Meg Callahan

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I am from Oklahoma, and currently reside in Seattle, Washington.
Have you always worked with quilting? How did you know this was what you wanted to pursue?
I began quilting in 2011 off hand, and as soon as I started, I fell in love with the process. It is the right combination of craft, logic, and discipline mixed with insanity that spoke to how I communicate and how I understand making.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
Do you find you have more ideas than time to complete projects, or is the endurance of completing a work most challenging?
Not exclusively either. I just always find myself wanting to devote more time and focus towards a given task than I am able to. Time is just always running out. I tend to only be able to focus on one thing at a time, and therefore lots of things get pushed closer to deadlines, and then of course sometimes I just want to do nothing, or exercise, or watch TV, or drink a beer, and I want to give those things time and focus as well.
How do you see your work evolving in the future?
A few years ago, when deadlines, business, and money began to take a bigger role in my studio, my work began to reflect that: I was inspired by efficiency, and became interested in construction techniques that echoed that. I was not interested in cutting corners, but rather embracing and exploring time, and how that relates to craftsmanship.

I think I will continually be influenced by craft and by my environment. I am producing less, and beginning to explore other forms of craft: weaving, stained glass, and so on, and I think my visual language will mimic those processes.

I was not interested in cutting corners, but rather embracing and exploring time, and how that relates to craftsmanship. — Meg Callahan
We’re sure many artists would love to learn about techniques that emphasize efficiency - what’s one tip you can share?
Wear a tool belt and make a jig.
What themes or motifs are you consistently drawn to?
Landscapes and driving. I grew up in a flat place with wide open spaces, and my family was into road trips. I am drawn to the gradual evolution of geography as you drive from state to state, and the meditative state when driving and passing telephone poles at repeated intervals. I think I am always trying to capture that experience with my work.
Do you find that your location strongly influences the direction of your work?
Absolutely. Mostly, it influences my work ethic, which in turn influences my work.
Where do you make your best work?
Not so much a specific place. I feel the most prepared to make work in an organized and intentionally laid-out studio space with good lighting; if I have gotten up early, exercised, made coffee, and my outfit is comfortable and my hair is brushed. If I set myself up to succeed, then it is easy to do so, and my work begins to show my work ethic. But I also happen upon moments of clarity and focus unintentionally when driving, or in a hot tub, or far away from my studio and any type of convenience (and with tangled hair).
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
Small waves or moments of emotion that I try to capture. I don’t ever really know how to accurately describe these things. When I was a kid, I played soccer. It was always hot, dry, and windy and the dry red dirt would dust everything. When the game was over, I would roll down my socks and un-velcro my shin-guards, and that moment of letting the wind hit my sweaty shins was total physical and mental freedom. Or there was one time that I was driving by a little alleyway near a Walmart, and an employee - looked like he was on a break - was hugging a crying girl. I drove by for a millisecond, but her pain hit me so hard. I don’t want to communicate these moments, but rather as a personal practice translate them into a composition to deliver a similar blow.
Do you admire or draw inspiration from any of your peers who are also working now?
I admire a lot of artists and designers that I had the privilege of going to school with: Misha Khan, Adam Hyman, and Hannah Woodard.

I enjoy collaborating, as it opens my eyes to other modes of thought and processes, and challenges me to think outside of my defaults. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with Matter, Hawkins NY, Terrain, and my partner Andrew Mau, and I hope to collaborate more in the future. My process is very solitary, and I enjoy being inside of my own head so working with other people can snap me out of that trance.

I don’t want to communicate these moments, but rather as a personal practice translate them into a composition to deliver a similar blow. — Meg Callahan
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
I had a kid’s ‘art history workbook’ in which they continually zoomed into a Degas painting. The last shot was zoomed into the pastel marks of a tutu, and I would stare at it for hours. It was beautiful and made me turn my attention to process rather than the image itself.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
An abundance of sharp scissors.
Is there a particular brand or type of scissors you prefer?
It depends. I have different scissors for different tasks, but I am partial to Golden Eagle Thread Snips - small, useful, cheap, sharp.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
It can change from project to project and from place to place. But no matter what, it involves an initial ritual (or act of avoidance) of cleaning and organizing, and then methodical ironing, cutting, and sewing.
How do you incorporate chance in your creative process?
Most of my process is methodical and pre-planned. I tend to gravitate to mathematical and technique driven making processes which by nature do not involve chance. However, when I am thinking and sketching I work in an almost entirely different state - open, free form, and meandering.
In a given week, what ratio of your time in the studio would you say is methodical and planned versus free form and meandering?
The pattern of this happens more in a yearly cycle, which is the result of show season. The winter and early spring are much more free form and explorative, and the rest of the year is devoted to method and execution. There is always cross-over, however, and I think the relationship and balance of thought and execution are continually hand in hand.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
Currently, not important. I am driven by tradition, repetition, method and the rules of craft.
How do the different elements of shape come together in your works?
Shapes are a large part of my work - patchwork quilting by nature is based on geometry, and they are the foundation to construction and composition. When I am sketching for a piece, I am focusing on the right shapes and combination of shapes that will emit tension as well as fluidity.
When I am sketching for a piece, I am focusing on the right shapes and combination of shapes that will emit tension as well as fluidity. — Meg Callahan
How do you choose your materials?
I tend to choose colors and materials that are most logical and appropriate for the process at hand.
Do you inherit materials, or are there vendors that you return to again and again for their materials?
Because my work is functional, and I produce pieces (albeit a very small and limited production), I source my materials from a reputable vendor to ensure quality and consistency. However, when I am making pieces that are more explorative, I am much looser with where and how I find and use materials.
You were included in Forbes 30 under 30 list in January of 2016, a first for the publication in terms of recognizing quiltmakers. How has this changed your practice, or has it?
More so personally, I think. As a woman in a traditional craft, one that has a bit of a stigma to it, I feel proud to have it validated in a platform of business and innovation.
Is there something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Outside of my quilts, my life is not colorful: I wear black, and my bedding is beige.
What’s next for you?
Other processes: weaving and stained glass

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