For the love of fabric with Lisa Shepard Stewart

Fabric and design entrepeneur Lisa Shepard Stewart poses with Batik patterned fabrics in vibrant colors from Ghana.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

From far and near, quilt lovers and others who love textile arts immersed themselves in the artistry of The Urban Inspirations Quilt Show 2015. Sponsored by the Empire Quilters Guild, one the many NYC area quilters’ organizations, the two-day show was held at FIT in late March.

As well as the eye-dazzling exhibition of member-created quilts at FIT, vendors sold notions and supplies, sewing machines, and delectable fabrics, the medium for these textile artists.

Among the vendors, Lisa Shepard Stewart, whose mother is from St. Croix, displayed at her Cultured Expressions stall, wonderfully colorful and uniquely patterned fabrics from Ghana along with accessories and kits for smaller projects and the magazine Fabrigasm that she publishes.

Judy Siler traveled by bus from near Albany to attend the show. She perused, later buying, “fat quarters”, 18” x 22” pre-cut pieces. “I’ve made a handbag from this fabric and after six years I see no wear,” she said of the cloth she says is “different, beautiful and nobody else has.”

“I have loved fabrics from the age of four,” Stewart says, having gone on to study marketing and communications at Fashion Institute of Technology. Subsequently, she has always worked with jobs in textiles and the sewing industries.

As an entrepreneur, who runs her own business ( Stewart also works part-time for a company that sells quilting fabric.

In the 80s, a trip to Senegal turned her on to African fabrics.

She’s written three books that provide do-it-yourself (DIY) techniques for using global accessories or African fabrics in decorating or creating accessories.

“I speak at quilting guilds and run workshops with Empire Quilters,” says Stewart.

Stewart’s stall got busy as the nearby auditorium emptied. (Visitors to the show had just learned about the history of quilt patterns including those in Brooklyn and Rockland County, discovering “in the late 1800s, they used a lot of animal imagery.”)

Dr. Brenda Harris who belongs to three local quilting guilds stopped by to say hi. Beaming, she commented how Stewart’s Afro-centric patterns and fabrics fill a “fabric niche” otherwise limited in the quilting community.

“Quilting and Cultured Expressions opened a whole new world for me,” she added, having traveled with Stewart when she organized a fabric-lovers excursion to Ghana.

“The common interest in fabric binds all the travelers together,” says Stewart of the trip to Accra and Tema that included lots of fabric shopping, workshops with local artists, as well as visits to Kente cloth weavers and bead makers. She is planning another trip for 2016.

In the meantime, Stewart is also having an upcoming Customer Appreciation Day on Saturday, April 25, 1 2noon – 4:00 p.m., in the Bronx. She is partnering with Yara African Fabrics at their warehouse, 863 E 141, Bronx (rsvp yaraafricanfabr[email protected]

The Urban Inspirations Quilt Show included traditional quilts: traditional-based patterns with pieced, appliqué or mixed pieces; pictorial quilts: collaged, appliquéd or photo transfers as part of their creation; abstract “studio art” quilts: mixed technique or embellished –including three dimensions, and special technique quilts: yo-yo quilts, cathedral windows, whole cloth or crazy quilts.

Dr. Brenda Harris, a fan and friend of Cultured Expressions. She traveled with Lisa Shepard Stewart to Ghana to see the fabrics and artists in that country.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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