Five minutes with Brian Dykhuizen

five minutes with Brian Dykhuizen

Brian Dykhuizen is a contemporary textile artist, based in the United States. His beautiful, abstract quilts are a celebration of colour, design and stitching. One of his latest creations showed at the European Patchwork Meeting 2023. We caught up with him to find out more. 

 

Dahlia Flowers quilt

Original Design. Pattern inspired by Dahlia Flowers. Shown at Houston Quilt Show in 2016.

 

ECT: Have you always been a maker?

BD: I have always had a need to create. I started making my own clothes in my early twenties - that’s when the sewing really began - and I liked the process. I came to quilting through my interest in colour, and the effects of blending colours. I was an art major at college and I took a lot of fabric dyeing classes so I had all these fabrics, but I didn’t know what to do with them. Then one day, one of the workshops was held at a fabric store and that was the lightbulb moment – I realised I could make a quilt.

ECT: You now describe yourself as a ‘contemporary textile artist’

BD: Yes, I learned to quilt through making a lot of traditional quilts using other people’s patterns. It’s a good way to learn and I still make some bed quilts from patterns, but as a creative, I want to design my own quilts. I use commercially dyed fabrics and also fabrics  that I dye myself by hand. One of the dyeing processes I use is to thicken the dye and almost use it as paint. For my 'Adoration' quilt for example, the dye was thickened with sodium alginate and painted onto the fabric with brushes and squeegees. I then cut squares out of the fabric and rearranged them until the design was to my liking.

 

Adoration quilt

Adoration hand-dyed, whole cloth quilt. Original design. Completed 2006

Aaron's Star quilt

Aaron's Star. Pattern Source: Hawaiian Star by Judy Niemeyer. Fabrics are all hand-dyed pimatex cotton by Brian Dykhuizen. Completed in 2020

 

ECT: What was your first quilt?

BD: The very first quilt I made fell apart because I didn’t know what I was doing, but the one I consider to be my first quilt was a nine-patch block surrounded by a log cabin. I made it in the late 1980s and it’s still quite healthy!

ECT: Can you talk us through your making process?

BD: The first stage is to find something that’s visually appealing. I take a lot of inspiration from nature and I like to work in series. The one I'm working on now is all about the Bur Oak tree - I love the design of the leaves and how fluid they are. Then, after a bit of thinking about the shape, I start playing. For the 'Quercus macrocarpa' series for example, I began by manipulating the silhouette of the Bur Oak leaves on 10cm squares of paper. That gave me lots of different blocks which I arranged on my design wall until I liked the design. Once I was happy, I started sewing the blocks together. 

ECT: Quercus macrocarpa #1 was been accepted into the SAQA Global Exhibition Minimalism at the European Patchwork Meeting 2023. How did that come about?

BD: I try to enter a lot of competitions –  I decided that if I wanted to take my quilting seriously, then I needed to enter shows and getting work accepted is great validation for what I do as a creator. I am a member of the SAQA [the Studio Art Quilters Association] here in the US and they put out a call for entry. My quilts have travelled more than I have so, when I heard that I’d been accepted, I decided to go to Alsace too! I find quilters are just one big family and there’s something to talk about right away because we all have this common thread. The ideas in the art quilt world are just endless – you think you’ve seen it all, then somebody comes up with something new.

 

Quercus macrocarpa Brian Dykhuizen quilt

Quercus macrocarpa #1. Fusible Applique. Original design.