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  • tenleyschwartz

Quilt Influences

I'm making quilty things. Small pieces I'm likening to sketches, and then a collection of pieced blocks I think may become quilt. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and I think it's interesting to share some influences. Some show up more visibly than others. So! Here's my list:

Gees Bend

I remember interlibrary loaning an amazing big art book about Gees Bend quilts during a summer when I worked at my tiny hometown library. I was mesmerized.

There's an energy in these things. They just sing.

The colors that shouldn't go together but do. The energy of a seam that refuses to be a straight line and is better for it.

The African-American women of Gees Bend (a rural area in Alabama) have been making quilts for generations, using techniques that are specific to their isolated area. I don't know enough to give you the full history, but I do know that these pieces do something to me. I want to sit in front of one and stare for a while, like drinking in a painting. Looking at my computer monitor will have to do.

If you're new to them, I recommend the National Endowment for the Arts' page.

Carson Ellis

Carson is an author & illustrator who makes gorgeous ink and gouache paintings and does lettering AND amazing pictorial quilts. Basically, I want to be her when I grow up.

Look at this thing! I saw it and enjoying its existence wasn't enough. I felt the ache to make my own thing. Yes, quilts take forever. Yes, there are a lot of finicky parts. But just look at it! The colors! The words! (I love art with words on it, my reader brain just lights up). I love how it feels so distinctly her.

A lot of people make really technically gorgeous quilts that feel flat to me, often from a kit or established set of guidelines, and seeing another artist take techniques from classic craft and turn them into this thing only she could make? It gets me fired up.

Carson created some quilt Q&A videos on her (paid) Substack, and it made the whole process seem more doable. It's just trying things out!

She also is playing with this medieval-ish imagery that I am obsessed with right now. Ugh. I love it.

Grace Rother

Grace's quilts caught my eye on Pinterest, with amazing color combos and unstuffy photos that are so inviting to me.

Don't you just feel calm? Grace makes most of their quilts with reclaimed fabric, including a lot of linen garments and vintage bedsheets. I love this for a couple reasons: textile waste is a huge unchecked issue, quilts made with collected materials have an energy to them (I keep mentioning energy like some woo-woo person, but how else do I explain one quilt making me glad to be alive while another quilt makes me yawn?), and you can often get nicer fabrics for thrift store prices (if you're willing to take a seam ripper to that old shirt!)

Grace's color use and composition blow me away. The quilts are confident and joyful, and feel so ALIVE.

Carrie Strine

I think another via-Pinterest find? Beautiful, and the kind of massive undertakings I imagine starting and then leaving half-finished. Big, bed-sized quilts. Fiddly blocks. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

This one, made for friends as a wedding gift, feels like a window into a life I want to live. People make these gorgeous things and give them away to friends!

The thoughtfulness and generosity is mind boggling. I want to know that kind of friend, I want to be that kind of friend.

"Of course this is for you. I love you."

And this guy? I mean.

Stunning. Again with the aliveness. I think it's impossible to have someone's hands running all over something for so long and not have it feel vibrant. I think all my quilt influences hand-quilt the big top/batting/bottom sandwiches, rather than use a long-arm machine. I adore the by-hand-ness of it.

Those are the quilters that nudged me to quit sitting on the sidelines and get to quiltin'. (I'm having a very good time).

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