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John Willard

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Region:
Ontario
Date(s):
1939- 2014



Biography

John Willard was a self-taught quilt maker born in Moncton, N.B. in 1939. He came to quilt making via set and costume design, photography, display and collecting, and created his first quilt in 1975...

John Willard was a self-taught quilt maker born in Moncton, N.B. in 1939. He came to quilt making via set and costume design, photography, display and collecting, and created his first quilt in 1975 after amassing a sizeable collection of antique ones. Although his first quilts were very traditional he soon branched out into his own designs, which evolved into bravura works of intense colour and complex patterns. He was especially noted for his daring combinations of varying and disparate fabric prints. John’s quilts have been exhibited internationally in Britain, Denmark, Japan, France, Taiwan and the West Indies as well as Canada and the United States. His works are in numerous private, corporate and public collections. John taught the art of quilt making, specializing in contemporary design.

His quilts were predominantly cotton and blended fabrics. His concern was colour and pattern rather than material and many times the fabric provided the inspiration for the design. In his Milton studio, Willard worked on a large frame. Very few quilts were appliquéd. Most were pieced with machine- stitching and hand quilted with Suzanne Richard and Alvina Martin. He used small-print cottons for backing to make it harder to examining back stitches. Most of his quilts are distinguished by the use of bright intense colours set against a black or sombre-toned background. These colours are inspired he said by the Amish quilts he admired so much. He felt they were doing amazing things with colours in the 20's pre-dating Vasarely and ahead of the modern artists. 

Willard often took traditional patterns and changed them to create new designs. His signature elements include the narrow rainbow, sequenced bindings, whimsically placed stars and sophisticated geometric patterns and stunning curves. Nearly all of his quilts are squares. Sharon Boyd, 1994




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