I recently chatted with author and quilt designer Cheryl Lynch to learn more about the inspiration behind her latest book ¡Quilt Fiesta! Surprising Designs from Mexican Tiles (2011, Martingale & Company).
This book contains instructions for 10 quilts, placemats, and other fusible appliqué projects inspired by beautiful Talavera tiles from Puebla, Mexico. To get a glimpse of another quilt from the book, read the Global Perspective column on page 104 in the October 2011 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine (available on newsstands and at quilt shops now).
MC: What gave you the idea for ¡Quilt Fiesta! Surprising Designs from Mexican Tiles?
CL: I was first exposed to Mexican folk art when my husband and I took a trip to Cabo San Lucas for marlin fishing and whale watching. While there, we decided to spend a day in the little town of Todos Santos. My eyes popped at what I saw there: The folk art was so gorgeous! I realized tiles clearly look like quilt blocks, and the designs in the tiles’ corners would make great secondary designs when combined. After I got home, I made one or two quilts inspired by Mexican tiles. I also did more research on the topic and decided to make a second trip to Mexico to visit Puebla and find more inspiration.
MC: Why Puebla?
CL: Puebla is known as The City of Tiles. It’s a colonial city located inland, and it’s where Talevera tiles are made. There are tiles everywhere—on buildings, stairwells, the ground. We don’t speak Spanish, so we hired a guide who took us to the tile factories and provided some of the tidbits about the culture found in the book.
MC: What did you learn about Talavera tiles?
CL: The pottery methods used to make Talavera tiles were brought to Mexico from Spain. My biggest observation is that the Mexican tiles are more rustic than their European counterparts. They’re all hand-painted. To me, it’s folk art and it proves art doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. That is my mantra in general.
MC: How does this mantra apply to quilting?
CL: I’ve been quilting since 1992, and I’ve learned that perfection can keep quilters from moving forward. I say, “Just do it and finish it.” When you’re 10 or 20 quilts down the line you’ll be able to see how far you’ve come. I think the joy in creating a project far outweighs a perfect project.
MC: How did you select fabrics for the tile-inspired quilts in this book?
CL: I love scrappy quilts! I think prints are what make quilts so fascinating. I used lots of stripes and polka dots in the quilts for this book. My view is the more fabrics the merrier. If you’re going to use one blue, use lots of blues. Quilts don’t have to be “matchy matchy.” It’s not that the fabrics I used were made for Mexican-tile theme quilts. The fabrics, the design, and the quilting work together to give a quilt a Mexican-tile feel.
MC: What advice do you have for quilters on choosing color palettes and prints?
CL: Fabric choice is often the most difficult aspect for new quilters, but it’s often what gives experienced quilters the most joy. I’m a big believer in what’s taught in most beginning quilting classes: Start with a multicolor focus fabric. You may not always end up using the focus fabric in your quilt, but it gives you confidence that the colors it contains will work well together.
MC: What advice do you have for quilters who want to translate tiles or other sources of inspiration into quilts?
CL: Because fabrics have so much texture and pattern, you can simplify a tile design and still get an interesting pattern using prints. Or, consider making the design more intricate and using solids.
MC: How do you find inspiration?
CL: I think of myself as a quilter first and an artist second. When I travel, I take tons of photos, and I bring my computer on my trip so I can upload the photos while I’m still there. I look at life through a quilter’s eyes—I see quilts when I look at buildings or art. I’m currently inspired by wrought-iron designs that I saw on a trip
Photos by Brent Kane; courtesy of Martingale & Company.