Lisa Binkley holds a B.S. in Textiles & Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Formerly a public policy analyst, she has maintained an active fiber art studio since 2000 and exhibits her award-winning work nationwide. Her work has been selected for inclusion in major exhibitions including those of the American Quilters’ Society, International Quilt Association, Crafts National, CraftForms, and several years of the Wisconsin Artists Biennial. Lisa and her artwork have been featured on local and national television, in internationally-distributed books and magazines, and in many local publications. Her art is represented in private and corporate collections. Lisa enjoys sharing her passion for fiber and beads through her artwork, classes, and lectures, and she teaches throughout the U.S. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband, their two children, and their sweet fluffy dog.
Since early childhood, I have spent countless hours immersed in thread and beads and in stitching them onto fabric. Throughout my life I have also been a self-guided student of the natural world, the spiritual quest, and poetry. For tens of thousands of years and across much of the globe, others have shared these material and intellectual passions. Like me, they have sought to contemplate and celebrate life’s questions and wonders through the slow process of hand stitching with beads and thread. As I carry on my part of this tradition, I work to create meticulously crafted art objects. Whether I stitch them by hand or by machine, I see these objects as forms of visual poetry. Through them I seek to speak to viewers quietly, reverently, and often whimsically of the mystery and beauty of our universe.
My studio overlooks an oak savannah. So much of my inspiration comes from what I see through the window over my work table—tall prairie grasses swaying in the wind, massive bur oaks with their lovely lobed leaves, the soft and ever-changing colors of the savannah and sky, and ponds full of frog song in the spring and great blue herons in the summer and fall. From here I see migrating geese, herons, egrets, and cranes, as well as a family of red tailed hawks and an occasional coyote or deer. The forms and movements of these animals are also fuel for my creative imagination. And all of the leaf forms in my art quilts and embroideries are taken directly from leaves I collect on my daily walks with Niiji, our 90 pound German Shepherd-Alaskan Malamute mix. He stops to sniff; I stop to pick up beautiful leaves. He’s a great studio companion too. I see endless beauty and life-affirming inspiration in the natural world, and I hope to convey at least some small part of this in my artwork.
All of my life I have also been interested in world religions and the unanswerable questions that people have asked and will continue to ask as long as there are people on earth. I find great comfort and camaraderie in knowing that people have been asking these questions for thousands of years and that at least a few people in just about every culture have turned to thread and beads as a form of contemplating the ineffable. And so I carry on a rich and wonderful global tradition.
I love that the tools of my trade are so simple—needles, threads, fabrics, beads, scissors, and occasionally my sewing machine. The techniques are also fairly simple, and so the real challenge comes through the design process and the selection of beautiful, engaging materials from the amazing array available today. While I do create large art quilts, which are pieced, appliqued, and quilted entirely on my sewing machine, I also love and couldn’t live without hand work. Stitching thread and beads by hand is a meditative process, and it puts my mind in a great place. It forces me to slow down, to be present in my work, and to contemplate. What a great antidote to a culture full of ever-accelerating flash and speed.
Studio work time for me varies between silence—when I am designing, researching, pondering—and the wonderful voices present in my studio when I listen to books, poetry, and lectures while stitching. These voices help to enrich my mind, and my artwork, through the many long hours of stitching. I am forever grateful to my public library system for access to just about anything I’d like to listen to while working. My teaching life balances my studio life beautifully. Teaching gives me the opportunity to share what I love doing with others who are interested in fiber, beads, and hand work. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know my students all over the country and seeing new places I’ve never experienced.
I am also very grateful and fortunate to have truly and wonderfully supportive family and friends in my non-traditional career pursuits. My husband, who is a very talented illustrator, is a great supporter of my work as well as a great advisor about things like artistic composition. My two children, parents, and sisters have all been enormously supportive from the beginning of my decision to leave a career in public policy to pursue my work as a fiber artist, and I am blessed to have some very good friends who support and encourage, as well as inspire me with their lives and work.