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Lauren Strach featured in local paper

Twin City Camera Club Member Lauren Strach was featured in The Herald-Palladium on June 9, 2011

"The Natural"

St. Joseph artist takes MAAC's top prize for fiber piece

 by JEREMY D. BONFIGLIO - H-P Features Writer.

ST. JOSEPH - When St. Joseph fiber artist Lauren K. Strach was selecting pieces for her solo exhibition "Details, Details," which spent six weeks hanging in the Heartha Whitlow Gallery at the Box Factory for the Arts, she purposely left out her latest creation.

"I held it back because you can't enter a piece in the MAAC that has already been shown in the gallery," Strach says.

Turns out that was a pretty fortuitous decision.

Strach will receive the top honor - and the accompanying $1,000 in prize money from the Berrien Community Foundation - for that piece, a fiber art quilt, titled "First Snow," during Friday's opening reception and award ceremony of the ninth annual Michiana Annual Arts Competition. It's the second time in four years that Strach has taken the MAAC's top prize, previously winning in 2006 for her art quilt, "Summer Solstice." The MAAC exhibition, which is featured in all three Box Factory galleries, will be on display through July 24.

"It's exciting, not just for my art but for the medium," Strach says. "Fiber art is more than just quilting, and it's a medium going in all kinds of new and exciting directions. I feel fortunate. I'm really lucky that whatever spark that comes through resonates with viewers. That's the true affirmation."

Strach's winning piece is part of her ongoing series that uses and manipulates objects found in nature. Using pressed leaves on top of the fabric, Strach says she used a chemical process that not only translated those images onto the fabric but stripped away original layers of color in the textiles themselves. She then used various stitching techniques to combine panels as well as outline and emphasize the leaf patterns that remained.

"The passages of color and various stitches to create effects was really what I responded to," says Brian Byrn, curator of the Midwest Museum of Art in Elkhart, Ind., who was one of the three judges for the juried show. "It was well designed and executed. It looked sophisticated. I just thought it was really a beautiful, beautifully executed piece."

Byrn also judged works in painting, watercolor and pastel. Martina Lopez, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, judged photography and digital art; and Rhonda Root, an associate professor at Andrews University, judged three-dimensional art categories. Overall, awards are given in 12 categories.

What makes Strach's win even more impressive given those numbers is the fact that she's only been working in the medium for the past five years. The Niles native was teaching marketing at Andrews University when she "started playing with art quilts."

"I didn't have an art background per se, and textiles were very inviting," she says. "There wasn't a perceived barrier there like 'Oh I can't draw' or 'Oh I can't paint.' With textiles it's so tangible and malleable you can just really dive into it."

Strach says she received so much success within that first year, including her first Best of Show win at the MAAC, that she left Andrews to concentrate on fiber arts full time. She credits some of that success to her penchant for gardening. In addition to her doctorate in marketing from Michigan State University, Strach also became a certified Master Gardener there.

"I think that love of gardening immediately gave me a voice," Strach says of her work. "I knew right away that's what I wanted to express. I think that surety of voice based on my vision of nature and gardening and leaves and flowers and bugs all came together quickly in a surprising way."

Strach picked up photography as a tool to study the colors, shapes and lines in her own garden and started translating that imagery into the fabric. Her early work used an exaggerated realism outlining insects and flowers, while she says her more recent work has been more subtle in color and shape.

She's taken drawing and painting classes for better understanding of general art principles, but can't imagine expressing herself in a different medium.

"I keep coming back to fiber; I keep coming back to fabric," she says. "I'm drawn to it. I guess that's how an artist picks their medium. It's the one I feel most connected to."

And it shows. In addition to her MAAC wins and retrospective show at the Box, which ran from April 15 to May 29, Strach's work has been juried into many of the most prestigious quilt shows in the country. The past three years she has been a finalist at the International Quilt Show in Houston - the largest competition in the country - and in 2007 she was a finalist in the $100,000 Quilt Challenge.

When asked where her fiber art career is heading next, Strach can't help but laugh at the thought.

"You know, you always want it to be more," she says. "What that is, I don't know, but that's always the goal. I have a few ideas I want to try out; I just haven't figured out how to do it yet. By next year at the MAAC, I'm sure I'll have something new and different."



Congratulations Lauren!

...and now

More on this multi-talented member.

By Tom McCall

I spoke with Lauren and asked her how photography and TCCC has played a role in her life and art.  This is her answer...  

Since I began my quilting adventures without an art background, after a while I started feeling that in order to develop further in my fiber art, I really needed to explore more about basic art principles.  Around that same time, Michel became very involved with photography, and I found her photos beautiful and fascinating.  At first, three years ago, I picked up a point-and-shoot, and spent the spring and summer documenting my garden.  I was also focusing on the universal art principles of line, shape, and color.  So many of the photos I took would make beautiful quilts, and some of the elements did get translated into fabric.  But, more than that, the photography helped to develop my eye, and that continues to be the case.  Now I shoot with a Big Girl camera, a Sony alpha 500, and I think that my focus on art, including now the study of drawing and painting, has had a complimentary effect on all of my endeavors, which is exciting to see.

As a Master Gardener, and one who spends a great deal of time in my garden, looking at my flowers and plants through a lens has really given me a different perspective.  Taking the time to compose a picture really forces one to stop and live in the moment, instead of always scanning the environment for the next weed or task that needs to be done.  The greatest gift that photography has given me is the gift of new eyes with which to view nature, to see the macro environment that has always been there, but is invisible without focused and specific attention.

Becoming involved with the TCCC has been a fun adventure that has encouraged me to be more evaluative in looking at my photos.  I have learned a great deal by following in the footsteps of Michel, and also by watching the monthly competitions.  Having a Select Subject to work towards has expanded my shooting topics, as I am naturally drawn to garden and nature themes.  It has also encouraged me to learn Photoshop and to select my strongest images and to polish them to share.  Without that motivation those photos would just live their quiet life on my computer, coming out only when I was looking for a new quilt subject.  But now, once I have developed my competition photos, not only am I sharing them with the other camera club members, but I also post them on my Facebook account, and email them to others, as updates on my life and what I am seeing through my lens.


Lauren’s fine art quilt "First Snow"


 The quilt "First Snow" is the one that won Best in Show at the MAAC. The design on the quilt was created by first pressing leaves from my garden, then spraying chemicals around the leaves to discharge the color from the fabric. Depending on the fabric, which began as black, dark brown, and navy, different underlying colors were revealed. The very intense stitching then followed the color palette in the fabric. This is the fourth quilt that I have done in this series.


"First Snow" upper right hand panel


Just the lower corner of that panel showing some of the detail

You really need to go to the Box Factory of the Arts and see this amazing art up close and personal.



This is Lauren's Fiber Art quilt "Desert Solstice" that won First Place in Fiber Art in 2007



"Flora in Wonderland"


"Flora in Wonderland" Detail


"Web of Life"

"Web of Life" Detail


"Pumpkins and Vines"

"Pumpkins and Vines" Detail


I think you will agree with me that Lauren's achievements are amazing and that she is truly talented. 

Lauren told me that Michel set up a studio in their basement to photograph her quilts.  The images are super, Michel.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful quilts with us.  

  We wish you all the best...





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          - Lauren Strach featured in local paper - You are Here

          - Curtis Drake featured in local paper



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