In the Studio with Sarah Ann Smith

Sarah Ann Smith

I love this photo of Sarah Ann Smith.  It tells you a lot about her and her artwork.  Sarah, a former diplomat, has enriched the art quilting world through her artwork, her writing, and her teaching.   Her two latest publications are The Best of Quilting Arts: Your Ultimate Resource for Art Quilt Techniques and Inspiration, edited by Pokey Bolton and The Studio Quilt, No. 6:  State of the Art. Learn more about these books on Sarah’s blog.

1.  How do you find/make time to be in your studio?
Sometimes I don’t!   With family and teaching quilting, creating time is scarce.  I try to get chores out of the way as soon as our son is at school, and some days that leaves me time to get to the studio.  I tend to do a lot of designing and revising in my head so that when I DO get to the studio, I can use the time well.

2.  Describe your studio in five words.
Big!  Bright.  Colorful.  Comfortable.  Home. 

Looking over the ironing board and cutting table toward the sewing corner.  I LOVE my old Hoosier and my books!

3.  If you could pick only one thing from your studio to represent your art practice, what would it be?

Thread–each spool is a line of color waiting to shade, define, shape, create! Yes, the antique spool chest is nearly full, and yes, the boxes underneath have thread, and yes, I really do use it all!  It’s just to the right of my sewing tables.

4. What is the best/worst space you have ever had as a studio?
The dining room table was the worst.  The one I have now is the best!


Love Love LOVE my design wall / closet:  it used to be a single long wall with no door or windows.  We built 48″ wide doors (3 in front, 3 in back to cover the 21-1/2 feet) that have rigid insulation covered with flannel.  All the distracting clutter and STUFF is behind and out of sight:  teaching supplies and camera equipment on the left, a file cabinet, batting, art supplies and quilt storage at the right end.  

5.  What would make a “dream studio” for you?
What I now have, but with a view (not in the basement).  And a wet studio space would be nice, but isn’t essential.  When we moved last February, the space was grim, but I knew that with good lighting, work and persistence I could make my almost-dream-studio, and I have.  Now I need 37 hours a day so I can spend more time there!

The “Before” picture of part of the studio when we moved in almost a year ago.  Deep chocolate brown (UGH) on the walls, two bare bulbs.  We took down a wall separating two cramped rooms, painted, added LOTS of great lighting and made it the almost-perfect studio.  A view would be better, but I just have to create my own!

6.  What would you advise someone setting up a studio for the first time?
Think about what you do (and want to do) and set things up for the way you work.  You don’t need a huge space, especially to start.  Just find a corner and begin!  That said, store like items together (means only one place to look for paint).  Create “zones.”  Sewing, cutting, ironing, drawing/painting.  Some zones will do multiple things if your space is compact.  Have a tidy attack after finishing a project or phase of a project — that way you can find stuff when you need it.  If you need to, spend the money for really good lighting–it is what makes a studio in the dark basement do-able.

Other than sewing, most of the work happens at the zone on the left for ironing, cutting, and drawing on the new drafting table (which I can raise up to the same height as the worktable).  The least used part of the studio, alas, is the sitting area.  At least the dog uses it!

7.  Any unique features/studio pets you would like to share?

The pug, Pigwidgeon, who seems to think he is a cat and sleeps on sofa backs and arms.  Thumper the cat, who sometimes acts like a dog (don’t tell her, she’d be miffed–she *knows* she is and deserves to be the top of the totem pole and the rest of us are decidedly lower down, and the dog is at rock bottom) and follows me around the house and welcomes me home.  Clearly, they have species identity confusion—I  wouldn’t be without them! (PS…most cats have 18 toes…Thumper has about a foot and a half per leg, proof of her superiority.)


This is part of Sarah’s Fiber Bonus for Foto/Fiber 2012.  It is a fabric postcard with movable parts!  The other part is some beautiful hand-dyed fabric; Sarah will be featuring it on her blog before February 15.Foto/Fiber 2012 is February 15 and 16.   Please mark your calendar and join us for this fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

8.  Any exhibits or new projects we should know about?

Threadwork Unraveled
, my book about using thread for machine work:  applique, quilting.  Nice reviews here. Lots of information about different threads, tension (and how to troubleshoot issues), the right needle for the thread, how to use the threads, and few projects to implement what you’ve learned.

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01 2012

9 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    I love Sarah’s room! After reading her book and seeing her posts on the Horizon digest I feel like I know her and had a chance to visit her in her favorite room.

    I would love to have space in my sewing room for a bigger table for my sewing machine for when making quilts to help hold the weight of the quilt. I do have something special in my sewing room, well two things. My husband made my cutting table out of a Civil War era square grand piano that couldn’t be saved as a piano and the other is my sewing table looks out from a 5′ x 5′ right into a black walnut tree. It is like sewing in a treehouse!

  2. Mary Ann #

    Wow! What a great space to have. So bright and functional. Mary Ann

  3. 3

    “Have a tidy attack after finishing a project or phase of a project.” I love that line. I will try to have more tidy attacks in 2012.

  4. Eileen Keane #

    Thank you for sharing Sarah’s studio with us. My basement is too damp to have a studio; but I’d love to have it down there.

  5. Iris #

    Great studio Sarah. So well organized and laid out! I’ve always wondered how you manage to accomplish so much. And I love the green. I’m obsessed with green floors! Your green is particularly welcoming, supportive and energizing. So Sarah!
    ps…. loved seeing a bolt of Mistyfuse in there! : )

  6. 6

    So fun to see another basement studio!

    Sarah – What kind of lights are on the ceiling? I have some basic shop lights but need something brighter. I find your pics inspiring as I try to make my studio more liveable.

  7. 7

    I Love, love, love Sarah’s studio!! I keep dreaming…. especially of having a design wall/closet like that! For now my little “cubicle” works (with much in other areas of our home)… I am blessed with two windows with views of some of my gardens and our woods 🙂

  8. 8

    It was fun seeing your new studio. Love reading about the mischief you are up to.. Enjoy your time in the studio.

  9. Linda Hansen #

    I’m about to design a two room sewing “studio” and your site was suggested. Oh, to dream! I’d never go upstairs.

    My area is small but has a wood burning stove in it, which I hope to convert to a regular fireplace in a year or two, although it keeps it toasty in a drafty place.

    Thank you for sharing your room – what an inspiration! Congratulations.