Posted by: nancyisanders | December 11, 2009

Illustrator Interview: Margaret Cusack

Meet Illustrator Margaret Cusack!
Web site: Margaret Cusack

Since 1972, I have created machine-stitched appliquéd artwork using fabric as my medium: samplers, portraits, soft sculptures and large architectural-scale hangings. Much of my stitched artwork has been commissioned for use as illustration: for children’s books, magazines, advertisements and posters.

I describe my work as “Norman Rockwell realism created with stitchery and fabric.” From April to July 2010, “Uncommon Threads” will be exhibited at the Dane G. Hansen Memorial Museum and Plaza in Logan, Kansas. For more information:

My focus in college was in graphic design and I bring all of this training to my stitched artwork. I use fabric’s colors, patterns and textures to create realism and to communicate ideas and concepts. My choices of individual fabrics bring a universality to my work. It has an egalitarian quality, a sense of humor and a folk art aspect to it that makes it of interest to people of all ages and of all nationalities.

I never tire of creating images that involve the viewer and evoke a response.

Featured Book:
Picture Your World in Appliqué

Picture Your World in Appliqué is a how-to book about my artwork. It includes many images from children’s books that I have illustrated.

From gathering tools and supplies, to choosing, cutting and positioning fabrics into a composition, to adding unique finishing touches, Picture Your World in Appliqué shows how to create richly evocative works of art to be cherished for generations. Mary Leman Austin of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine said, “At long last, quilt makers can learn Margaret’s design and technique secrets for creating realistic imagery.”

The book includes more than 200 color photographs, plus patterns, diagrams, and seven machine-applique projects: family tree, banner, nostalgic portrait, floral border, holiday tree, landscape, and still life. With Cusack’s step-by-step guidance, readers transform the projects into scrapbook covers, picture frames, hangings, and pillows.

Robert Shaw, author of The Art Quilt, commented, “Margaret Cusack’s textile Americana combines broadly appealing subject matter with serious artistic skills. This book makes her techniques as accessible as her images and provides information that will be useful to amateurs and professionals alike.”

Featured Book:
The Christmas Carol Sampler

The Christmas Carol Sampler
is a book of holiday songs that, at present, is out of print, but was a very important project in my career. It includes homages to other artists and illustrators: Norman Rockwell, Georges de la Tour, Edward Hopper, Grandma Moses, Grant Wood, and Edward Hicks. I also used the faces of family and friends in the book.

Q: As an artist, what technique do you prefer to work with?
I am an artist who creates Norman-Rockwell realism, using stitchery and fabric. Most of my images are commissioned as illustrations.

Q: What inspires your creativity the most?
At the moment, I am very intrigued with faces. I’ve been using metallic fabrics to create a series of portraits (Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, faces of family members, anonymous faces, etc.)

Fabric, itself, is a great source of inspiration. Fabrics provide instantaneous color, pattern and texture. Once I establish the “color palette” for a specific project or commission, I intuitively make my color choices and the images begin to take shape.

I also love typography and have created typefaces and also adapted typefaces for some illustration assignments. Each typeface has it own peculiar voice and I sometimes choose a nostalgic typeface to be used in a satirical way.

Q: Do you have a favorite picture book and how does it influence you as an artist?
I actually never owned books as a child. But I did borrow ten books at a time from the library. I especially enjoyed a bold alphabet book illustrated in a woodcut style.

Q: Share one tip you feel artists need to know about breaking into the children’s publishing industry.
I think it’s very important to be connected with other illustrators (I suggest that young illustrators form their own support group with other illustrators to get input and share information). It’s also important to join organizations like SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) and the GAG.


  1. Margaret: I feel cheated, I wanted the interview to go on and on..I was just getting started on reading it..
    You have a lot to say since you have touched so many areas with your stichery! maybe you had to get back to work..

  2. Hi Marg
    Great interview.
    I am always amazed when I see your work….still!

    I regret I did not get to see your show with Frank and Kate. But I see your images often…in my mind…


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