Q&A: Lorraine Turner, Textile Artist and Animal Communicator

Lorraine TurnerAlthough artist Lorraine Turner has an extensive background in art and design, she only began creating textile art a couple of years ago, inspired by a conversation—yes, conversation!—she had with a white lion in Africa.

You see, in addition to her role as an artist, Turner also works as an animal communicator. And she combines these two passions, art and animals, by creating textile artworks that feature—and tell the stories of—endangered and threatened species. She also uses her art to support non-profit animal sanctuaries around the world.

Visitors to this year’s Quilt Festival in Houston will have the opportunity to see many of Turner’s unique and animal-inspired textile artworks on display in the exhibit “My Heart’s Common Thread.”

We spoke with Turner about the exhibit, her background as an artist and designer, and, of course, her communication with and commitment to animals.

Friends@Festival: First, please tell us a bit about your personal and professional background.

Turner: I come from a long line of textile artists. In the mid-1800s, a tailor married a seamstress who gave birth to an awning maker who had an upholsterer who married an embroiderer who, in 1955, had me. Even with this “textile” gene, I had minimal interest in sewing (I made my daughter’s wedding dress, for example), but found I had a natural ability to draw and paint. My parents couldn’t afford college, and my dream to become an artist had to wait.

My time finally came in my early thirties when, as a struggling single mom, I commuted 180 miles round-trip to attend the Art Institute of Philadelphia, where I finished at the top of my class. From there, I began freelance work and became the lead designer for the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers.

Friends@Festival: You have an impressive resume, including work as an art director, motivational speaker, and...Emmy winner! Can you elaborate on some of your accomplishments?

Turner: Awards and platitudes have never been my goal, but yes, this artist who was told at the age of sixteen that she did not have what it takes won two Emmys for artwork created for special televised programming for the Philadelphia 76ers.

I am currently the art director for The Library of American Comics, a business I co-own with my husband, Dean Mullaney. We publish archival books of newspaper comic strips dating back to the early 1900s.

Detail from Yet a Warm Heart

My professional career became so busy that I battled insomnia, and in 2010 I learned how to meditate in silence. This meditation led me to another profession. In 2014 I became a certified professional animal communicator and now illustrate those conversations. In 2017, I published a book on meditation. My motivational speaking engagements come from my passion to help others. I encourage young children to rise above peer pressure and walk with confidence, teens to choose a pathway close to their heart’s song, and seniors to accept the truth— they are never too old to learn and their wisdom can be shared with many who are feeling lost. They are worthy.

Friends@Festival: How and when did you become interested in textile art, and when did you begin creating quilts?

Turner: I only began creating textile art two years ago. It’s been something of a whirlwind. I visited South Africa in 2015 to communicate specifically with white lions living in a protected environment, far from trophy hunters. During a conversation with a lion, he showed me images of my hands weaving a basket. He explained that my art would blend with my heart’s energy to help the animal kingdom. This was astonishing to me, as I had never created in this way.

I returned to America, and in May 2016, began playing with textiles. I started with wool, creating numerous pieces of the white lions; all were sold to support the non-profit helping his family. My white lion textile art continues to benefit this group, the Global White Lion Protection Trust.

Calico Messengers

All of my art was experimental, as I had no real formal training in textiles. I trusted my intuition and listened to the guidance of the animals coming to help me. The textile art called Calico Messengers is very dear to my heart, as the three wild horses visited me in meditation for months asking for help. Through research, I learned they were called the Calicos and were named for the mountain range they roamed. Many had been lost in a brutal round-up, and I began illustrating to help the sanctuary where the survivors now live, Return to Freedom. The illustrations naturally progressed to art quilts created to help all endangered animals.

Friends@Festival: Your textile paintings have a distinctive style and subject matter. Have you always created in this style, or did it evolve from other styles and techniques?

Turner: I’ve worked in many mediums throughout my life, but as I mentioned only began working in textiles in May of 2016. I believe my ability to connect with the spirit of the animals, along with my intention to help them, gives my art a distinct look. Many animals approach me in response to a simple question. I sit in silent meditation and ask, “Is there an animal or insect (I have had many bees and dragonflies appear) who wishes for me to create their portrait, and do you have a message for humanity?” Many are now lined up and waiting.

Regarding my techniques, I don’t have a set way of approaching my next piece. I really treat each one like a kid with a box of crayons coloring without any rules. There are no mistakes, only learning experiences.

Friends@Festival: You say that each of your pieces is intended to tell the story of an endangered animal and give them a voice. What is the story that you hope each of them tells?

The animal kingdom has much to teach us. We as humans categorize animals in a ranking system that tells us which species is nearing extinction. The animals I speak with couldn’t care less about who or what we feel is most important. They all feel endangered because they are competing with humans for the use of natural resources. There is urgency in their messages, as they are so deeply rooted with the planet. A statement Gandhi taught us rings true to my heart’s work: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We need to be better guardians of our planet and the animals can help us and wholeheartedly wish to join us.

Friends@Festival: Please explain how you use your artwork to support non-profit animal sanctuaries.

Wind Whisperers

Turner: My original art, along with high quality reproductions are sold in my online shop and in a local gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida. I am looking to find other galleries to exhibit and sell my work, and hope the exposure at Quilt Festival in Houston will help make my dream become a reality. The animals depicted in each illustration will guide me to an organization that needs help. Proceeds are donated to those non-profit organizations. For example, Wind Whisperers directly supports Wolf Connection, an organization that works with rescued wolves and troubled teens to help teach life skills that will help them overcome and build self-esteem. My work is Art in Action.

Friends@Festival: Finally, how do you feel about having an entire exhibit of your work on display at this year's Houston show? And what message do you hope it will communicate to those who see it?

Turner: I am humbled and appreciative. It’s difficult to respond without tears. My heart is bursting in gratitude. My message is this: See beyond the art, look into their eyes, see the beauty of the animals depicted before you. It matters not the color of their skin, fur, or feathers. They are beautiful and have a message to give to the world. They feel connected to each of us, as we all rely on the natural resources of our planet. You have a duty of care to be mindful of the future generations that will walk, swim, or fly upon this Earth. We are one.

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