- - - - - - - - - - Summer 2018 - - - - - - - - - -
1.One of the most unique exhibits to be on display at this year’s Quilt Festival in Houston is “Glow in the Dark” from Brazilian artist Ana Paula Brasil. This highly original exhibit features a specially built “box” that allows viewers to experience Ana’s art quilts stitched in glow-in-the-dark thread. Some aspects of each quilt will be visible only outside of the box, while others are revealed only once inside the darkened structure.
Like the exhibit, Ana is, herself, a one-of-a-kind artist who thinks outside of the box and creates art that challenges people to think differently. Her energy and enthusiasm—for both quilting and life!—is contagious in conversation and inspiring for students of her classes and lectures.
Although she now resides in Ontario, Canada, Ana was born and raised in southern Brazil, where she also made a name for herself as an artist and “quilting rock star,” appearing on television shows and in magazines.
“As I like to say, ‘I am from the extreme north, but I was born on the south end of the earth,’” she explains. “The south of Brazil where I was raised is very similar to where I live in Ontario. From my home country of Brazil, I [incorporate] into my quilts and designs the joy of the Brazilian people, the spirits of the jungle, and the power from the soul and energy of the waves on a sandy bleached beach.
“From my beloved Canada, I incorporate the maturity, knowledge, and serenity of living in peace in a land that I choose as my home. I am very proud to represent Canada around the world. My quilts speak for me.”
Long before Ana was known as an international quilt artist, her grandmother first taught her to sew around the age of eight. She started out by sewing dolls and helping her mother, who—although a celebrated poet in Brazil—was not as skilled a sewist.
After school each day, she would draw and create dolls inspired by her favorite cartoons and movies of the time, and her mother would help her assemble and embellish each one.
“Every day, I packed a doll to sell to my classmates and teachers,” she says. “One day, a new classmate from the U.S. purchased a doll, and her mother—who owned a gift shop in Miami—fell in love with the idea that a 10-year-old girl made such beautiful dolls. So, I started exporting. It was informal, but I made my first thousand dollars in a month.”
As a teenager, Ana worked as a fashion model, but continued to make handcrafted headbands, necklaces, and purses to sell to friends. She later moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, married, and had her first son. Although her modeling opportunities declined after becoming a mother, she continued to create handicrafts.
Ana Paula Brasil
International Artist & “Glow-in-the-Dark” Quilter
She became well known initially as a designer of handmade candles and as a decorator for soap opera sets and, even, the Brazilian "Big Brother" set, which boosted her career to greater success.
But one day, Ana woke up and couldn’t move anything from the neck down. She was taken straight to the hospital, where she stayed for a long time, and found out that hernias on her cervical spine were responsible for her paralysis.
“My world collapsed,” she says. “I had a six-month-old baby, a four-year-old son, and a promising career. I watched my life falling apart. I shut off my studio, my shop, my production contracts were canceled, and I accepted that my life was over because doctors gave me no hope. But that was when a friend of mine—who was also disabled—came to visit me and told me about a doctor specializing in the spine who was treating her. That doctor saved my life!”
Ana underwent an experimental surgery that left her with the ability to move her arms and legs, but with speaking difficulties (the surgery was performed through the throat, which impacted her vocal cords). To this day—and, she says, to the joy of her children—she is unable to shout.
Still, through the help of her doctor and his team, she was eventually able to walk again, commemorating the occasion by walking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.
Following her return to Brazil, she enrolled in a fine arts school, where she studied photography and the fine arts. It was during this time that she also began making quilts—starting out with very traditional patchwork blocks like those her grandmother had taught her all of those years ago. She slowly made her way back to sewing and designing.
“One day, I was hanging out with a friend and producer from the old days of candle making, and I showed her some of my designs,” she explains. “She looked through my portfolio and said, ‘Ana, your pieces are modern, commercial, and wonderful. Let’s create a magazine for you to showcase your new work with fabrics.’ In total, I did more than 300 step-by-step magazines and more than 200 TV shows in which I was featured as a candle designer and quilter.”
In 2009, at the top of her professional career, Ana and a group of
quilters attended Quilt Festival in Houston. Until that time, she had seen very few art quilt pieces, and only knew how to make faces using the traditional appliqué techniques. But while at the show, she took advantage of several classes, and was able to meet and learn from “the Masters,” including Pam Holland, Hollis Chatelain, Jenny Bowker, and Wendy Butler Berns.
She was also introduced—through a walking tour of a SAQA exhibit and through the encouragement of new friend and “soul sister” Gail Thomas—to the idea of creating quilts with freedom from the quilting rules that had become so frustrating to Ana due to her physical limitations.
Since that time, Ana has worked full time in quilting—focused on the art quilt—creating and exhibiting quilts, designing projects, recording videos for her YouTube channel, travelling the world taking classes, teaching classes, and encouraging new quilters. For Ana, the greatest part of the process is sharing her encouragement and knowledge with fellow quilters.
“I created a slogan in Portuguese: Vem na minha que tu brilha, which translates to something like 'Come with me that you may shine,'" she says.
This year, Ana will see one of her dreams come true when her “Glow in the Dark” exhibit premieres at Quilt Festival in Houston. The idea for this unique exhibit came to her upon seeing a photo her son took during a trip to China. The woman pictured in the photo was wearing clothing where only the threads shined in the dark. Ana researched and ordered the same type of thread, and created a handbag and set of placemats. From there, the idea grew into what would become a full exhibit.
“Glow in the Dark” includes outside walls lined with colorful quilts that use regular threads to create an image—each with an important element missing “like it was poetically abducted by the power of the black box.” Once inside, the viewer sees the missing elements from the outside quilts created with special threads. Lights inside the box are turned on to “charge the quilting lines,” so that they glow in the dark.
The exhibit seems especially fitting for an artist who describes herself as “high voltage.”
“That’s me…a person excited about life!” she adds. “I am restless by nature. My restlessness is healthy and pumps me. I often do many things at the same time, or rest from one to do another. What I cannot stand is doing nothing. I have something bigger inside me that does not allow me to stop creating. I breathe in ordinary things from day to day and from people I meet. I consider myself blessed to do what I love—coloring my world with my art and the love I have for it.”
Find more information on Ana's website,
1. Ana Paula Brasil
2. Ana with a quilted self portrait
3. Ana on Brazilian television
4. Amazing Squares—Audrey by Ana Paula Brasil
5. Special Landscape by Ana Paula Brasil
6. Interior of the “Glow in the Dark” exhibit/display
7. Ana Paula Brasil with students in one of her workshops
8. Oh Canada 150 by Ana Paula Brasil