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A Journey in Art Quilts

Valerie Funk zen zebraValerie Funk wanted to learn a hobby and make friends when she signed up for her first quilt class. Instead, the class launched her journey—and career—as an art quilter.

Funk served 10 years in the Army before becoming a correctional officer in Indiana. In 1998, she was injured in an accidental shooting and spent years enduring a difficult recovery. Ready for a career change, Funk pursued a college degree in photography and graphic design. She graduated in 2008, then took that pivotal quilt class.

“I was introduced to fabric,” said Funk, who had never sewn anything before. “It was almost instantaneous; fabric became my medium of choice.” Funk went from making a simple fence rail quilt to thinking, Hey, I can make portraits and landscapes out of this.

Funk’s ideas begin with hand-drawn sketches or graphic designs she creates on her computer. She then prints full-size patterns and uses raw-edge applique to make quilts in her iconic style.

Sundari Complete -2
Sundari elephant art quilt using Painter’s Palette Solids by Paintbrush Studios

Funk looks for fabric in a wide range of colors with a tightly-woven grain that feels silky and doesn’t fray. “I love using solids because they generally don’t have a right or wrong side.”

In 2017, Paintbrush Studios asked Funk to create art quilts using Painter’s Palette Solids. “Just like a painter, having the right color for the job is absolutely key to creation,” she said. “This line includes every color I need in all the right values and tones.” Funk appreciates the line’s true eight-grade gray scale, including black and white.

“Solids let me focus on the art itself, eliminating the clutter and confusion that sometimes come with patterned fabrics,” she said. “As a photographer, I love the appearance of monochromatic grays because they allow me to create a timeless look.”

Funk admits she “doesn’t know the first thing about the retail business,” but offers quilt shop owners feedback from the perspective of an artist who struggles to find what she needs.

“I love to see shops carry a wide variety of fabrics from different companies,” she said. Funk attributes the increasing demand for solids to, in part, the popularity of modern-style quilts featuring large areas of negative space with pops of color. She also loves walking into a shop and seeing samples in the style she wants to create. “I would like to see more art quilts hanging in quilt shops for inspiration,” she said. High quality samples challenge shoppers to try something new.