Recently Shelley Bergdall Rothgeb and her husband Chris Rothgeb visited Born Again Quilts. As is typical of first-time customers, they stood and stared as they took in all the textile wonders BAQ has to offer. Shelley shared with me that they were back in Indiana where they recently purchased a home in West Central Fort Wayne and visiting her mother on the family farm in Monroeville that has been worked by the family for over six generations. Shelley is a fiber and textile artist, and she needed some sewing supplies to tide her over until they return to Phoenix, Arizona in October. Assisting Shelley in finding the items she needed, I asked her what had drawn her to not only create textile art, but to design and make the fabric as well. It all started at the farm where she inherited a tradition of creating art. Shelley was the second in her family to study art after her grandmother completed a degree in Art at the Fort Wayne Art School in the 1930s. Shelley studied fine art for one year at the Otis College of Art and Design and completed a Bachelor of Architecture degree at the University of Cincinnati. She continued to pursue artistic endeavors while working and raising a family, but finally discovered her passion for fiber art after attending a workshop from Betty Busby in Phoenix in 2017. An interest in fiber arts had been nurtured from childhood by both of her grandmothers. One was an amateur seamstress who made all her family’s clothing and the other was an artist, hand quilter, and maker. Both strove for perfection in their craft and their influence of design, craft, and perfection is an integral part of Shelley’s work as well.
Today Shelley combines textiles, embroidery, hand and machine quilting, and coiling (basketry) into her work. She loves the tactile feel of fabric and yarn. She enjoys experimenting with techniques that are not usually put together but, strike her as “needing” to go together, and figuring out how to accomplish that.
Some of Shelley’s fiber art is pieced work. She uses hand-dyed cotton fabric for her pieced flowers; one as large as 60 inches. Her other work consists of a printed photo collage that she creates on her iPad.
Whether pieced or printed, she always starts with one of her photographs. She enjoys designing digitally and then taking the image(s) to create something with a lot of depth and texture. Many of her designs are inspired by her love of nature. If something in nature captures her eye, she captures it in a photograph, then merges the two through collage and manipulation digitally and physically until it represents her initial inspiration.
Shelley was inspired to design and create her own fabrics. The computer design classes she took while studying architecture were helpful, and the invention of the iPad, a tool that could be directly drawn on, really sparked her interest. Manipulating and collaging photographs was the first step, then the availability of companies to print fabrics came about at the same time. It’s as easy as uploading your file to an online company and telling them how big you want it. They print it and ship it to you. For smaller prints at home, Shelley prints them with a 17-Inch Epson printer.
Today, Shelley’s fiber art has hung in galleries in Arizona, Oregon, internationally, and online. Having her first piece hung was so thrilling because she never thought it would happen, and now she’s amazed that it keeps happening. Shelley has now become involved with other artists and organizations that have allowed her to be an exhibition coordinator too. “It is especially rewarding to help other new artists have their work exhibited in a gallery setting. The exhibit Discovering Desert Diversity is currently displayed at the Herberger Theater Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona.
Since her initial visit, Shelley has been back to BAQ to purchase more fabric. Perhaps one day it will show up in one of her fiber designs!
To view Shelley’s artist statement and her textile pieces go to: shelleyanndesign.com