Friday, June 23, 2017

Stitchography with Leni Weiner

One of the advantages of being the Program Chair of a quilt guild is that you get to spend time with some wonderful quilters.  Leni Weiner was one of the speakers that I invited to visit my guild, Calico Cutters in West Chester, PA.  Leni is a very talented quilt artist and our members really enjoyed her lecture and workshop, and I am thrilled to be able to call her my friend.
1. Please introduce yourself (actual and professional name) and describe your areas of expertise

My name is Leni Levenson Wiener and I live just outside NYC.  I consider myself a fabric collage artist (although many call what I do “art quilter”) focusing on the depiction of the universality of human body language.  I work from photos I take of strangers out in the world without their knowledge, capturing people at their most honest and unconscious selves. 

My work all begins with a photo which I manipulate on the computer to make a full sized working pattern; using only commercial printed cotton fabric, all my work is executed in raw edge machine applique.  One of the things I most enjoy is finding an unexpected print that gives the illusion of the texture I want to convey and layering lots of patterns so the photo is elevated, not just translated.

2.  What is your background and how did you arrive at your current job(s)

I started out with a BA in Art History and Archaeology (and was lucky enough to spend a season in the field at an archaeological dig) and an MA from Florence, Italy in Museology and Restoration/Conservation, but unfortunately, never found the museum job I so badly wanted.  I ended up in the retail business, first as a buyer and then a product development manager for a major retail chain.  When my boys were small and I wanted to be a stay at home mom, I began working as a free lance photographer, which is where my artwork from photography took root.  When they were teenagers I took a job teaching quilting at a local quilt shop and from that my current “career” got started.

I don’t consider what I do now a job.  I make artwork, have written four books, I teach and give talks and coach emerging artists.  But it is all what I do because I want to do it, and because I love it—and it doesn’t occupy every single day. 

As a happy consequence of everything else, I also represent BERNINA as one of their professional Ambassadors, doing presentations at BERNINA dealers and contributing articles for their “we all sew” blog.  I have also been honored to be on The Quilt Show and Quilting Arts TV and just last year released an online class with iquilt.

3.  How many hours a week do you devote to your job?

It varies.  There are times I am really involved with a piece and can’t wait to get back to work on it, so I tend to work every day for several hours at a time.  Otherwise, I spend my time writing or on other sewing projects like traditional quilts, garments, home dec and that sort of thing--just for a change of pace and to clear my head.

4.  Where do you physically work?

When my older son graduated from college he moved directly into an apartment and started his first job and I took over his bedroom as my studio.  It isn’t a huge space, but I painted the walls a color I love, put in lots of work tables and made it my own.  It has great light during the day and the best part is, it is my private sanctuary where I can leave works in progress and nothing is disturbed.

5.  What do you sell and how do you sell it? (It can be a service)

Although I do occasionally sell my work, the subject matter of my work does not make it appealing to galleries.  Having come to that conclusion some years ago, I don’t make sales a primary focus of what I do.   From my website I do sell books, a gray scale value card designed to make the technique I teach easier, a pattern service and the art voice coaching.

6.  What are you working on now? 

Right now I am working on some pieces for an art group I belong to—every month we make a piece for one of the other members of the group so by the end of the year we all have ten wonderful small artworks we have traded.  Once that is done, I am excited to get to work on a new series I am formulating and tentatively calling “conversations” which focuses on people interacting with others.

7.  What do you do when you are not working?

My second love is writing, so I often contribute articles to quilting magazines and blogs.  In addition, I spend a lot of time looking at art and thinking about art and since I am still fascinated by archaeology, reading as much as I can about new discoveries.  And here is something out of left field, about two years ago my husband and I discovered ballroom dance, and we are really enjoying learning and dancing together!

8.  Perhaps an indelicate question, but people starting out want to know - what are your income sources?

I will be honest, I could not live on what I make doing what I do.  I like to say that I literally have a very supportive husband.  My income comes primarily from book and online class royalties and teaching/speaking fees, supplemented by website sales of the few products and services I offer.  I am not interested in being on the road all the time, so I accept that my income is limited by the fact that I only really travel to teach every year for a short time in the spring and again in the fall.

9. If you could give one suggestion to someone starting out, what would it be?

I have several suggestions:

Take what you do seriously.  When you move from hobbyist to professional artist, you will need to spend time building a reputation and developing a voice that is unique and recognizable.  Once you have developed a “brand”, everything you do must support and advance it. 

Find a dedicated space in which to work.  It doesn’t need to be large or fancy, but it does need to be a place that you can work without distraction and that doesn’t require you pack it all up at the end of a work session.

You can only do so much; decide what you want so you figure out how to get there.  Set a long term goal and annual goals that help you stay on track.  Every year, reevaluate what you have learned and whether you need to shift your focus to get to the final goal line. 

Finally, and most importantly, be realistic.  If you need to support yourself on your earnings that means teaching often, developing products or selling at art shows and/or craft fairs.  Don’t expect to be an overnight success, it takes time and effort to develop a name which then opens up other opportunities.  There are easier ways to earn money, do this because you love it and NEED to do it—pure and simple.

10.  Where can people find you and/your products? (FB, blog, website,IG, Twitter, stores

You can find me at my website:, on FB at , and my online class is

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1 comment:

  1. Leni came to our guild a few years ago and I was fortunate to take her workshop. I made a fabric collage of my beloved cat, who sadly passed away as I was finishing it. I treasure this work and will always remember her wonderful instruction in this medium.


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