Kaleidoscope the very word promises surprise and magic, change and chance. Exploding with visual excitement, a kaleidoscopic design organizes an abundance of light and color, form and motion into a complex and coherent image. My goal is to harmoniously integrate the idea of a kaleidoscope with the techniques and materials of quiltmaking. I try to free myself from a conventional sense of fabric orderliness, seeking a random quality in order to imitate the succession of chance interlinkings and endless possibilities synonymous with kaleidoscopes.
I make quilts on the same block in the Bronx where I grew up. Being a New Yorker wrapped up in the fabric of city life creates an inherent paradox contrasting the traditional image of quiltmaking as part of a simple, make-do, rural way of life with my own complex urban-shaped space.
Historians have suggested that the block-style method of quiltmaking evolved in response to the cramped quarters of early American life. My family’s living arrangement in an urban environment created similar considerations which, unwittingly, I resolved in much the same way. For over twenty years, my work space in our two bedroom apartment was the forty-inch round kitchen table. A long distance view, alternate space, or not making quilts were not options. I believe this reality merged with my personality and passion for fabric in shaping the direction of my kaleidoscopic piecework, causing me to rely on intricate detail and inherent symmetry, and to invent a shape that makes the most of limited space. My block style method is based on a pie-slice section.
Until I met quilts, I thought I was creative but not talented. To ﬁnd something you love to do is a gift. To achieve recognition for it is a miracle. When I get overwhelmed by a longing for functional space, complete with an office and enough storage space so I don't have to constantly reinvent the room, I try to remember this.
Over time, lives change shape. In 2003, the second bedroom of our apartment was transformed into a 10' x 15' studio, complete with a door I can close.
My quilts have achieved international recognition for the innovative and complex designs inspired by the bilateral symmetry of kaleidoscopic images. Honored by inclusion in the Twentieth Century's 100 Best American Quilts, my designs have inspired products including the vast carpet in the Hilton Americas hotel in Houston, TX and were showcased in the American Folk Art Museum's first one person exhibition highlighting the work of a contemporary quilt artist (2009). In addition to numerous awards, I was a recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and The Bronx Council on the Arts. I'm the author of Kaleidoscopes & Quilts, Snowflakes & Quilts, Puzzle Quilts: Simple Blocks, Complex Fabric, Paula Nadelstern's Kaleidoscope Quilts: An Artist's Journey Continues and Kaleidoscope Quilts: The Workbook. I design textile prints exclusively for Benartex, Inc. and live in New York City with my husband, Eric. My daughter, Ariel, lives a block away. I am very grateful.
I've authored five books: Kaleidoscopes & Quilts, Snowflakes & Quilts, Puzzle Quilts: Simple Blocks, Complex Fabrics, Paula Nadelstern's Kaleidoscope Quilts: An Artist's Journey Continues and Kaleidoscope Quilts: The Workbook
Photo by Marianne Barcellona