes "Accidentally" posted: 1/20/2005
by Carolyn Lee Vehslage Printable Page
Category: Art Method: All Series: In the Studio
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When asked to explain why she calls her quilt pattern series Accidental Landscapes artist/designer Karen Eckmeier replies, “For me, ‘accidental’ is working spontaneously, letting things happen by chance. The only ‘planning’ is color and line selections - curved, jagged, or rectangular like a city skyline.”

Quilting started as a hobby for Karen in 1987 and has now totally taken over her life. She often spends up to seven days a week working (or in her words, playing) in The Quilted Lizard Fiber Art Studio she opened in 2002. “I started teaching at The Country Quilter in 1996 to satisfy my need to be around other artists and quilters whose passion was working with fabric. It was my students who encouraged me to open my quilting business.”

Karen even became a pattern designer ‘accidentally’ when her quilting students kept asking her to create step-by-step instructions, or rather ‘guidelines’ for them to purchase and take home with them after they completed her Layered Curves and Peaks workshops.

As she taught her Layered Curves technique, Karen realized that, “Inevitably we were able to find little abstract landscapes in their pieces. This fascinated me, so I tried to create some landscapes on my own. The original four patterns became Meadows & Mountains, Beaches, Farms & Fields, and City Skylines.”

“Meadow & Mountains”
15”h x 24”w ©2002 Karen Eckmeier

Accidental Landscape Series #1

“City Skyline”
11”h x 14”w ©2002 Karen Eckmeier
Accidental Landscape Series #4

“I showed the quilts to my students in the next few workshops and the response was ecstatic. They all wanted the "pattern"...but I told them, ‘you know the technique so you really can make these on your own’...‘No, no, YOU make the patterns and WE will buy them.’ So I did. That was Fall 2002. Since then I’ve added Canyons & Mesas, Coastlines, and Autumn Hills to the series. Now I’m working on #8...and the ideas just keep coming!”

The secret to the Accidental Landscapes patterns is that they rely on layers of colors and lines to capture the feelings of a favorite scene. These miniature quilts are quick and easy to make, no templates, no fuss – just free form rotary cutting and topstitched edges. The results are always a pleasant surprise.

Karen says, “Students are always a little scared at first, but then just brighten up when they realize how simple the Accidental Landscapes process is and how many different variations there are on one scene. (They are like potato chips - one is never enough!) For example the Beaches pattern starts you out with a sky, three layers of water and several layers of sand. You can even exaggerate the number of overlapping layers --why use one fabric when you could use six or more?!?!”

“I encourage the students to try options such as adding dune grass, sailboats, or a lighthouse. To give the quilt extra dimension, sew on beads or shells. Simple changes in colors for a sunset or sunrise scene or change the format from horizontal to vertical. The variations go on and on.”

For quilters that don't like to draw, Karen provides drawings of sea grass, sea oats, a seagull, a beach bucket, etc. for them to trace.

The idea is to get them to take a simple landscape scene and make it their own work of art - it's no longer my pattern but their artwork - and that is very exciting for them (and me too).

With The Quilted Lizard Accident Landscape series of patterns there aren't any specific measurements or templates to trace. The measurements provided are approximate and are offered only as guidelines. The word "pattern" is misleading. Karen could have called them creative starter kits, because they give people the basic dimensions to get comfortable.

“Autumn Hills”
14”h x 14”w ©2004 Karen Eckmeier

Accidental Landscape Series #7

“City Skyline”
18”h x 15”w ©2002 Karen Eckmeier
Accidental Landscape Series #6

One of Karen’s favorite quotes is ‘A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind’ by scientist Albert Szent-Giyorgyi.” She practices that discovery process every day at The Quilted Lizard Fabric Art Studio where she layers and layers fabrics one upon another until they ‘accidentally’ become another stunning landscape.

Testimonial: "I absolutely love the artistic freedom you imparted!!!!!!!!!! Every time I see a landscape I make a fabric art piece in my head. Your work is awesome and thanks for devoting time to all of us to express our art in such unique simple, but glorious ways." -- Roxanne, New York

Karen just introduced all her patterns in the Accidental Landscape Series at the Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh, PA. You can order Karen’s Accidental Landscape patterns through her site at or talk to her about her workshops and lectures by contacting Karen directly at

The Quilted Lizard Studio
19 South Road
Kent, CT 06757
(860) 927-4296

©2004 Carolyn Lee Vehslage
Carolyn Lee Vehslage’s award winning artwork is in private, corporate, gallery and museum collections around the world.

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