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The warm comfort of handmade quilts was an integral part of Dianne Duncan Thomas’s childhood, so it didn’t seem unusual that she would take up the craft. She became the fifth generation, at least, in her family to find pleasure in the meticulous work. But Thomas didn’t learn at home, and her interests took a distinctly different turn from the needlework of her ancestors.
When her eldest son was a toddler and she wished to find an outside pastime, she decided to register for a class at the Persian Lamb in Omaha. There she learned quilting basics. She still cherishes the first quilt she completed, a traditional wedding ring pattern.
As she mastered elementary techniques, she found herself wanting to color outside the lines. This creative longing wasn’t surprising, given Thomas’s academic background in graphic design and art history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
She was enchanted by the vast array of materials, from beautifully printed Japanese cottons to lustrous dupioni silks and found she loved experimenting with composition and different construction techniques. At this point, the vast majority of her works are of her own design. Although she has continued to use patterns occasionally, Thomas’s unique use of color forces the viewer’s eye to move around her compositions, offsetting the static nature of pattern repetition.
As her interest in art quilts developed, Thomas began to meet like-minded artists. Over time, these relationships grew to a network of tight-knit friends who have lent mutual support aesthetically and personally. Thomas has broadened that circle through numerous classes with nationally renowned quilt artists, such as Ruth B.
McDowell, Sue Benner, Betty Busby, Nancy Crow, Noriko Endo, Susan Carlson and Phil Beaver. Because of these masters, she has strengthened her skills for fusing, piecing, hand painting and construction. But beyond learning the techniques to construct more complex compositions, she has found her own voice and the capacity to create personal, expressive artworks. She gravitates toward geometric abstraction and the natural world in her designs, tapping into the people and places that have made her life rich and full.
While her family moved away from Clarinda when she was only 10 years old, Thomas has fond memories of childhood visits. Warm autumn hues, the forms of bright summer flowers and the crisp shapes of fields and irrigation circles, especially from the air, are apparent in her works. She has developed a creative language that brings those she loves into her works.
Thomas’s works have been in numerous invitational and competitive exhibitions, including a number of shows organized by Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) and the Midwest Fiber Arts Alliance, that have toured regionally and nationally. Her work has been published in a number of quilting books and periodicals.