Studio Visit: Dash Masland
Driving along the Maine coastline to visit Dash Masland at her home quilting studio, I can’t help but take in my surroundings: the bold, geometric quality of the area figure so prominently into Dash’s modern, minimalist quilts that the landscape feels almost familiar. Even before I reach her home in the small, seaside town of Yarmouth, Maine, I feel I have somehow gained some insight into Dash’s work, her approach and her distinctive designs.
Dash lives just off the main street in Yarmouth. When I arrive at her lovely home on a sunny spring morning, she comes out and greets me with a warm smile and welcoming hug. She leads me through her home to meet her 2-year-old son who is coloring with his babysitter in the kitchen. Her home is open, full of light, with a real sense of space—just like her quilts, I realize.
Dash leads me upstairs to her home studio space, which she shares with her husband, who is also an artist. As we settle into the space, she and I catch up and talk about her beautiful home and property; her studio looks out over striking views of wildlife and coastal land. The outside light floods into her studio, filling the spare, well-organized space, and once again I am reminded of Dash’s quilts.
Though this is the first time I get to visit Dash in person, my familiarity with her work helps me feel as if I am dropping in on an old acquaintance. Like her quilts, Dash’s home and surroundings perfectly reflect her welcoming, thoughtful, and creative personality. Looking around, I am reminded by what first attracted me to her pieces: even with her minimalist approach there is warmth—a sense of space brimming with distinctive personality and subtle creativity.
As lovely as her space is, Dash tells me she is planning to move into a new space in the near future. It will be out of her house and in town, and eventually it will be a home in its own right for Prow House Quilts, the name of Dash’s quilting business. Dash’s personality is bright and welcoming, and it is no surprise that she wants to move to a place with more presence in the community, where she can more easily share her love of quilt making with others.
After talking about future plans, we move on to Dash’s current project. She has a new sketch all planned out: she’s mapped it all out with measurements and is ready to cut the pieces for the top of the quilt, and is just now making the final, finishing changes to her design. I watch as she measures, cuts and places the pieces of fabric on her planning wall.
Dash moves with a careful, easy confidence and contemplates each decision as she constructs her quilt. It is plain in her movements that Dash has a deep understanding of not only the way her choices impact her quilt’s design but also its construction: everything must be translated to the sewing machine, so she must take care that each piece will line up nicely when she goes to sew them together.
For all the careful planning and considerations, this planning, piecing and sewing of the top of the quilt goes surprisingly quickly! Dash moves with ease between the planning wall, the sewing machine and the iron—it is vital every seam must be sewn perfectly straight—followed by a second pressing on the ironing table. Every step is precise and deliberate, every stitch remarkably assured.
Once I get used to her quick movements and well-tuned routine, I can finally take in the fabric Dash has chosen for the piece: beautiful linen in cool, grey tones reminiscent of the coastline on an early spring morning. The design and materials are a variation of what I am familiar with from our line of Dash’s work on Cultivations: both have those lovely gray tones with white and bold pops of color, but today Dash is experimenting with something new—a slightly new design, a different fabric—its exciting to see how she changes her designs yet maintains her unmistakable aesthetic vision, and even more exciting to see the new piece come to life before my eyes.
When Dash is finished piecing and sewing together the quilt, I can only marvel at her handiwork. As always when I visit one of my makers, I am struck by how inspiring it is to spend time with such talented artists and witness their creative process first hand. The concentration and commitment to the craft is palpable, as is the passion that animates the finished piece.
Dash and I discuss the challenges of being a maker: the joy of a flexible work schedule, the stress that balancing a creative business, children and other responsibilities brings. Even talking about these challenges, I can sense the joy and zest she has for all aspects of her life. She and her husband are both artists, so it is fun to hear her talk about her husband’s work and how she draws inspiration from him.
We reflect on the importance of community, and the value of an artistic community in particular—the inspiration, encouragement and creativity each member gains from the other cannot be understated. I think back to Dash’s plans for her new space in town and cannot help but be excited for her.
When it comes time to leave, I take a moment to admire the new quilt design again, and take in the bright creative space once more. I thank Dash for her time and say goodbye to her son and his babysitter on my way out. As I walk out into the beautiful, cool coastal spring day, Dash’s designs stay with me as I admire the sun-drenched scenery anew. Once again, I am filled with inspiration and admiration for the creative process and the amazing skills that our community has—no matter how many times I experience it, it’s always a welcome surprise.