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January 23, 2011

Legato :: Kristin La Flamme

legato :: In a manner that is smooth and connected



by Jenny Doh

For eight years, Kristin LaFlamme worked as a graphic designer after earning her degree in graphic design from Otis Art Institute in California. It's a field that taught her much but one she doesn't regret leaving to become a full-time army wife and mother. She discovered quilts by marrying into a family of quilters and has over the years created a body of work that is revered by many, as she is able to create interesting narratives through her unique piecing and overall design. The Army Wife series of art quilts is what she shares in this installment of legato — works that illustrate the complex world of army wives.


kristin laflamme

kristin laflamme

JD :: How come you selected the apron as the vehicle to make happen your newest series, The Army Wife?

KL :: Aprons represent the quintessential housewife, and I think that is the impression most people have of an Army Wife. It also helps to convey that it is the wives I’m refering to in my artwork, and not the soldiers. Right away people know that this story is female. Plus, aprons convey a bit of retro kitsch which I feel helps to expose the clash between expectations and reality — a clash military spouses also experience daily.


kristin laflamme

kristin laflamme
JD :: Tell me what it's like ... the life of an Army wife.

KL :: It’s what you make of it. It can be stifling if you want more control of your own life, especially in areas like choosing where you live, or how to continue a career though multiple moves, or wanting flexibility in your spouse’s job. It can seem alienating at times, and occasionally scary. On the other hand, it can also offer exciting opportunities for exploring new places and learning about different cultures. The Army will hold your hand through anything they think is important for you to know or do. For many people it is surprisingly safe and comfortable. Being a culture unto itself, there is a certain support and cameraderie even between women who barely know each other because, at least on the surface, we are all sisters and have experienced many of the same things.


kristin laflamme

kristin laflamme
JD :: There are lines of demarcation amongst the quilting community and the art quilting community. What do you think about those lines? Are they becoming less definitive or do you think they're pretty solid?

KL :: I’m afraid that as humans we are wired to name and categorize things. There will always be those who want to draw distinctions. I’m learning that to be authentic, I need to just do what I am moved to do and not worry too much about how others define it. I get as much satisfaction from making a practical bed quilt with fun, contemporary fabrics, as I do from trying to communicate some universal truth through an art quilt, so I will continue to both even if it is at the expense of marketability.


kristin laflamme
JD :: Your mom was a real talent as she taught you how to sew, embroider, knit, etc. Did she encourage you to pursue art formally or did she want you to pursue something "more practical?"

KL :: Both my parents were wonderfully supportive of my sister and I in whatever we wanted to do. They insisted on good grades and made sure college was available  to us, but other than that we were free to choose what made us happy. My father was a graphic designer and I have an uncle who is an artist, so I think our family already understood that one could be creative AND have a career.

kristin laflamme

JD :: So you worked as a graphic designer for many years. Fast-paced, huh? What are some of the most memorable jobs from that season of your life? Best lessons learned? 

KL :: The best thing I learned from my years as a designer was how to deal with people -- even the difficult ones. It was crucial to understand what the client wanted and to be able to deliver that in a way that worked for the design firm, the client, and all the services (like printers) in between. One of my first projects was an annual report for The Braille Institute. I learned so much from all the people we worked with and heard so many interesting, and inspiring stories. That job touched my heart and also clued me in to the myriad professions and services I would be exposed to through my clients. One of my favorite things about being a graphic designer was that, with each client, I got the opportunity to learn something about their world. The work never gets dull when you are working on sports ephemera one day, diabetes research the next, and a photographer’s logo the day after!


kristin laflamme

JD :: You say you married into a family of quilters. How have they reacted to your beautiful maturation into the art?
KL :: They are my biggest fans!


JD :: Who are some of the quilt/fiber artists, whose works you admire?

KL :: My current favorite is Annie Helmericks-Louder (http://www.helmericks.com/Annie_Helmericks-Louder/Welcome.html). I love the painterly way she uses comercial fabrics. I am also a long-time fan of the whimsy of Pamela Allen (http://pamelart2.homestead.com/quiltythings.html) and Bodil Gardner (http://www.bodilgardner.dk/) (who I think must be long lost sisters).


JD :: You say you have worked to constantly improve your skills as a quilter ... what skills do you think are your greatest strengths? Which areas of quilting do you still want to improve upon?

KL :: I think my greatest strength is that I can find a balance between control and chaos in my work. I want to improve my free motion quilting. I have no delusions that my machine quilting will ever rival the talented ladies who compete at the big quilt shows, but I do want to be sure that the artistic merit of my work is not hindered by technical deficiencies. Sometimes I get caught up in the “quilty-ness” of a piece and I forget to utilize all those elements of design (composition, line, form, etc.) that I learned in art school. I am learning to see the quilt form as I would see a design layout or a painting. And, of course, there is always room for improvement.


JD :: Think fast and give me a word or two that come to mind when I say ...


    movement, migration



    not as bad as I thought it would be


free motion

    practice! practice! practice!



    should take a class



    my foundation





12 x 12



















    like home






    want one of these too



    Bob’s best friend



    my favorite!


JD :: What's your favorite thing to have for breakfast?

KL :: A Cerman Frühstück with whole grain bread, cucumbers, cold cuts and delicious cheeses. With a latte and good friends too.


JD :: What's the thing you had for breakfast this morning?

KL :: Papaya with cottage cheese and a chocolate chip muffin.


JD :: Aside from quilting, the two other things you really enjoy doing are ...

KL :: Traveling and reading.


JD :: The one thing you'd like to figure out in your lifetime is ...

KL :: how to stop being so judgemental.


JD :: The thing you know for sure is ...

KL :: all I can be is to be true to myself.

kristin laflamme

Kristin LaFlamme is a quilter and fiber artist who teaches art classes at Arts and Crafts Centers near the army posts where she and her family live. All images shown here are courtesy of Kristin. To learn more, visit www.kristinlaflamme.com. Many thanks to Kristin for a fascinating look into her creative world.


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Thank you for this interview; I totally could relate and love the medium she chose. I can see and feel so many aspects of my life, woven in these designs. I share the bond of living a life, as a military spouse,our constant is change. We have to learn to adapt,how to transplant our families, our lives, and our dreams. Kristin your work is gorgeous and so reflective of this lifestyle~

Thank-you Jenny, for showing us the amazing work of Kristin La Flamme! Wow-Sa! I have known of her quilting through 'IBOL', but this post truly shows the talented & inspirational woman behind the IBOL Guy!

AWESOME! She has got it all together. Thanks for sharing her story and art! I keep going back and looking at those beautiful aprons.

Simply put..She is my idol.

Great interview of a even greater woman, mother, wife, artist and friend.

I know Kristin thru the Hawaii Quilt Guild. The first time I met her she was a breath of fresh air. I am in awe of her talent! As a military brat, then member and now spouse I love how her aprons capture the life we live!

Thank you for a wonderful interview with a very talented artist. Kristin is my favorite art quilter. I am especially fond of her roots quilts - they echo and resonate with me on a very deep level. This new series of the military wife is so expressive and playful. Just fantastic!!!

I love, love Kristin's work. All of it. She expresses ideas in styles I can readily understand. Cherrie

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