After a career as an art teacher, Bob now finds nothing more satisfying (or
scary) than expressing himself on canvas or cloth... or teaching discharge,
dye and stitch processes across the USA and internationally. His work has
been selected for many juried and invitational exhibitions - including three
Quilt National shows.
Bob’s journey has been fascinating…
He was originally inspired by a dedicated art teacher as a seventh grade
student at Junior High school. The encouragement he received made him
determined to pursue art and he gained his BS from Butler University,
Indianapolis, Indiana and John Herron Art Institute in 1965. In 1969 he
earned his MA from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
Earning a living as a practicing full time artist has always been a challenge,
so Bob decided to pursue a career as an art teacher, giving back the
inspiration and support he’d received to a new generation of students. His
move into fiber was partially influenced by his wife Natalie. A weekend quilt-
maker, Natalie freely admitted that she had “no sense of color and
determined ‘value’ by the price of a fabric”. Bob began to help out with
decision-making on the quilts Natalie was making and became fascinated by
the flexibility that fabric offered and the quality of line that free-motion
Going to exhibitions and shows enabled Bob to realize that he could also
create the fabrics that went into the quilts he was making. He therefore
spent a great deal of his vacation time taking classes in order to develop
understanding and skill at using dyes and textile paints on cloth – something
that also allowed him to use his drawing and painting skills. The ability to
create and use hand-crafted cloth motivated his quilt-making to such a
degree that he took a year off from work to focus on becoming a fiber artist.
It was during this time that he saw discharge techniques being used on
cloth. Early experiments at home (initially using bleach) made Bob realize
that he could achieve a quality of mark with discharge that he’d previously
found elusive with dye paints.
Discharge techniques using bleach and Thiox on black or hand-dyed cloth
have now become a hall mark of his style, which over the years has moved
away from the early inspirations of life drawing and landscape, to a more
abstract feel with an emphasis on color and line. He doesn’t feel right when
he’s not working and can’t be away from color, line, shape and problem-
solving for very long. In his art, he can lose himself.
The following extract from ‘The Art of Quilting’ featured on PBS sums up
how Bob feels about making art and making quilts…
“The minute I started painting with dye I was pretty much off to the races.
That was all I needed. When I first started, stitching was a way to attach
pieces. Now the thread is a really integral part of my work. It makes a
statement and it's a serious part. I can't do without it now whereas at first I
tried to hide it because my sewing was so terrible. Now it’s what makes my
As you work on a piece it changes—starts out really soft without the
stitching and by the time I'm done, it's taken on a whole different tactile and
visual quality that I can't get with a brush and paint. Plus, you can go back
and re-work areas a lot easier and make stunning changes. With paint, you
keep putting it on and sometimes all of a sudden it turns to mud. With fabric
you can add more color on top of what you’ve got and bang, you've got a
whole different look to it. And then the stitches on top add a whole new
dimension to the piece. That's what I love about it. I just couldn't get that
with painting. The minute I learned how to paint with dye and put the thread
with it, I realized that’s what I’d been looking for. That's the part that's really
stunning to me. Even now when I go to a museum I don't see that in
paintings. The only place I see it is in the textile work.
You get into - I don't know what you call it – ‘a groove’. That's the greatest
part of art, I don't care if you paint or draw. You lose yourself and all of a
sudden you stand up and you're back to reality. It's a feeling I don't get any
Bob likes to teach in a way that brings out the individual in each student.
He doesn’t want to end up with a class of clones, believing instead that
every student has their own unique way of working and a very personal
feeling for what they’re seeking to achieve. He’s able to draw students out
of their comfort zone and inspire them to take what they have to offer in
their own direction. Bob fosters problem solving. Students inevitably face
problems at some (if not many) stages of process and he wants them to be
able to work things through and come up with solutions. He feels most
students don't give themselves enough credit for their potential and wants
them to develop on a very personal level, rather than being spoon fed.
Group and individual critiques are always a feature of the class,
encouraging students to look, reflect and extract the learning they’ve had,
and how to take it forward.
. . .