Arts and Entertainment

The swirl and color of the unfettered hand in Langley

Elizabeth Ford Ortiz
Elizabeth Ford Ortiz's 'Synchronicity' is at Brackenwood Gallery in Langley until Feb. 28.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Brackenwood Gallery

Color, color, shape and more color.

That’s what master textile artist Elizabeth Ford Ortiz offers art lovers with her unique quilted wall hangings and pillows.

Take a trip to the Brackenwood Gallery in downtown Langley to see Ortiz’s current body of work in a show that runs through Feb. 28.

With a lifetime background in painting and other art forms, Ortiz turned to textiles and crafting contemporary quilt art in 1993.

She works in an improvisational freehand style, using a non-traditional approach. Her creative process is as spontaneous as that of a jazz artist, following the flow of sequences to build each piece.

“The color is the most important reason for why I make these pieces,” Ortiz said.

“I’m fascinated by the way one color plays off another.”

The Greenbank resident said she takes a lot of photographs that help guide her work. She may capture a colorful sunrise or sunset, or a particularly beautiful piece of bark from a tree, all of which may be reflected in the feeling of a piece. But, it’s the hand-dying of the fabrics that takes her into the whirling, changing world of color.

“I enjoy the way color interacts with itself,” she said.

“With hand-dyed cotton you get a richness of color and after one, two, or three dye baths,

I think, ‘Oh, I have to figure out a way to use these colors,’” she added.

Ortiz said it takes some calculation to work out how certain colors can be used with each other. She thinks a lot about how color works; how red is the opposite of green and how, next to blue, green changes and becomes something else entirely.

She interacts with the materials, determining the size and design as the piece develops. Using primarily Dupioni silk and the hand-dyed cottons, she creates singular pieces that may have been inspired at first by original, old-fashioned quilt designs.

“But, I don’t measure and I like to work with curvy lines to a certain degree,” Ortiz noted.

So what evolves follows new shapes and color combinations, which she plays with until the piece develops a larger theme.

“It’s never pre-planned. I work with it and it works with me,” she said of each project.

Ortiz said she grew up sewing and began to study art in college, mainly painting. She was later influenced by her quilt artist mentor Nancy Crow, and also by friend John Braun, another Whidbey Island artist.

Her quilts look like geometric textured paintings that swirl and move with color and shape. They are as enticing and unique as are their names: “Rabbit Hole,” “Legos,” “Portal,” “Andromeda” and “Fandango,” to name just a few.

Photographs of Ortiz’s work have been published in Quilting International, American Quilter, Art/Quilt Magazine and Fine Art Quilts and she was a featured artist on the KCTS program, “Quilts of the Northwest.” Her work is also shown in galleries and museums throughout the world.

Visit the artist’s website with a click here, where she welcomes inquiries about her work.

Brackenwood Gallery is at 302 First St. in Langley. Click here for more information.

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