My Story – or How I got Here

It took me 47 years to uncover my artistic voice!

I spent about 30 of those 47 years  studying the creative process, a study that continues to this day. As far back as I can remember I wanted to be an artist. I grew up thinking I could never be one since drawing didn’t come naturally to me like it did to Patty Donohue, my 4th grade girlfriend, or Diane Kuzio who sat next to me in my high school art class. I thought there was a secret that artists knew and, until I knew the secret, I would never – could never – be an artist. Does this sound familiar to you?

I was desperately driven (really!) to figure out how to be an artist

so that I could create work that inspired others the way so many had inspired me. I wanted to create art that would speak to the soul and bring beauty into the world in much the same way other artists had touched my soul and enriched my life. I was searching for my voice – for a way to literally make what was in my heart visible so I could share it with others.

I spent my formative years (all 40+ of them)  taking classes and reading books. I didn’t want to start without knowing everything there was to know, not realizing that my desire for complete and utter knowledge built a wall, a very tall wall,  between me and the very thing I was searching for.

One frozen January 4th in the year 2000, I discovered the secret I had been seeking could not be found in classes nor in the books. I realized that the secret was in my hands and in my heart. The answer was in the doing, in the making of art – my art.  Although all the studying has served me well, deepening my knowledge, once I found my voice I also found the answer I had been searching for – the truth about art and creativity.

And then I seriously began to wonder

“What if I had never discovered this secret of creativity that I had been searching for all my life?”

Boy did that scare me. Becoming the artist I had struggled so long to be had changed my life and I felt complete. I worried, “How many other women are out there who are also searching for a way to express what is in their heart?”

Stronger than desire to make art, is my drive to passion to share what I have learned.

Since the year 2000, I have:

  • Taught art workshops coast to coast and internationally
  • Authored 8 books and contributed to countless others
  • Served as Contributing Editor for Cloth Paper Scissors™ magazine for 5 years
  • Written articles for a variety of craft magazines
  • Filmed 5 DVDs
  • Appeared on Quilting Arts TV (Seasons 1 and 15), and the Quilt Show (online TV)
  • Successfully launched Lesley Riley’s TAP Transfer Artist Paper (later acquired by C&T Publishing)
  • Created the Red Thread Retreat, an intimate art and personal growth gathering held annually (sometimes 2X/yr!) in Maryland and occasionally internationally


The thing that I enjoy MOST about my own artist success is guiding and mentoring my clients, students and readers toward their own personal artist success. After working with thousands of women and hearing the same questions from them time after time – “How do I find my voice, my style?” “Am I any good?” “How did you get where you are?” “How do you find the time to do everything?” I realized I need to do more.

Saving a little time for my own art, of course, I have made a commitment to help women overcome the obstacles (the Creativity Gap) that life throws at us and live the creative life they yearn for.

Girl watching the starry skies.



Lesley Riley wears many hats. She is an internationally known artist, art quilter, teacher, writer and Artist Success coach and mentor who turned her initial passion for photos, color and the written word into a dream occupassion.

Her art and articles have appeared in too many places to keep count. As former Contributing Editor of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Lesley developed a passion for showcasing new talent in mixed media art. Her first book, Quilted Memories, brought new ideas and techniques to quilting and preserving memories. Fabric Memory Books, combined fabric and innovative ideas with the art of bookmaking. Two more books, Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur and Create with Transfer Artist Paper, introduced versatile new materials to the quilt and mixed media art world. Creative Image Transfer and Creative Lettering Workshop round out the list of publications.  Her 2013 self-published Amazon best seller, Quotes Illustrated, was expanded and republished by F&W Publications as Inspiring Quotes Illustrated. She is currently working on her next book, The Creativity Gap.

In an ongoing effort to find the best ways for quilters and mixed media artists to get permanent photos on fabric, Lesley introduced Transfer Artist Paper™, named the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) 2011 Most Innovative new product, and a line of Reverse Alphabet Stamps for printmaking techniques, like gel plates, that require mirror image lettering.

Lesley is the former host of the Art & Soul podcast, recording over 75 podcasts on art and the creative process through in-depth interviews with contemporary artists. Her passion and desire to help every artist reach their creative dreams and potential has led her to write a trade non-fiction book on the creative process, drawing from her own experience, insight, and a knack for identifying what’s preventing creative dreamers from being creative doers.

Lesley creates her magic on an idyllic mountain top hideaway in Cascade MD, where she lives with her high-school sweetheart husband. You’ll find her in her creative hideout from sunup to sundown unless, of course, any of her nine grandchildren come to visit.

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2003 BA, Woman’s Studies, University of MD
1996-1998 Corcoran School of Art, Washington, DC
2014 Reflections, Dinner At 8, Houston
Tarnish – SAQA Regional Show, Rockville, MD
2006 Fine Focus – Traveling Exhibit
2005 Women of Biblical Proportion – Traveling Exhibit
I Remember Mama –International Quilt Festival, Houston, TX
2004 The Beat, Mary Lou Zeek Gallery, Salem, OR
Fine Focus – Traveling Art Quilt Exhibit
Women of Biblical Proportion – Traveling Exhibit
A Page from My Book: Journal Quilts 2004, Houston, TX
2003 Dreaming the Garden, Laura Cater-Woods, Curator, Traveling Exhibit
All Dolled Up, Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, Glen Allen, VA
Sassafras Gallery, Baltimore, MD – Group Fiber Show
Beyond Reading – Ellipse Arts Center, Arlington, VA, Book Arts
Small Works, Katie Gingrass Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
Fiberarts Adventures, West Springfield, MA
Huntington House Art Museum, Windsor, CT
A Page from My Book: Journal Quilts 2003, Houston, TX
I Remember Mama, International Quilt Festival, Houston, TX
Faculty Exhibit, International Quilt Festival, Houston, TX
2002-2007 Journal Quilt Exhibit, International Quilt Festival
2001 Art Quilts at the Sedgwick 2001
Creative Crafts Council Biennial Show
2000 The Artist as Quiltmaker, FAVA, Oberlin, OH
The Good Earth, Aullwood Audubon Center, Dayton, OH 2000

Selected Teaching

The Foundry Art Center, St. Charles, MO
Art Unraveled, Phoenix, AZ
Australasian Quilt Festival, Melbourne, AU
Expertise Events, Brisbane, AU
Art Guild, Auckland, NZ
Quilting by the Lake, NY
Art & Soul Retreats – Italy, OR, VA, TX, MO
International Quilt Festivals – Houston, Chicago
Fiber Artists of San Antonio (TX)
Northern Star Quilt Guild
Quilt Cruise Sponsored by Quilting Arts Magazine
Hudson River Valley Fiberart Workshops, NY
Idyllwild Arts, CA
Valley Ridge Art Studio, WI
Sewing Expo, MI
Artfiberfest, Seattle, WA
Great Expectations Creativity Center, TX
Art Unraveled, Phoenix, AZ
Coupeville Arts Center, WA (now Pacific Northwest Art School)
Foundry Art Centre, MO
An Artful Journey, CA
Suffolk Museum, VA
Artistic Journey, Australia
Nimble Fingers Guild, MD
Quilters Unlimited Guild, VA
Arlington Arts Center, VA
North Suburban NeedleArts Guild, IL
Fresno Fiberarts Guild, CA
East Bay Heritage Quilters, CA



Creativity Coaching Association, Member


Contributing Editor, Cloth Paper Scissors Magazine
1999-2016     Studio Art Quilt Association, Juried Member
2004-2005 Co-Regional Representative, Studio Art Quilt Association
Fiber Art Study Group, Washington


Creative Lettering Workshop, North Light, November 2015
Inspirational Quotes Illustrated, North Light, November 2014
Creative Image Transfer, C&T Publishing, Summer 2014
Quoted Illustrated, Artist Success Press, November 2013
Create with Transfer Artist Paper (TAP), C&T Publishing, Spring 2011
Fabulous Fabric Art with Lutradur, C&T Publishing, January 2009
Fabric Memory Books, Lark/Chapelle/Sterling, January 2007
Quilted Memories, Chapelle/Sterling, May 2005
Contributing Artist
Creating Art at the Speed of Life, Pam Carriker, 2013
Incite: Dreams Realized, The Bestof Mixed Media, Tonia Jenny, 2013
Inside the Creative Studio, Cate Prato, 2011
The Savvy Crafter’s Guide to Success, Sandy McCall, 2008
Mixed Media Self-Portraits, Cate Coulacos Prato, 2008
Art Making, Collections, and Obsessions, Perrella, 2008
Creative Quilting: The Journal Quilt Project, Karey Bresenhan, 2006
Artist Trading Card Workshop, Bernie Berlin, 2007
Beginners Guild to Art Quilts, Banar Designs, 2006
Creating with Fabric, Jill Haglund, 2008
I Remember Mama, Karey Bresenhan, 2005
Innovative Fabric Imagery for Quilts, Cindy Lyle Rymer, with Lynn Koolish, 2007
The Art of the Family Tree, Jenn Mason, 2007
Mixed Emulsions, Angela Cartwright, 2007
True Vision, Authentic Art Journaling, L.K. Ludwig, 2008
In This House, Angela Cartwright & Sarah Fishburn, 2007
Shabby and Beyond Scrapbooking Ideas, Jill Haglund, 2006
Beyond Paper Dolls, Lynne Perrella
Fabric Art Journals, Pam Sussman, 2005
The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery, Karen Michel
Alphabetica, Lynne Perrella
Collage Discovery Workshop: Beyond the Unexpected, Claudine Hellmuth, 2005
Artists Creating with Photos, Jill Haglund
New Techniques in Wearable Art, Rïce Freeman-Zachary, 2004
Artists’ Journals & Sketchbooks, Lynne Perella, 2004
Quilted Projects From Scraps and Stash, Betty Auth, 2004
Making Creative Cloth Dolls, Marthe LeVan, 2002
Anatomy of a Doll, Susanna Oroyon, 1997

Studios, Fall 2014, Winter 2009, Spring 2009, Fall 2008
Quiltmaker, January, 2006
Artist’s Sketchbook, April 2006
Cloth Paper Scissors, all issues through 2007
Quilting Arts, Issues #8, 11,15, 17, 38
Somerset Studio, November 2002, March 2004, March 2009
Georgian Court University Magazine, Spring 2005
Doll Crafter & Costuming, October 2006
Frederick (MD) Magazine, June 2006
Soft Dolls & Animals, October 2002
Montgomery County Insight, January 2007
Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, October 2006
Quiltmaker, March 2006
Scrapbooking & Beyond, February 2007
Quiltemagasinet (Denmark), May 2003
The Professional Quilter, Winter 2006

Selected Articles
Tapping into Image Transfers, Quilting Arts #38
Art Quilting Made Easy, Quilting Arts #17
The Wonder of Lutradur, Cloth Paper Scissors #10
Every Fabric Tells a Story, Quilting Arts #11
Inkjet Image Transfers, Somerset Studio Vol 6, Issue 6
Got It Covered: Easy Steps to a Felt Covered Head, Doll Crafter & Costuming, October 2006
Creating an Artist, Creating a Doll, Soft Dolls & Animals, October 2002
Bird Dreams, A Mixed Media Art Quilt, Cloth Paper Scissors #7
Making Time for Making Art, The Professional Quilter, Winter 2006
In Rust We Trust, Cloth Paper Scissors #15