Sketching Out Blog: Sketches of art, watercolor, photos, recipes, books, interviews, Jewish topics, and Highland Park, New Jersey

Interview with Artist Debra Walk

Debra Walk city needlework
Leora’s note: I’m not sure how I first connected with Debra Walk, but we seem to have 22 friends in common on Facebook. I enjoy seeing her beautiful artwork, so I asked her a few questions to learn more. Enjoy.

1) When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I loved art from an early age, and my high school art teacher told me that I should seriously pursue art, but by the time I reached my teens, I somehow developed the idea that art was not a valuable profession and decided that I wanted to do something medically related as a profession, and art would be my hobby.

2) Please describe the work you do.
I’ve worked in various media over the years – calligraphy, paper cutting, polymer clay, and, most recently, fabric.

When I was younger, I loved the exactly measured type of calligraphy that I did then, but after a while, I felt a need to work in a softer and less exacting medium. I was living far away from my children and grandchildren at the time and wanted to make them things for them that they could cuddle with and wrap around themselves and not just hang on their walls. This led to my beginning to work with fabric.

My “bread and butter” work involves making Challah Covers and Platta Covers, and I guess they fall more into the design category, but in between producing these, I like to work on new art ideas, often involving Hebrew quotations. I’ve had a running list in my head for probably 35 years of some of my favorite quotes and i enjoy interpreting them in the various media that I work with. There are also some basic design ideas that I’ve used over and over with variations, and I’ve come to consider them as a basic part of who I am an what I’m doing in the world.

I enjoy making family trees, often ordered by customers as gifts celebrating 50th anniversaries. It’s a pleasure to help people celebrate their family life. Over the years I’ve done family trees as paintings, paper cuts and fabric art.

I’m currently experimenting with combining my two favorite types of art/craft and doing brush calligraphy on fabric and also reinterpreting some of my paper cut ideas in fabric..

3) How have you used social media (Facebook, blog, Twitter) to promote your art?
I use Facebook and LinkedIn, but I really have to work on that. I have a tendency to use these social media once in a while, and then forget about them for long periods of time.

I love (see, the online crafts marketplace comprising hundreds of thousands of crafts shops. It has revolutionized the crafts and handmade market, offering international exposure and highly attractive terms of sale for artists and craftspeople and I truly have only good things to say about it. It also is a social medium in its own right – you can follow artists of your choice, correspond with them, “heart” their stores or work and even create your own “treasuries” of favorite items that may be shared with others.

I must also mention Pinterest (see, not as a means of promotion, but as a fabulous way of enjoying the vast array of visual treats available on the intenet and collecting visual ideas. It’s hard to express how much I enjoy looking at the stream of exquisite photography, whether landscape or wildlife, gorgeous gardens, waterfalls, forests, etc. I actually have begun to recite the phrase “מה רבו מעשיך ה’ כולם בחכמה עשית, מלאה הארץ קניינך” “How many are your works Hashem, all made in wisdom, the earth is filled with your creations (loosely translated)” as I surf the Pinterest boards, enjoying my armchair exploration of the wonders of the world.

4) What is your favorite part of being an artist?

Self-expression, work is fun, I feel as if I have little pieces of myself in homes around the world, at people’s Shabbat tables, etc.

5) Where do you look for inspiration?

The many art books I own, Pinterest, as described above, nature, various man-made goods I encounter in the world around me (textiles, housewares, children’s books). I also am an avid reader of “middle-brow” fiction, which nurtures my soul and thus, in some way, inspires me.

6) What are the hard parts of being an artist?

Discipline, disciple, discipline…I’m not naturally disciplined.

As someone who has a very strong critical voice in my head that tells me, among other things, that being an artist is a silly way to spend my life, I’d like to share a teaching that I once learned from Sarah Yehudit Schneider of A Still, Small Voice.

Sarah Yehudit takes the second half of the verse from Psalms, “פותח את ידיך ומשביע לכל חי רצון” and instead of the usually interpretation that seems to state that God fulfills our desires, says that it means that He provides each of us with our (deepest) desires, the ones that are connected to each person’s individual purpose in the world. thus, if one loves to play with fabric and color, that is somehow connected to that purpose.

That has become how I talk back to that negative voice.

I hope you have enjoyed this interview with fabric artist Debra Walk.

Hannah says

Lovely art! I need a new Challah Cover so ordering one made by Debra via Etsy sounds like a good idea. I'll share the word with a French friend who is always on the lookout for Jewish art.
Thank you to the two of you for the interview!

Leora says

Yes, her challah covers are quite lovely, aren't they? Sounds like it easy to order from Etsy in France.

Lorri says

Great artwork, and wonderful interview! I love the Challah covers.

Thank you both.

Leora says

Yes, I like them, too (the challah covers).

Rambling Woods says

Wonderful article and wonderful interview.....Michelle

Leora says

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Michelle.

toby says

You're in our house - we think of you every time we look at our beautiful plata cover! It still looks new and gorgeous after two years of use :)
I didn't know about your Etsy shop, though - thanks so much, Leora for publishing this!

Leora says

So cool that you have her beautiful artwork in use in your home already, Toby!

Lorri says

I visited Debra's etsy site...and fell in love with the family tree wall hanging. I like everything on there, but that really spoke to me.

Leora says

Neat! Thanks for saying so, Lorri.

Dkzody says

I lOve hearing how artists think about their work. Thank you for sharing your interview and Debra's beautiful art.


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