By Gina Malone
Like Dorothy entering Oz. That’s how Sara Hall, graphic designer for The Laurel of Asheville and a multi-talented artist, describes her trip to a fabric shop years ago. “It was my aha moment,” she says. “The feel of the fabrics, the colors, the patterns. Now I have patterns constantly playing in my head and an outlet for my creativity.”
The desire to create has been with her since she was a child growing up in New York City where her parents encouraged exploration and a literary uncle who lived in Greenwich Village introduced her to the gallery scene. Sara was seven years old when her father, a high school science teacher, dabbled in abstract painting with her by his side. “He would buy pre-made stretched canvases and invite me to join him,” she says. “I remember using colors straight out of the tube and never mixing colors—I didn’t know you could do that.” When her father retired, he discovered stained glass art, creating large abstract panels that, although she didn’t know it then, would inspire Sara’s textile art many years later.
She was never a good student in school, Sara says, until she found the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. “That is where my world opened up. I took the subway on my own, took free classes at the Metropolitan Museum and made lifelong friends with up-and-coming artists. I went to the Rhode Island School of Design, where I studied illustration and printmaking.”
She began her career in advertising, which led to publishing. “I became an assistant art director at Marvel Comics in the children’s book division, and it was as much fun as it sounds,” she says. “I learned a lot about licensing, graphic design and, of course, Spiderman.” She left Marvel to freelance for magazines at Condé Nast Publishing and was fortunate enough to work for Vogue for 25 years. “It was an eye-opening experience filled with the latest trends in art, fashion and so much more,” she says.
Meanwhile, she had met fellow printmaker Bill Hall at Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop. The two enjoyed life and careers in New York before retiring to Asheville, a place she calls “artistically welcoming,” in 2015.
Sara had never taken formal quilting classes when triggered by her foray into the fabric shop. “I started out with my own designs and patterns, but, since then, have incorporated traditional designs as well, like the Log Cabin pattern,” she says. Although someone gave her a sewing machine, she uses it sparingly. “I seem to be crazy enough to love sewing by hand,” she says. “I am lucky to have a dear friend, Judy Spark, a textile artist who taught me the merits of ironing, sharp scissors and cutting boards.”
She had just joined the Western North Carolina Quilters Guild as a way of connecting with and learning from other quilters when the pandemic hit. She has found, however, a long-distance means of collaboration with her sister-in-law, Julia Lestch, a quilter in New York. The two have made three quilts together and are just beginning a fourth. “I start a panel without her seeing it so she has no idea what to expect,” Sara says. “I mail it and she creates the next panel and sends it back to me. It ping-pongs back and forth until we both agree it’s done.” They donated their first completed quilt to Animal Lighthouse Rescue for its silent auction.
Having lived her life with art all around her, Sara finds ideas everywhere. “I am inspired by the artwork of others, my father’s stained glass, my husband’s etchings and collages, and the many glass, paint, ceramic and textile artists in this area,” she says. “While living here, I have been drawn to the amazing crafts and artistry all around North Carolina.”
Learn more, including information about a quilting class Sara will teach with Majik Studios’ Pam Granger Gale, at SaraHallQuilts.com, on Facebook (Sara Hall Quilts) and on Instagram @sarahallquilts. Sara’s email address is email@example.com.