Liz Axford: Overlay

Liz Axford: Overlay

multiple blocks of hand-dyed fabric, quilted

Trained as a painter and an architect, Liz Axford turned to textiles in the context of the Studio Craft movement, which defined itself as a branch of art-making focused on material explorations. In 1985, Axford left a career designing generic commercial architecture and committed to a studio quiltmaking practice that remained steadfastly experimental for 35 years. 

Throughout the ‘80s, Axford’s approach was fairly traditional. Like many quiltmakers of the era, her main avenue for investigating color was the juxtaposition of commercially printed cottons. In the early ‘90s, Axford started experimenting with dye methods. She was always entranced by color, and by the nature of dye as transparent and difficult-to-read—as immaterial. No less interested in materiality, Axford also used chemistry to disintegrate fibers and reconstitute them in different form.

Overlay highlights Axford’s Shift series—wholecloth quilts with hand-dyed surfaces integrated by dense, single-color quilting. Rectangular panes of color evoke otherworldly light, and each grid invites us into multiple other-worlds that are at once discrete and contiguous, like the relationship between our own imaginations and realities. Created in the last five years, these pieces testify to a decades-long commitment to engage with the quilt idiom in a spirit of real invention

Artist Biography

Artist Biography
Artist Biography

Liz Axford was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1953, and earned degrees in fine arts and architecture at Rice University. Her work has been exhibited in the U.S. and Europe, awarded prizes from Quilt Visions, Quilt National, and Quilt Japan, and supported by a residency at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. After 40 years in Houston, Axford and her husband, Patrick Johnson, moved from Texas to Whidbey Island, Washington in 2012.

Select Works

Select Works

Shift 4
2016

Here, Axford folds and dyes cotton broadcloth to create a matrix of distinct, complex colors. She then overdyes that cloth, casting a veil or film over the individual colors to unify them without homogenizing them. Axford’s Shift series manifests her interest in the alchemical magic of turning liquid into light. But each of these pieces is also a practical document: a record of the artist’s methodical process of creating and refining dye formulas to yield precise colors and color relationships.

Shift 1
2015

Axford started to experiment with non-toxic, fiber reactive dyes in the early 1990s, making hand-dyed fabrics to use in quilts, and selling them. She continued to play with dye methods over the next 30 years, moving, with the Shift series, to creating continuous “wholecloth” surfaces lined with bricks of color. Color progressions move left and right, and up and down, and the quilt’s right and left halves work like dual registers that resolve or harmonize the whole. Light breaks through the surface everywhere, and especially along the quilt’s center line or horizon. 

Divisions 7
2016

Axford’s Division series marks a return to the quilt idiom, and a kind of resolution or reconciliation of quiltmaking and painting. Machine-stitched, organized in a simple five-by-five grid, and made from hand-dyed cotton broadcloth and cotton batting, this quilt emulates the hand-wrought color and transparency effects of Axford’s early teachers: studio quilt pioneers Nancy Crow, Michael James, and Jan Myers-Newbury.

Select Works

Gallery Photos

Gallery Photos
Gallery Photos
This exhibition was made possible through funding from Friends of the International Quilt Museum and the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. The Nebraska Arts Council, a state agency, has supported this exhibition through its matching grants program funded by the Nebraska Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Visit www.artscouncil.nebraska.gov for more information.
Event Date
Friday, May 17, 2019 to Sunday, September 22, 2019