Heike Dressler

Heike Dressler is an engineer in apparel and garment technology. She develops all of the widely varied designs of Perfect Patch, and hand makes her art quilts in Gunzenhausen, Germany.

Heike Dressler is 59 years old and lives in Gunzenhausen, Bavaria, Germany. She is an advanced tailor and has an engineering degree in apparel and garment technology.

She worked for many years in the clothing industry and taught at the technical college for clothing technology in Aschaffenburg, Germany. For more than twenty years, she has been a teacher at the B5 fashion schools in Nuremberg, Germany.

Since 1994 she has been creating her own textile works, initially under the guidance and support of the American textile artist Nancy Crow.

Colors and shapes

In 1996 Heike Dressler came to the farbSTOFF women (Heide Stoll-Weber, Christine Brandstetter and Ingrid Stoll) and, under the label of Perfect Patch, developed a series of design patterns for the farbSTOFFstudio.

In her new work, she uses the fabrics of the workshop, supplemented by her own self-printed fabrics, to create vibrant colors overlapping with shapes. Contrasts and transparency effects are developed with a variety of visual details. Her focus is on inlays with overlapping.

Intuitive design language

As a clothing engineer, the practical implementation from concept to the finished work, is a challenge for her technical expertise.

The shapes Heike Dressler uses are based on the two-dimensional cut shapes that are needed to encase the female body in three dimensions.

Depending on the perspective, curves change and have to be balanced or rebuilt. Base lines become clearer through repetition, burn themselves into her "hard drive" and thus in turn, influence her intuitive design language. 

Colors + Forms x Fabric = Textile Art

Not work, but meditation

Interview in "Gunzenhäuser Presseschau", April 24th 2019 (translated from German)

The current exhibition with quilts by Heike Dressler is titled with the formula “Colors + Shapes x Fabric = Textile Art”. The qualified engineer for clothing technology teaches at the Nuremberg Fashion School, and has made a name for herself in the German patchwork community. The Patchwork Gilde Deutschland e.V. and the Textile Museum Neumünster have acquired quilts for their collections. The large-format wall hangings can be seen in the library until July 2, 2019. We spoke to Heike Dressler about her work and her artistic development.

The interview was conducted by Babett Guthmann.

Ms. Dressler, what does this exhibition title “Colors + Shapes x Fabric = Textile Art” mean?

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The title sums up my way of working: In the first step, I dye the fabrics with very intense colors, and occasionally fabrics are also painted. I develop the shapes and their composition from my professional experience. What I do is actually two-dimensional, but in my job, in fashion design, things are three-dimensional. So you can put the two-dimensional shapes together and then a three-dimensional structure would arise - which you can also wear!

Does that mean there are sewing patterns on the quilts?

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Yes! (She laughs.) I develop the models so that there are no darts. The darts are turned up and placed in such a way that they cannot be noticed. I also teach that at the Competence Center for Fashion and Design in Nuremberg. The curve has to fit with a good cut, the simplest example of hip swing. Especially with my series “Transformation” and “Profile” - a selection of which is represented in the exhibition - there are such two-dimensional implementations of perfect wrappings - so, sewing patterns, if you will. But only professional colleagues recognize this.

A clothing engineer who teaches textile and fashion tailors and clothing technicians doesn't necessarily work so creatively? Or to put it another way: How did you become a textile artist?

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I taught at the Aschaffenburg technical college for clothing technology, until I took a break to raise my two children. That was a bit boring. I then signed up for a patchwork course in a Limburg fabric shop. I went straight to the “Kreativa - Dortmund” with the shop owner's father. There we sold the patchwork patterns we had designed.
At this fair I met a woman from Frankfurt who makes hand-dyed fabrics. With her I went to a workshop with well-known patchwork teachers in Rolduc, the Netherlands.

Where does this patchwork tradition actually come from?

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Patchwork originally comes from England and the USA. It was actually born out of necessity: making new things out of old materials and leftovers. The Amish people have refined it. They drove it to perfection and an art scene soon developed from it. With my favorite teacher Nancy Crow, a patchwork icon in the USA, I took courses in Germany, France and especially in Switzerland.

How is such a quilt made now? The largest quilt from the “Giants” series shown in the library is almost 2 x 2 meters.

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I start by drafting by hand or working on the computer. I then change this basic idea during the work process - usually because the material may not be enough to suit the design. First the top layer of fabric, i.e. the picture, is put together. I've been working with inlays for several years, which means that the shapes are chosen so that there are as few seams as possible that would be seen in the hand-dyed fabric. I developed this technique because I didn't want to destroy the pattern when cutting through it. In the patchwork community, that is what I'm known for and it is my own design handwriting, so to speak.
In the next step, an intermediate fleece and the back are added. Then finally, it is quilted.

Is quilting a lot of work?

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Well, that depends on how big the pieces are. You have to imagine it this way with the big jobs: A big roll lies on my shoulder, in front of me is the sewing machine and a long table. Then it is quilted with multi-color yarn. On my quilts there is a seam every half an inch and for a large part I need 1000 meters of yarn. That is already hard work. In the end, the quilt's edges are invisibly set in.

How many quilts like this do you make a year?

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Few. I only work on my own work during the school holidays. It takes me about 70 hours to make a large quilt, and then I have to be able to stick with it. It's a creative process and you need a certain flow. That's why I like going to workshops, because there is only one topic: quilts.

You receive recognition for your work in particular from the Patchwork Guild and the Münster Textile Museum. But some of your work has also attracted international attention.

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It was nice that a second prize for color selection went to me at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham.

In the library you can see examples from some of your series and you can also see different approaches. One last question: What does all of this have to do with fashion, with craft and with art?

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In the exhibition in my hometown of Gunzenhausen I also wanted to show my developmental steps. There is a technique from the series “Desert Storm” and “Nuance” for which I have put patterned blocks together. This design has changed over and over again. In the "Giants" series, full-surface motifs dominate the composition for the first time. The "Cryptic" series are also smaller works in my own "secret script". And when it comes to “Transformations”, working with patterns suits me. Still, the whole thing may have its roots in pattern design, but it's a creative process that goes beyond that. An artistic process. For me, the craftsmanship of textile art is not work, but meditation.

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Heike Dressler's unique art quilts are exhibited and recognized globally.

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