Have You Met… Rhya Tamašauskas?

Quilting hit me like an unexpected delicious pie to the face…I’m in love with it. it feels cozy and warm, just like coming home. — Rhya Tamašauskas

  

Rhya Tamašauskas is a Toronto-based designer and co-founder of the plush toy company Monster Factory. As a design instructor at a Design Exchange summer camp in 2008, I crossed paths with Rhya while on a field trip to the Monster Factory studio, which closed at the end of 2016. Unbeknownst to either of us, we would each find ourselves drawn into the quilting world and cross paths for a second time almost eight-and-a-half years later on Instagram. Rhya’s paper-pieced designs are a combination of whimsy and quirk; one could never imagine doe-eyed root vegetables and frolicking kittens the way she has. Her work tells stories through textiles.

 
What kind of stories do you like to tell and why?

My stories come from my memories and experiences, and are then mixed with magic and of course seasoned with humor. Oh, and they are always bursting with wild characters. I am a passionate daydreamer and for as long as I can remember I’ve always loved the idea of magical realism, where our ordinary world can be heightened with wonder and enchantment. For example a regular old city street can be teeming with strange and endearing creatures or a root vegetable can come to life and join you for a picnic in the park.

Quilting allows me to capture tiny snapshots of these stories in a block, and then combine them all together to create a larger tale and world created from stitches and seams.

What are three words that describe your design and/or quilting style?

Modern, Folksy, Charming. 

And I think it would be fair to say that my work is both salty and sweet all at once, if that makes sense.

What drew you into quilting and why do you love it?

Quilting hit me like an unexpected delicious pie to the face.  My story begins with an invitation to create a couple blocks for a community quilt that would be gifted to the lovely Jacqueline Sava of Soak Wash. I was excited to contribute but wasn’t even sure where to start? My grandmother has always been an incredible quilter and I’ve admired her work since I was a little girl, but I had honestly never considered quilting as vehicle for my stories and designs until I faced this project. So I did as I always do, dove straight in, drafting up a design and then sewing away.

Let’s just say I was hooked immediately and that my stitch ripper got a real work out on that project! I finished those two blocks and I haven’t looked back since. Since then I’ve just been designing and designing. I’ve been reading and studying up like crazy about different techniques and tips and tricks. And I’ve also found a brilliant and supportive community of makers online. It’s been so wonderful getting to learn about this art, where it started and the incredible makers from past to present who make up this beautiful world of patchwork and piecing.

I love quilting and block design because it allows me to tell stories through stitches and textiles. And I love how the properties and challenges of drawing with fabric inform my design and the final product. I’ve been experimenting intensively over the last year with patchwork and paper piecing, trying to find just the right balance and shape of seams to make my work resonate with excitement and character.

I feel a little ridiculous saying this, but I feel obsessed. I wake up in the morning with ideas and can’t wait to see them come to life on my sewing machine. It’s enriching and fulfilling and my creative spirit feels like it is spinning with potential! And I can’t wait to see where this journey will take me next!

What other media do you enjoy working with?

I love illustration, specifically drawing with pen and ink and painting with gouache or watercolor. Before discovering quilting I was deep into experimenting with surface design, creating oodles of repeat patterns teeming with strange stories and funny critters. In fact, I feel as though my quilt designs are minimal and graphic version of my illustrations. And of course I think surface design and quilt design can go hand in hand. It’s impossible to not consider how a fabric design might heighten a quilt pattern I’m making, and how I could design the perfect one! For example if I’m creating a character who might be sporting a sweater or pants, I could see designing a repeat pattern to use for the clothing pieces. It would be a great opportunity to incorporate my illustration into the blocks and also another avenue to add more story and dimension.

And last but not least I still adore toy making. I’m currently tinkering with a doll design right now. A line I’m hoping to create using Spoonflower and potentially release as a pattern for others to download and make.But ultimately at this moment in time, my heart has found a home in a world full of dazzling geometric patterns and stories. I’m in love with quilting.  It feels cozy and warm, just like coming home.

Find Rhya on Instagram @rhya.

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