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Lily Mueller: An Artist in So Many Ways

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She has exhibited at impressive galleries, including Jackson Junge Gallery in Chicago and Charlotte Street Foundation and Troost Gardens in Kansas City. In a few months, Weinberger Fine Art, already representing this up-and-coming artist, will host her first solo exhibition at its impressive Kansas City gallery. Meet Lily Mueller, a Kansas City, Missouri, artist, creator and quilter employing hand-dyed fabrics with a unique composition of color and texture.

“These quilts are hand dyed using mostly natural fiber fabrics such as cotton and silk. Sometimes, I incorporate found fabrics that may be polyester but not very often. My process always begins with drawing, whether it’s on paper with Crayola® markers or using Procreate® on the iPad. I’ve been drawing for a long time, and it is the process that feels most innate to me, making it easy to work through different ideas and designs,” Lily noted. “Even though I start with a drawing plan, I leave room for the piece to change and grow as it evolves into a quilt. This might mean changing a shape or color in the original design, or changing the shape of the entire quilt.”

But when she digs down to the roots that allowed her to sew together successes, her design influence is inspired by colors and how they morph when paired with others. Her precise mixing of color intensity, saturation and hue develops into mesmerizing works of art, playful for the eye yet enticing for further evaluation.

The most significant impact on her relatively young yet successful career as an artist, the foundation for all things creative, was made by her parents. “I’ve always loved to make from as early on as I can remember. There’s something very therapeutic about zoning out and getting lost in the creation of something. You get to shut out the world for a second and be very present in time.
“Seeing what other people have created inspires me to make. I love how art evolves from one interpretation to another. It’s almost like its own language,” she advised. “My biggest motive of all is probably my upbringing. My family has always encouraged me to create and make things. I grew up in a very creative home. My dad is an architect and a musician, and my mom studied fashion design and merchandising. We used to sing and play instruments, draw and build things a lot when I was little. I think creating will always remind me of how special and happy that time in my life was. I feel very lucky to have had that. They really nurtured my creativity at such a developmental time in my life.”

In addition to her parental support, Lily found creative instruction and inspiration at the Kansas City Art Institute, or KCAI, where she received her BFA. KCAI has an impressive lineage dating back to its foundation in 1885. It is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and Higher Learning Commission, with about 700 students and 75 faculty members. It was here that Lily discovered traditional quilting techniques balanced with her own quilting language that moved her work to another level.

“I learned to quilt during my time at the Kansas City Art Institute. I took the quilting elective with Kim Eichler-Messmer and instantly fell in love with the process. One of the first things we learned was how to do some traditional piecing techniques such as the Log Cabin, which is blocks made up of narrow strips of fabrics, or logs, formed around a central square, and Drunkard’s Path, symbolizing a drunk’s staggering walk in fabric. These two traditional methods of piecing really stuck out to me and helped me develop my own patterns in quilting and my ‘quilting language.’”

This summer Lily will offer a showing at the Weinberger Fine Art gallery, located in the heart of Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts district and housed in a renovated historic industrial building. Weinberger Fine Art is committed to showcasing diverse and high-quality work from both emerging and established artists, and Lily fits perfectly within the gallery’s objectives. She sees the representation and the showing as the push she needs to obtain another higher level in her career.

“I sought out representation from Weinberger not only because I wanted to reach a larger audience but also because I wanted to support and be a part of a women’s business enterprise. I’ve always been drawn to their gallery and the way they curate artwork,” she stated. “The gallery itself is architecturally beautiful and the walls are always being painted beautiful bright colors. I just started my representation with them and I look forward to having my solo show in June. They have already been so helpful to me in terms of giving me feedback and helping me grow as an artist.”
Creatives enjoy expressing themselves through the pieces they fashion, and Lily fits into that mold. While she is in the blossoming time frame of her career, she has pieced together many fine points not only in her quilting capabilities but in her business acumen to land such impressive showings. She is quick to share advice for other female entrepreneurs who are entering creative careers or in other fields.

“It’s okay to accept the feeling of being uncomfortable or feeling a lot of pressure in your field. I think those are natural emotions that occur and we try to ignore them and shut them out. I try to remind myself that pressure can be good and it is an opportunity to grow, she advised. “I think it is always very important to find good mentors in your life. I have had so many wonderful mentors who have given me great advice and helped push me. The advice they give you might not click in at that moment but further down the road you’ll be glad you remembered. I still have so much to learn and lean on their advice and suggestions more than ever.”

Quilting is an important part of American life. Using scraps and pieces from garments or fabrics that featured segments in a woman’s life such as leftovers from a child’s christening gown or a husband’s Sunday’s best, women used quilting to record the history of their families or to enable them to overcome hardships in life. Now, many men are picking up needle, thread and fabric to tell their stories as well. Lily draws on that historical inspiration to tell her story.

“I’m very inspired by other forms of design such as architecture, fashion and interior design. I love mid-century modern design, arts nouveau and art deco. They all have a very elegant yet playful quality about them, which I try to replicate in my quilt designs,” Lily noted. “I also love to create because I feel like it’s a way to share my joy with the world. Not only do I love to make, but I love to create with people. I don’t limit that to just visual art; I love to sing and play music with people as well.”

Whether you are a quilter, wall artist or another type of female businessperson, Lily urges all attempting to express themselves through art to always keep your eye on the prize at the end. This can be your own goal or passion but ensure that you are focused on achievement whether that is completing a project or participating in a solo exhibit at a fine Kansas City art gallery.

“Don’t give up on the things you’re passionate about doing. If your passion doesn’t become your career, that doesn’t make it unsuccessful. Our passions and aspirations are part of what makes us unique human beings and they are qualities we need to feed into and nurture,” she commented. “For all the women reading, we need to stick together and build each other up. You will not be successful by tearing other people down. Listen to advice, accept love and give love back. What goes around comes back around.”