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Joan Zieger
Ladies Apron

Joan Zieger


Mother gave me a needle and thread at 2 years of age and I began to sew. Fabricand fiber have been near me ever since. Childhood illnesses provided time and temperament to become proficient, resulting in awards for technique in the needle arts of embroidery, hardanger, hemstitching, crocheting, knitting, and quilting. Over the years, I thought of myself as an excellent technician.

Involvement with fiber remained a constant touchstone during a 30-year professional career in fundraising. Like a running conversation with one's oldest and dearest friend, my ongoing relationship with fiber helped me through the era in which I was typically "the only woman" in the room, and the profession. Reconnecting and communing with fiber throughout those years helped nurture my identity and expand my understanding of womanhood. It provided a personal viewpoint from which I examined differences between the external woman and the internal woman, in myself and in the women around me.

Not long ago, at the point of my first official retirement from the nine to five office routine, a very close friend encouraged me to break out of my technician-following-a-set-pattern mold and create an art quilt-something original. The idea was intimidating, yet thrilling. I followed her suggestion, and the first Lady was born. Using only four fabrics kept things simple at first. After I finished one, I realized I wanted to continue creating original art quilts by varying textures, fabrics, colors, patterns, expressions. I was well into creating a series. The artistic journey into the world of Ladies of a Certain Mileage had begun.

My teacher and mentor was Helen Klebesadel, an internationally exhibited watercolor artist. She changed my perception of myself as an artist during her "The History of Women in Art" course in the Women's Studies Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Helen enabled me to see that the work I was doing was truly original art work when viewed from a feminist perspective in the post-modernist era. I resisted her perception at first, taking the whole semester and much prompting from younger students before I could refer to myself with the "A" word-artist. Today I use it comfortably and frequently. I am deeply grateful to these and many other women for their support and contribution to my evolution as a visual artist.

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