Finding your "voice"


Sometimes my voice is LEGATO (smooth, flowing) and other times it is STACCATO (sharp, rhythmic)


Developing a clear "voice" that identifies your work is the journey of every artist. We each have to go through the process to create a look and style that is uniquely our own. Some of us seem to find it right away, while for others it takes time.

I was in the second group. It wasn't that I had trouble "finding" my voice, it was that I was finding too many voices! I was naturally drawn to a variety of styles and had to experiment before I found my home. 

Voice and technique

The development of technique has been a large part of developing my own voice. Now I know that I am primarily a machine piecer, and especially enjoy the challenge of sewing curves. However, before I knew I preferred machine-piecing, I tried - and enjoyed - many other ways of creating fabric art (which will be the topic of a future post; stay tuned)! 

Two sides of the same voice

In my younger years I made my living as a performer, singing in clubs and touring overseas with different bands, including a USO tour to Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines and Guam. Before that, I was a music major in college and earned a degree in classical voice. So when I heard the word "voice" to describe visual art, I felt right at home.

The smooth flowing lines of the Serenity Series.

The smooth flowing lines of the Serenity Series.

As I was trying to define my own visual voice, however, I became torn between two styles that I loved equally. I had begun developing the "Serenity Series," with smooth, flowing lines. It was delicious slicing curves into fabric and sewing it together so that it appeared to "bend," even though it actually lay flat. (It better!)

The black and white energy of the Rhythm Series.

The black and white energy of the Rhythm Series.

Then there was another, almost opposite, side to my voice -- the sharp, contrasting linear shapes of the "Rhythm Series."  The predominantly black and white patterns seemed to pop and scatter across the surface, which was a counterpoint to the flowing, peaceful sense of the "Serenity Series."

I was torn about this dual presentation of my work, because I know how important it is to have just one style with which people can identify (Marketing 101). However, as I settled into both series, I began to realize that, just as voices in music could be alternately loud and quiet, sharp and smooth, rhythmic and flowing, my voice could do the same. 

If I put it in music terms -- sometimes my voice is LEGATO (smooth, flowing) and other times it is STACCATO (sharp, rhythmic).

Together they make up the whole of my voice.

I've got rhythm!

"Rhythm: The City"  ©Sharon Casey 2015    This kind of art would go well in a modern home, perhaps in a black and white foyer or kitchen with parquet floor. (Probably not a bedroom!)

"Rhythm: The City"  ©Sharon Casey 2015

This kind of art would go well in a modern home, perhaps in a black and white foyer or kitchen with parquet floor. (Probably not a bedroom!)

Detail of "Rhythm: The City" © Sharon Casey

Detail of "Rhythm: The City" © Sharon Casey

I love black and white.  Love it.

Allow me to introduce "Rhythm: The City," one of my first pieces from a series I began a few months before the "Serenity Series." When I look at this, I am reminded of the bustle of a busy city, so the subtitle became: "The City." Each piece has a main title - the name of the series - and a subtitle - the name of that particular work.

After several months of trying to decide which series to choose as "my work," I have decided to do both! And it has been a very freeing decision.  I am comfortable switching back and forth from the bold, flowing lines of the "Serenity" series to the bold, energetic lines of the "Rhythm" series. I love the freedom it gives me. It allows me to express my mood while I'm working, whether calm and peaceful- or - bouncy and energetic!

I am looking forward to continuing both series and seeing where they lead. Maybe there will be a marriage of the two at some point, as my work continues to grow and mature.

Note: This piece was made in early 2015 when I took "Working in a Series" with Lisa Call, an award-winning and prolific artist and instructor.


The treble clef -- a page from my sketchbook

Treble clef symbol taking form on my studio wall.

Treble clef symbol taking form on my studio wall.

I've always loved the curved lines of the treble clef. I remember drawing it over and over again when I was in high school. My binders and notebooks were covered with them. I was a music major in college, and studied music notation as part of my curriculum, so I got pretty good at drawing a treble clef. 

It's been a long time since then, but now that I am creating art it is natural that I return to one of my favorite symbols, the treble clef. I create abstract art, so you can see here that I was working on a way to use the familiar symbol in an unfamiliar way.

2015-04-15 12.37.37.jpg

I took the photo of this page in my sketchbook a few months ago, when I was actively working on the idea of a music series.

I've let the idea rest for now, because it needs to percolate more in my left artist brain. When it is ready to reappear, it will...

Working on Serenity

Yes, I am working on "serenity" in more ways than one! While one way is all about peace of mind, the other is about my new series, "Serenity." 

Introducing the "Serenity Series" 

Serenity 1

Serenity 1

I like the flowing lines of dense quilting around the layers. I changed thread color to lighter and darker tones as I worked through the piece. It gives a subtle variation to the texture. 

Detail showing quilting lines

Detail showing quilting lines

"Serenity 2" taking shape on my studio wall. I find the flowing horizontal lines soothing.

"Serenity 2" taking shape on my studio wall. I find the flowing horizontal lines soothing.

The series is named Serenity because the very first quilt I designed in this series was based on emotions, and I happened to be in a "serene" state of mind when I was making it. When it was finished, I loved this quilt so much I decided to base my next series on it and see where it would take me.

The slightly "jagged" edges of the black lines are intentional ... the way they would appear in rocks and soil strata in nature.

I wonder how this image will evolve as the series continues to develop?

"Serenity 1" and the beginnings of "Serenity 2."

"Serenity 1" and the beginnings of "Serenity 2."

You are welcome to come along with me as I create more "serenity" in the studio!

I've been blogged!

I was excited to see some of my class work online at Lisa Call's blog! Lisa is an internationally known textile artist and instructor. I recently completed an online class with her, called "Working in a Series" and am continuing to study with her for the rest of the year as part of a community of artists. During monthly online critiques, Lisa guides us as we move toward our artistic and professional goals. 

Below are the pieces I made over the 8-week course, clockwise from top left: Pain, Happy, Zen 1, Curious, Serenity, Energy, Zen 2, and Tired and Hungry. 


Before she was a teacher, Lisa already had a successful art career. To quote just a few lines of her bio:

Call’s award winning work has been shown in solo and group exhibits throughout the United States and Europe including Craft Forms at the Wayne Art Center, National Crafts, Fiber Art International, and Layers of Meaning at the Contemporary Crafts Museum in Portland, Oregon. Her piece, Structures #11, was selected for the cover of the Quilt National 2003 catalog.

You can find Lisa's artwork at

"Serenity" accepted in show

A description from the flyer reads: "Oasis: a place to feel replenished, relaxed, rejuvenated, and restored.... We all have our own personal oasis, whether physical, metaphorical or filed away in memory. Where do you go to find yours?"

I had been working on a quilt that fit the description exactly, and also fit into the size requirements of 18 x 40. It is one of my last pieces in a series called "Emotions," created during Lisa Call's Working in a Series class.

I LOVE this quilt, and feel like it expresses the part of me that seeks serenity and inner peace. 

I also like the natural, organic look of the piece. It reminds me of the geology of a hillside in the desert, where thousands of years of wind and erosion have exposed the underlying strata. And the small bits of color are peeking out between the rocks and layers.

When others see it they say it reminds them of the art of Santa Fe and the southwest.

Oasis: a place to feel replenished, relaxed, rejuvenated, and restored ...

Serenity, 18 x 40, machine pieced and quilted

Serenity, 18 x 40, machine pieced and quilted

I found out this week that my quilt, "Serenity," was accepted into the SAQA show, "Oasis," which opens in October in Palm Springs and will travel to PIQF (Pacific International Quilt Festival).

Serenity, detail showing dense quilting

Serenity, detail showing dense quilting

"Blue Cogs" published!

I'm late in getting this news up, but "Blue Cogs" which I made last year, was included in "1000 Quilt Inspirations," by Sandra Sider and published by Quarry Books in April, 2015.


"Blue Cogs"  - Machine piecing, applique, free motion quilting, couching around circles, zentangle style designs with fabric marker and quilting. Shown at "Shades of Passion" at Poway Center for Performing Arts, 2014. Published in "1000 Quilt Inspirations," April, 2015.

This is the cover of 1000 Quilt Inspirations on sale at

Working in a Series

Quilts are like cookies; you can't have just one!

"Happy" 20x40

"Happy" 20x40

Originally written in March 2015  —  I just completed eight weeks of "Working in a Series with Lisa Call," which has been an intense and rewarding experience! 

My goal in taking the class was to gain clarity and focus. I have made many art quilts in many different styles, using a variety of techniques. I believe this was all positive and has been helpful in gaining experience and knowing what I am not interested in.

But now is the time to "close some doors," as Lisa teaches in her first class. It's time to stop trying to do everything and do one thing well. Then keep refining it until you "own it," says Lisa. 


Each week during the online workshop, Lisa presented a challenge. And each week, we (there were eight of us), worked our hardest to create the next piece in our series using the parameters she gave us.

Each piece built on the previous one, focusing on one aspect of design. One week we studied color, the next value, the next line, and so on. Since the class I have continued to study and focus on creating pieces that are "uniquely me."

"Energetic" 18x30

"Energetic" 18x30

I find that as I am finishing one piece, I am already starting the next one in my mind. They are like cookies; you can't have just one!