Get to know...Lisa Mason, Darienite competing at International Quilt Festival in Houston
DARIEN — Around Lisa Mason’s home, you’ll find all sorts of evidence of her favorite craft: quilting.
There is always a quilt on her bed and a pile in her closet. She hangs up small quilts as art pieces and uses her living room as her quilting area.
The Darien resident fell in love with the craft when she was 14 and decided to take a class around the time of the bicentennial, when quilting saw a surge in popularity. Mason quilted on and off before dedicating herself to the craft again 25 years ago — and she hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s the creative process of picking the design and colors,” she said. “Sewing to me is very calming and soothing, and even though it can be a very solitary creative process, I do also sew in groups a lot.”
Mason, who works as the office administrator for the town building department, now has her quilts on display at the Darien Library after state Rep. Terrie Wood, R-141, suggested she have a show there. Mason reached out to Library Director Alan Kirk Gray, who agreed the library should be the home of Mason’s first solo show. The quilts will be on display through Labor Day weekend and some of them are available for purchase.
Next month, Mason will compete for the first time at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, having had some of her work exhibited there last year.
She has also competed in the Machine Quilting
Exhibition in New Hampshire and the Empire Guild Show where she won four ribbons for her double wedding ring quilt, on display at the library now.
“I try not to make the (competition) too competitive, because that would just make me anxious,” she said. “It’s more about having your work seen I think. It is great to win some ribbons, but I think it’s so great people get to see my work and they get to see that quilting it still around.”
See the quilts
Lisa Mason’s quilts are on display at the Darien Library, 1441 Post Road, through Labor Day. For more information, visit darienlibrary.org.
While Mason’s quilts have been used in exhibits and competitions, she mostly makes them with someone particular in mind. Most of her quilts are given away as gifts to relatives like her daughter, Caroline, who also partakes in the craft. Right now, Mason is focusing on making a quilt for each of her nieces and nephews. Some of the quilts she makes as gifts are sometimes even used in shows before she returns them to the recipient.
“The ones for my nieces and nephews, I ask them to give me an idea of colors or a theme,” she said. “My nephew, Myles, wanted a nautical quilt and that’s one of the quilts that is down there (on display at the library.) I try to get a little bit of information from them. Baby quilts I never make until the baby’s here and I know a little bit more about the baby. You want to make it a little more personalized.”
Mason has also started doing some work on commission, but generally likes to work more freely to see where the process takes her. When she starts working on a quilt, she usually doesn’t have a particular design in mind, though she favors bold colors and intricate piecework.
“I usually don’t have a plan,” she said. “I kind of wing it. I’ll start out with some fabrics I like or maybe some shapes that I want to try, maybe curved piecing. And then it just kind of grows. It’s really a lot of intuition in the way that it expands and finishes. Some quilts I can put together quickly and other quilts, it’ll take me months before I’m happy with the design of it and the way it looks.”
Mason sews her smaller quilts at home using a sewing machine, but the bigger pieces, her friend, Rachael Dorr, sews using long-armed quilting where a machine moves over the quilt instead of moving the quilt under the machine. Mason will piece the quilts beforehand. Larger quilts can take as much as 40 hours to piece together, but smaller quilts can be done in only about 10 hours.
Mason also enjoys sewing and photography, but says her focus has been on quilting. She is part of two guilds, the NYC Metro Modern Quilt Guild and the Empire Quilt Guild, where she’s met people with whom she quilts.
“Even just this weekend, I have friends coming up from the city and we’ll set up a sweatshop in my apartment and sew all day,” she said. “It’s nice to sew with a group because you can exchange ideas and if you’re having trouble with something, you get another set of ideas. It’s good because it can be both solitary and something you do in a group. “