Tuesday, August 4, 2009


For artist, teacher and best selling author Rayna Gillman "The joy is in the process". Using paints, dyes, wax and discharge agents to create her own fabrics Rayna is often inspired by family, found and recycled objects, old photos and ephemera. With what seems to be endless energy and enthusiasm, she infuses her students with a sense of joy and experimentation using the phrase "what if"? as a guide. Her fabrics and quilts have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the USA and are in private collections in the USA, France and Belgium. We are delighted to feature this internationally known artist and surface design teacher in our ongoing series In Conversation With Artists and Authors.


RUNNING WITH SCISSORS STUDIO: Did you always want to be an artist?
RAYNA GILLMAN: Never. I thought "artist" and "can draw" were synonymous and since my 7th grade teacher told me that I couldn't draw, that was THAT. I never took another art class. Started life as French teacher, then had many interesting careers - none of them "artist" till 8 years ago.

RWSS: Do you have a dedicated studio space?
RAYNA: Yes. I rent space with 6 other artists in an old factory about 15 minutes from home. This doesn't mean I haven't taken over the whole house with my art stuff, however. My husband claims he lives with three other people and they are all named Rayna.


RWSS: Favorite place you've been or lived?
RAYNA: Paris for visiting and happily, I have family there so I'm never completely a tourist. The best place I've lived is Boulder, CO in the early 70's when there were hippies and dirt roads. Even now, when it's overdeveloped, I'd love to spend summers there.


RWSS: Mac or PC?
RAYNA: Mac. When my PC died recently I bought a MacBook. Now I love it.

RWSS: Addicted to blogging?
RAYNA: Can't you tell? I started on a whim almost 5 years ago when I realized I could see my work-in-progress better on the computer screen. It was a way for me to think out loud and it just took on a life of its own. It has changed my life and brought me lots of new friends whom I have actually met in person. It's usually the last thing I do before I go to bed.

RWSS: Favorite quote?
RAYNA: : "If you can't have fun while you're working, what's the point?" R. Gillman 1990.

RWSS: Best advice you've ever received?
RAYNA: Listen to your gut and follow your instincts (my mother).

RWSS: Worst advice you've ever received?
RAYNA: Think about it logically (my husband).


RWSS: Favorite pair of shoes or article of clothing to wear whilst creating?
RAYNA: Bare feet or at most, my old Birkenstocks. Clothing - my husbands old shirts.


RWSS: Do you do anything special for your birthday?
Not since my 60th when I had a party to celebrate being alive after having surgery and chemo for colon cancer just after my 59th b.d. That's when I decided to become a full time artist.


RWSS: Best dessert?
RAYNA: Real key lime pie with real whipped cream, no sugar added.

RWSS: Are there any of your own pieces you can't bear to part with?
RAYNA: Yes, some of the pieces in my Poland series, particularly Last Stop, Prozna Street and Journey. Just about everything else is up for grabs - uh, I mean, for purchase. Recently I sold several the minute they were finished and I'm sort of sorry. On the other hand, when I first started, I said "Oh, I can't part with this" when someone wanted to buy and those pieces are still in my closet. I won't make that mistake again.




RWSS: Does your creative process start with a sketch, a planned course of action or do you throw caution to the wind?
RAYNA: I never plan ahead. I throw fabric at the wall and after the first piece is up, I go from there. I once tried designing a quilt ahead of time and I was so bored I never made the piece. Where's the adventure? It's like planning a trip and knowing exactly where you will be stopping along the way and what you will do when you get there.


RWSS: Would being an artist be as rewarding if you weren't able to teach?
RAYNA: Hmmmm............the rewards are apples and oranges. To me, the artmaking process is its own reward. I love the process and the result is almost anti-climactic. The rewards of teaching are seeing the students eyes light up when they realize they have discovered something new and are having fun doing it! That makes me so happy!

RWSS: What excites you the most right now in the world of surface design?
RAYNA: The endless possibilities of working in layers. I love using screens with ordinary objects as resists and combing thickened dyes an discharge in the deconstructed screen printing process. But that's THIS week -LOL.


RWSS: Best part of your day?
RAYNA: Do I get two answers? Breakfast with my cup of coffee and the New York Times and after dinner - feet up, classical music while I do email and blog.

RWSS: I'd be lost without .........
RAYNA: My family, which goes without saying. For my work: digital camera, computer, copier and Thermofax.


RWSS: Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day?
RAYNA: Elizabeth Barton, whose intelligent, literate, stimulating blog I love to read and whose work I admire. I'd love to spend the day working with her.

RWSS: What is the one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?
RAYNA: That I am an introvert (Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which is always right).


RWSS: Will we see another fabulous book?
RAYNA: I hope so. I've got an idea in the works but everything takes so much time!

RWSS: What's on the horizon for Rayna Gillman?
RAYNA: Besides another book? Some on-line teaching, small classes in my studio, more international workshops and I hope - more time to do creative work.

RWSS: Any words of wisdom?
RAYNA: Do what you love because life is too short!

We are pleased to offer both Rayna's book Create Your Own Handpainted Cloth and her DVD Printing From Your Pantry: Gelatin Monoprinting in our online store.

To learn more about this prolific artist and blogger we encourage you to visit Rayna's website: studio 78 or her blog: studio 78 notes.


  1. great interview, what beautiful artwork. thanks so much for sharing it!!

  2. What a nice interview with Rayna. I love her book because it is just like her - the way she talks - and it is easy to follow. Rayna has always been an inspiration to me. I've even learned new things about her in her journey as an artist in this post. So thank you for that. I think insight into an artist is always a good thing.

  3. This is fun stuff. Wonderful interviews, great info and beautiful work. Don't know how much better it can get with all this talent and ambition and wise words.