Friday, February 17, 2012

Artist Interview: Frances Holliday Alford

Frances Holliday Alford

Leslie here.You may know people who do embellishment work on their paper and textile art.
I know their queen:  Frances Holliday Alford.  You may know Frances from seeing her work at the International Quilt Festivals, in numerous publications, and even gracing the cover of Quilting Arts Magazine.

I met Frances through the Quiltart online group.  A native Texan, Frances fulfilled a lifelong dream when she became a full-time resident of beautiful Grafton, Vermont, several years ago.  She creates  lush, colorful artwork in her Grafton studio, appropriately named "Embellishments".
"Embellishments" studio in Grafton VT

Our first face-to-face meeting was around 1999 or 2000.  We have been in tiara parades together, collaborated on numerous works of art together, served on the board of the Alliance for American Quilts, laughed and cried together.  Frances is a talented artist and a great friend.

I was interested to ask Frances about how she uses sketchbooks:

Why do you keep a sketchbook and how often do you work in it? 
 I enjoy keeping sketchbooks.   They give my brain a little food to tide it over while it is waiting to do major projects.  I like the exercise of keeping my drawing skills in good condition.
Do you work in just one at a time or do you have several going at once?
I usually have several going at once.  I often find myself without a sketchbook and need one, so I buy another one.  I have a lot of sketchbooks.  Few of them are full.
Do you differentiate between a sketchbook and an art journal? 
 I do not differentiate.  They are all the same for me.  I like to use my books to work out design problems, record ideas and just to draw for fun.

How do you use your sketchbook? For example, do you use it to make studies for larger pieces, for experimenting with materials, to practice drawing, or for making beautiful pages as artworks in themselves?
I use my sketchbooks for all the reasons stated above.  Studies, drawing practice and making art for the pure joy of it. Value studies are important in some composition.  I like to have people work with me on them.  Multimedia pieces are some of my favorites.

What's your preferred format (sketchbook size, type of paper, single sheet, spiral bound etc?) and preferred medium for using in your sketchbook? watercolor, pen, pencil, crayon, collage etc?
I like all the different sketchbooks and for different reasons.  A small one to keep in my purse or pocket when I am traveling, a larger one on my desk, and others where ever the urge might hit me.  I love watercolor paper since I enjoy multimedia pieces.  This makes it easier to apply water to water based pencils or to use felt tipped pens.  I also like to draw on very smooth paper.  I am an ardent collage student and use many different materials in my sketchbooks.

How is your sketchbook different from your art-that-is-not-in-the-sketchbook?
I am less inhibited in my sketchbook.  It does not have to be a finished product.  It is a place to work out ideas and do meditative drawing.  In the "art that is not in the sketchbook" I am more goal oriented.

 Is there anything about working in your sketchbook that is different from working on pieces that are not in your sketchbook?
I feel more pressure to complete pieces outside the sketchbook. 
What advice do you have for someone who wants to keep a sketchbook but doesn't know how to begin?
If a person doesn't know how to begin, chances are that they are afraid of the process.  I would suggest going through the first twenty pages and making a random mark on each page.  Then, go back and use the random mark to develop a drawing around it.  This should give the timid artist a chance to find a way to start.

 Please stop by Frances website.  You will find a link to her blog .  
Frances committed to creating one 6x8 collage daily beginning on January 1st, 2012.  You can see them here.


  1. Wow, look at her lovely face! She is adorable : )

  2. Wonderful fun info.Thank you:)

  3. Yeah Frances! thanks for the interview, Leslie, of a fabulous artist and person.

  4. I am a huge fan of the collage work t hat Frances is doing; I have loved her work with textiles and beads and this year of a collage a day is amazing. Every day I look forward to seeing another creative adventure. Thanks for presenting this fine interview with Frances; gives folks an opportunity to hear her "voice" as well as sto see her work.


  5. Thanks for all the kind words. Frances was visiting in Austin recently and I got a chance to "pet" a few of her collages: even better in real-time than the images, which are yummy. It is going to be fun to see the evolution of the work through the year.

  6. Great profile Leslie, thanks so much for spotlighting Frances!


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