TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ricky Tims Brings Rhapsody to Paducah

Bohemian Rhapsody by Ricky Tims

This past week, I had the good fortune of meeting Ricky Tims this past week as he taught a workshop on his Rhapsody quilts at the National Quilt Museum here in Paducah. Ricky Tims has carved himself a niche in the quilting world. Recognized internationally as an artist an and educator, he is also one of the few male quilters to take such an extensive leadership role in this art form dominated by women. I first saw his quilts at a group show at the museum which showed the work of three male quilters, one of them being Ricky Tims. His stunning choice of colors, beautiful designs and immaculate stitching make them a wonder to behold.

Ricky Tims, "The Quiltin' Harley Dude"

Known for his good humor and enthusiasm, Ricky Tims can pull off flaunting "tough" symbols like riding a Harley or wearing a cowboy hat from his native Texas. At the same time, his quilts show a depth of sensitivity for beauty, color and grace. A gifted musician, his music is hauntingly beautiful and soul oriented. All of this love for raw beauty, art and nature comes together in Autumn Rock, "40 acres of heaven", a get-away for quilters in southern Colorado.

Autumn Rock, A Piece of Heaven for Quilters

The workshop Ricky Tims had here at the Quilt Museum focused on teaching students how to design and execute the technique he uses in the beautiful medallion quilts that have won so much recognition. Ricky Tims has several books out on the process, both step-by-step instructions and patterns for individual pieces. I learned most of what I know through books, but there is nothing like having the guidance and personal interest of someone who has already worked through all of the kinks and who know what short cuts will achieve the desired results.

Students learn how to break an intricate design into a simple concept.

A simple drawing breaks down a complex quilt medallion.

Several steps take the student from a small drawing to a full-size template. The large piece has been drawn out on freezer paper.

Freezer paper drawing at a Ricky Tims workshop.

The freezer paper is cut up and ironed on to the fabric. Each student had brought their own stash of fabrics that they were planning to use. It was fun to see how different each person's taste translates into a unique visual, a combination that will make a similar technique achieve very different finished pieces. Ricky Tims uses hand-dyed fabrics, vibrant in color, which produce gorgeous contrasts. He also has his own line of threads, which in the Rhapsody quilts, have a necessary and complimentary impact. Those, along with books and patterns, are available in his website shop. You can also purchase cds of his music there.

Cutting freezer paper for the Rhapsody quilts pieces.

The pieces are sewn, appliqued, and assembled on a wall board. Working in a structured manner helps keep order in a process that could easily become chaotic and overwhelming.

Sewing a piece for a Rhapsody Quilt.

Pieces assembled and pinned to a wall board.

Of course, the master knows all the tricks of how to make edges meet, how to keep them from puckering, how to make seams flow naturally, when to quilt, and how to make colors sing to each other.

The participants, all women from around the country, were engaged in their tasks, thrilled to be both with Ricky Tims and here in Paducah. I sat and talked to a few and of course, they spoke of the burdens they left at home, of the relief they felt in taking a respite where for a few days, they could dive in to their creative juices full time. I thought about how any creative task really becomes a healing agent in our turbulent world, of how something so flat as fabric can make one feel so alive, of how important the quilt industry is to our city, and of how people like Ricky Tims use their gifts to inspire so many people. It gave me a warm feeling inside, an acknowledgement once again, that this is also my path, that I really do enjoy being a part of this larger community. We come in all shapes and sizes, some clunk along with mediocre results while others fly into orbit with their talents, but we feel called to the cloth, the fiber that weaves us all together.

Rhapsody Quilt workshop with Ricky Tims at the Quilt Museum.

Links to visit:

Ricky Tims (the site is divided into his quits and music)

The National Quilt Museum (list of workshops)

Nacho Grandma's Quilts (a list of other male quilters)

Here's an excellent CBS interview with Ricky Tims, focusing on the quilt industry and its economic impact. Ricky Tims emphasizes the importance it also has in developing community.

Many thanks, Ricky,
for all you do to inspire all of us!



  1. Wow! That is one gorgeous quilt! That guy is WAY talented! :)

  2. His quilts are truly magical! I will view his site for more. As always thanks for sharing!


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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