Ann Johnston’s new work (Terry Grant)

I waited until this evening to post because June, Gerrie and I went over the river to Vancouver, WA this afternoon to see Ann Johnston’s new show at the Vancouver WSU campus and to hear Ann talk about her new work.

Ann is a Portland, OR fiber artist, but is well-known nationally and internationally largely for her excellent books on dyeing. She is prolific and as we were driving home tonight we were talking about how Ann seems to continue to explore and grow and just when you think you have seen her best work she takes off in a new and exciting direction.


This show is called “Line vs. Shape”. That’s June and Gerrie looking.

The last time I saw a group of Ann’s work was nearly a year ago as part of “Speaking in Cloth” the work of 6 NW fiber artists. It showed first in Coos Bay, OR, then traveled. There is also a book available from Ann’s web site of that show. You can actually see some of that show online here. I loved Ann’s work in that show. It was elegant, subdued and richly textured. This newer work is far more exuberant and the color is intense, hot and pulsing.


Sand in the Wind


The Pendulum’s Swing

During her talk and slide show Ann talked about recurring shapes, particularly crosses, like this piece.


Double Crossing

I find it interesting that Ann has series that have continued on for years. The cross series spans a number of years and changing styles. Another:


Lost Crosses

The richness of this piece comes from layering of dyeing, printing, stitching and stitching a second pattern over the first. A detail of the stitching:


This piece was the one piece that reminded me of the work I had seen in the “Speaking in Cloth” show—more subdued, with Ann’s elegant sense of rhythm and repetition, but the stitching links it to the more joyful feel of these newer works.



We learned from Ann’s talk that she recently acquired a long-arm quilting machine and she has found a new freedom of motion in her quilting line, creating that wonderful spontaneous feeling that we had noted when we viewed the quilts.

I hope June and Gerrie will comment with their views of the show. If you are in the vicinity of Vancouver, WA I recommend setting aside some time to see the show. I think you will find it worthwhile. Ann did mention that she was told they may be doing some plaster work in the building and will take the show down during the work, so call ahead to make sure it is viewable on the day you go. More information on Ann’s web site:


2 Responses to “Ann Johnston’s new work (Terry Grant)”

  1. 1 June October 18, 2007 at 6:45 pm


    I too have a long-time admiration for Ann’s art and her teaching skills. Her new work, particularly her use of the stitched line, seems to me to take the quilting stitch to new levels. She is not only enjoying the freedom of the long arm, but she’s using it to achieve the highest kind of art stitching.

    On the cross (gold) piece, for example, the spaces between the quilted lines vary from almost nothing to almost an inch. The variations mark off spaces, such as squares, within the arms of the cross. They give an already interesting piece a magical etched surface.

    Stitching over stitching is another marvel of design — sometimes she stitches heavily with dark thread and then will add a line of a much lighter color over the already-stitched surface – the line may or may not match the curve or direction of the lines underneath. She is truly drawing with her needle — or rather, etching with it, combining, as etching does, the drawn line with the massing and shaping that accumulated lines make.

    I was also interested to hear that she distinguishes clearly in her own mind between designing for the bed and designing for the wall. In the bed quilt that she brought for her talk, the center square (which will be on the center of the bed) was enlarged to give it the bed scale required. She thinks in design terms about the functional requirements – the hang of the bed quilt at the sides and the pillowed top, and the view, generally from the bottom up, which will be most often seen. She didn’t speak specifically to designing for the wall but as you can see from the examples in this post, her considerations and requirements are very different. It’s amusing to imagine that last, bipartite piece on a bed, even if it were large enough.

    As with any fine art, Ann’s work rewards close study but also pings when first encountered. The repeated geometries of her dyed cloth, worked in a variety of ways, is a bow to quilt geometries but then gently (and sometimes not so gently) resists the tradition.

    Look for more from her, too, in the future. Some family matters that she’d been responsible for have recently been lifted and she told me she’s hoping to get a lot of new work done in the next few months.

  2. 2 Gerrie October 18, 2007 at 8:19 am

    I have loved Ann’s work for a long time, having purchased her books a few years ago. I first saw her work at a Coos Bay show of Northwest Quilters, which she had curated. As a wannabe surface designer/art cloth creater, I love the marks that Ann creates in her work with thickened dyes.

    The juxtaposition of seeing her latest work and watching her slides, helped me to understand how she works. She is one of those generous artistic souls who want you to jump in and have fun, too. I want to get out the dyes and the alginate and go to work.

    Her long arm quilting is wonderful, and for the first time, I’m having long arm envy!

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