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Interview with Thom Atkins

Posted by Deirdre Quirk on Jan 26th 2017

Today we're getting an inside perspective from the author of Beading Artistry for Quilts, Thom Atkins! You can see more of Thom's breathtaking quilts over on his website,

What projects are you working on right now? 

I try to work on one quilt at a time ... that way I don't have to keep changing hats. I'm currently working on a piece I'm tentatively calling The Edge of Night starring a very pale young man leaping from cloud to cloud clutching the leading edges of night and pulling it behind him. He has a bag of stars slung over his shoulders, and it is spilling stars which trail behind him ... the background fabrics are a blue and a black version of an ombre night sky with stars. It will have lots of star beads, as well as crystals and bugle beads.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve made? 

My favorite project is almost always the quilt I just finished ... that being the one that usually leads me on to the next one. My current favorite is Carnaval, for many reasons. It was a structural challenge in that I did the central panel first and quilted it, then finished each of the panels around the center panel, piecing them upon completion of quilting. It was also a UFO in that I used an old six-panel kaleidoscope unit, which I'd cut in 2004 and moved on from before finishing, for the headdress of the lady in the central panel. Then I had to build the lady and the window frame she was looking out of. Definitely my greatest structural challenge to date.

Where do you shop for fabric? 

Everywhere I go that has fabric, but it depends on whether I'm looking for something specific or just looking to be inspired. Some of my favorites in California are The Back Porch in Pacific Grove, Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley, New Pieces in Berkeley, Britex in San Francisco, and a new store, just recently on my horizon, Bay Fabrics in Richmond.

What is the one tool or notion you can’t live without? 

That one's easy: my chain-nose pliers, closely followed by a spoon I turned into a bead shovel. All the rest are essentials—needles, the right color of thread, my rotary cutter and cutting board, my sewing machines, my bead collection, etc.—but those two are nigh onto irreplaceable.

Thank you, Thom!

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