Betty Busby played at “Arts and Crabs” with her two little sisters as a small child, and continued her obsession through graduation from the Rhode Island School of Design, with a ceramics major. She founded and operated a ceramic tile manufacturing firm in Los Angeles, and sold it after 18 successful years in order to move to New Mexico to raise her son. She is a published fiber artist and teacher, and maintains a busy exhibition schedule nationally and internationally.
Meet Betty Busby–An extraordinary fiber artist
Recently, I asked Etsy artists who worked in fiber or fabric to let me know if they would like to be featured here. I received many interested applicants but wasn’t really seeing what I was looking for. So I did a search for “quilts” and sorted by the most expensive ones first and voila! There was Betty Busby’s amazing work.
Sometimes the most expensive is not necessarily the best; but in this case, the work was so clearly head and shoulders above the rest that I had to contact the artist and ask permission and cooperation to tell you about her.
Betty Busby lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the USA. Her work is shown at Gallery 101 Main in Collinsville, Connecticut.
Betty majored in ceramics in college and received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design with a focus on sculpture, and also studied fiber there (as well as at the Kansas City Art Institute). She eventually invented a process in her studio to make stoneware tiles and had to learn how to install them herself because professional tile setters refused to work with them. This led to her starting her own company in California called Busby-Gilbert Tile, Inc. She operated the firm for 18 years and then sold it in order to retire to New Mexico. The company is still in operation today.
Betty began quilt making in the 1970s. She picked old clothes out of trash cans and took apart curtains and dyed them. Today she works with all types of fabric, and her favorite materials are cottons, silks, and even polyester and nylon. Right now she’s making a tree out of weed barrier! She works alone so all of her pieces are designed and handmade by her.
When asked what her design process is, she said, “One thing leads to another. A recent progression started with rocks. Then rocks + plants, then rocks + trees + water, then trees + rocks, then trees by themselves. (I’m) still stuck on them.”
I asked about the profound influences on her work and style, and Betty said, “My ceramics professor at RISD, Jun Kaneko, showed what it is like to make art #1 in your life. Nancy Crow is my quilting idol. I love the progression that her work takes.” She also said, “My sister, Kitty, for letting me share a house with her and have the time and space to make things.”
Betty has a goal of helping to make fiber art more fully integrated in the fine art world. She says that more exposure and aiming to reach the highest level in the medium is what will get fiber artists there. Currently, she is the only fiber artist featured at Gallery 101 Main and feels that the variety of mediums there is very complementary. She applies to and shows at regular art shows when there is a good fit.
I asked Betty if there was a new technique, medium, or art/craft that she would like to learn and she replied, “Always! I love learning new techniques and working with new materials. I just ordered a bunch of Reemay from a museum supply house and can’t wait to tear into it.” That response required me to go see what Reemay is. It turns out to be that weed barrier stuff she mentioned. This quilt I’ve got to see.
When asked what the weirdest thing she ever made was, she said, “I chopped the head off a dead mouse I found and substituted a sardine head. Didn’t smell very good.” Yikes! I think I’m glad she prefers to work with fibers.
As a result of a big personal setback that occurred nearly a year ago that involved Betty’s desire to keep working on her art, she realized how important it is to her and has rededicated herself to working harder. This holiday season she is planning on good sales at the gallery and her Etsy shop. In the Etsy shop she even has some quite affordable pillows that she made. She says that making the pillows is fun for her; kind of like a vacation.
You really have to see the detail on Betty’s quilts up close to appreciate the work that goes into them. I have enlarged one below and included a closeup view of some of that detail.
Betty describes that quilt in her own words:
“Willow Moon” is one of the later ones in the rocks, water, trees series. It’s pared down to just the essential elements, the tree and the moon, because it is a study of reflected light.
“The background material is 1,000-thread-count cotton sateen. I dyed it 4 or 5 times to get really rich, deep colors. Then the tree trunk and the moon area were discharged by 2 different methods. Then I stenciled most of the leaves using various iridescent paint sticks. On top of that, I fused hand painted organza leaves for transparency. Finally, it was quilted on my frame system using metallic silver thread for the leaves, and muted, dark-colored thread for the background and tree trunk.”
Betty Busby Albuquerque, New Mexico Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: bbusbyarts.com
selected exhibition history
- American Quilter’s Society Paducah, Judge’s Award, 2008
- Art Quilt at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 2007, 2008
- World Quilt Show Xll, Best of United States, 2008
- International Quilt Association “Celebrate Spring”, award, 2009, 2008
- Art Quilt: Cultures, Judge’s Award, 2008
- Pacific International Quilt Festival, Honorable Mention, 2006
- Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta, first place, 2006
- Threadlines, second place, 2008
- “My World in Black & White”, Gitner-Moore Memorial Award, 2009
- “Sense of Time” SAQA show
- Northern New Mexico Quilt Fiesta, first, third place, judge’s award 2008
- Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival, Best Pictorial, 2009
- MQX, Judge’s Award, 2008
- American Quilt Expo, Des Moines, Ia, 3rd place, 2008
- Road to California, 3rd Place, 2009
- Quilt Odyssey, Judge’s Award, 2008
- National Quilting Association, Judge’s Award, 2008
- International Quilt Association, Houston, 2008, 2009
- Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta, Best of Show, Best Pictorial, Best Quilting awards 2009
- Quiltscapes at the Whistler, best in Show, 2009
- The Brush Art Gallery, 2009
- American Quilter’s Society Quilt Expo, first place, 2009
- Denver National Quilt Exhibition, second place, 2009
- Art Quilt: Transitions, 2009, 2 awards. Cary, NC.
- Fuller House Gallery, Los Alamos, Impressions Show, Judge’s Award 2009
- Gallery 101 Main in Collinsville, Connecticut
- TAQS in Taiwan
- Johnson’s of Madrid, New Mexico
- Sacred Threads, Ohio
- Studio Art Quilt Associates
- American Quilter’s Society
- Quilt Visions
- International Quilt Association
- Rio Rancho Art Association
- AQS Calendar cover 2009
- SAQA Portfolio 15, cover, 2008
- Quilting Arts Magazine, “Beaded Trees”, 2009
- Machine Quilting Unlimited, “Reflections”, 2009
- Textile Arts, spring 2010
- American Quilter, pending
- Rhode Island School of Design, Providence Rhode Island
- Graduated 1974 with a BFA in Ceramics
- Kansas City Art Institute 1973