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Fall 2016 Competition:


1st Place Winner

thread painting on fabric
62 x 83 in
9,000. usd

artist statement

BIKE BOYS was inspired by an 1896 photo of The Fowler Sextuplet, the first bicycle ever built for 6 riders.  The team of the Fowler Sextuplet was a sensation at the first Denver Cycle Show held in 1896, and this piece is a tribute to the long tradition of cycling, innovation, physical fitness, and competition that was, and is, life in the West. This complex composition of 11 figures incorporated 91 different fabrics in the fused applique base and was thread painted with 114 different threads, totaling an estimated 9 miles of thread.  Located at the bottom, center of the piece is a re-creation, in fabric, of a newspaper advertisement from the Denver Post announcing a bicycle race featuring this intrepid crew.  However, an exhaustive archive search found no record of the winner.  I like to think the boys prevailed.

I find great joy in the tactile nature of my are process and revel in the challenge of working only with the basic materials of fabric and thread; using these simple elements to create images that are compelling. In this striving, I find that my art is truly in my hands: it becomes about my skill, my creativity, my vision, and my ability to bring to life images that compel the viewer to stop and spend time with my art.

Inspiration comes from simple images of daily life. I love to be caught off guard by the unexpected, such as the impish grin on a boys face that leaves you wondering what he is thinking, or the way shadow and light fall across a fresh bloom to further highlight its beauty. When an image startles me, I will create a composition using that image which will, in turn, intrigue the viewer.

I know a piece is good when I see people walk up to view my work and it compels them to stop for a few moments, then move in closer and perhaps hold up a hand or hold out a finger as if struggling with the urge to touch the piece, then step back to view from a distance again with greater appreciation.

artist bio

Lea McComas has had a lifelong passion for textiles and fiber arts. She stitched her first garment at age 6, and became a quilter at16, learning skills from her great aunt. That first quilt was hand-pieced and hand quilted. Her first original design, paying tribute to the centennial of the Statue of Liberty in1986, was chosen as the Missouri state winner of the Great American Quilt Festival. It was viewed all over the world as part of a 3-year traveling exhibit of the Museum of American Folk Art and can be viewed in the book All Flags Flying: American Patriotic Quilts as Expressions of Liberty.

In her twenties, Lea was introduced to the world of spinning and weaving, and became involved in all aspects from helping to sheer the sheep, to collecting plants for dying, to developing patterns for knitting. Lea designed and knitted sweaters from her own hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn.

She traveled overseas in her thirties as a teacher for the Department of Defense. Five years in Turkey provided new opportunities to explore textiles, including a summer spent living in a remote Turkish village learning to weave kilims. This assignment was followed by 4 years in Okinawa, were she acquired a love for Japanese textiles design techniques, and an extensive collection of kimono fabrics.

Lea returned to the states in 2001 to reside in Colorado where she rekindled her interest in quilting and was exposed to the amazing world of art quilts. Simultaneously, she began a study of classic European art, and developed a keen interest in portrait and figurative art. Her current techniques and works are a synthesis of these passions as she uses thread and fabric to create realistic pictorial works.

Lea’s fiber art has been featured in numerous national and international exhibitions, including Geneva, Vienna, Johannesburg, New York, Houston, Kansas City, and Denver. Her work has won awards at the International Quilt Festival, Houston, Texas; Festival of Quilts, Birmingham, England, Road to California, Ontario, California, and AQS QuiltWeek, Paducah, Kentucky.

She is a featured artist in the book Cutting Edge Art Quilts, an episode of TheQuiltShow.com and she teaches online at CraftOnlineUniversity.com Her work and articles on her techniques have appeared in many other publications including American Quilter, Quilter’s Newsletter, SAQA Journal, Quilting Arts, Surface Design Journal, Machine Quilting Unlimited, The Quilt Life, and Quilter’s Connection Magazines Her first book, Thread-Painted Portraits: Turn Your Photos into Fiber Art, was released in 2014.




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McComas Headshot

lea mc comas
Superior, Colorado [USA]

art scene today Q & A

Q: Where do you see yourself in the art scene today?

A: I'm traveling through on a journey that continually links past with present. With roots in traditional quilting and an eye to contemporary fine art, I combine modern tools and techniques with historical images.Through my art, I seek to remind us of what connects us in a time where so much divides us.

Q: What is in your inspiration?

A:  For this series "Photographs and Memories" I'm inspired by historical photographs that capture a spirit or idea that transcends time.  For Bike Boys, it is the spirit of friendly competition and innovation.

Q: What are your challenges?
A:  Fiber art is exploding; there are a myriad of materials and techniques to be used. I find I’m easily overwhelmed by all the options. So, my personal challenge has become, “What can I do with basic materials of fabric and thread? How far can I go with just these elements to create images that are compelling?”
Q: How did you/do you choose your medium?
A: The day I was born, they wrapped me in a piece of cloth.  I said, "Hey, how nice. I can do something with this."
Q: Which artist has influenced you the most?
A: My husband, Jim McComas, is a classically trained artist. While he was at the atelier, I was included in that very close artist community. It gave me a chance to see the process, watch the struggles, be part of the discussions. The group has since scattered to the four corners.  Jim & I remain together, sharing ideas, offering critique, challenging each other in our art.

 other work by the artist


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