First, a sincere thank you to my weird sister in needlework, who invited me to participate in this whole exercise. Because I have a day job, because this is something I do on nights and weekends, I definitely don’t feel like an ✨artiste✨ or someone whose work belongs in a gallery.
So it is with pride and humility that this latest quilt is being represented by Gallery 1988 in a pop culture-themed show featuring a wide representation of fiber artists, “Running with Scissors,” that drops on April 28, 2023, curated by Michelle Littell of Wu Stitch.
I like to memorialize memes in my needlework, in particular, memes that have some kind of universal truth or smart observation hidden under layers and layers of semiotics, disassociation and irony. It’s fun to take humor and wisdom that was designed for a digital medium and make it analog. I usually love a political meme, but for this pop culture show, I went more subtle with an iconic line from the first season of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” from a scene where momager Kris encouraged her daughter, Kim, while she posed nude for Playboy. I could wax political on the decision to monetize your children and grandchildren at length, but for this show, I was looking for a fun phrase that was kind of affirmative.
In addition to lettering, I wanted to play with low volume fabrics and checker patterns. I began pulling fabric from my stash, a combination of new and old fabrics, pinks and reds for the lettering and a combination of low volumes that attracted me, including patterns and shirting materials. And then I just went to town.
I cut a million 2.5″ blocks and began making some shapes.
I plotted out all the letters that would make the phrase and made them all at once.
Then I began putting them into words.
I wanted it to look high energy, so I used a lot of HSTs in punchy colors and patterns to transition to the checkered parts, and then I cut and sewed so many checkered blocks.
Finally I had something fit to quilt.
It’s curious how you can never really tell what the final piece is going to look like until after it’s quilted. Even knowing this is my experience, I stay ambivalent about how it’s going right up to binding.
Note: Being ambivalent about a thing that takes hours and hours over many weeks to complete is a special form of self-flagellation.
I machine quilted this one in a simple 2″ x 2″ grid, and then went back in for some big stitch hand quilting on the diagonal. I bound it, as always, with a stripe.
My family was super supportive of the process, up to and including the need for a dynamic quilt photoshoot. We took this puppy out on a windy day and took photos all around Lake Mendota before the ice melted.
We tried valiantly for some Tenney Park lighthouse photos but the wind made this blanket into a sail, and we worried about having to chase it across the ice. The outtakes are hilarious.
There are photos of me trying to show this quilt to a flock of wild turkeys.
When you’re so close to a project for so long, you are intimate with your own weird processes over time. You know all the flaws, the things you’d rather redo. Yet the wabi sabi of a soft sculpture is part of what makes handmade objects special. There is a radical practice of forgiveness in this work, messing up, trying again, and making do (in “you’re doing amazing, sweetie,” the “despite prevailing circumstances” is implied). When you look at a quilt, you can see the choices the quilter made, their mistakes and recoveries, and sometimes, how they made do with what they had. It’s a parable. A metaphor. It’s charming.
Something about taking the gloss and branding off of this huge reality show that made this dubiously ethical family into multi-billionaires, and bringing it back to earth? Making it humble? I live for that.
The gallery says it’s their first quilt.
“You’re Doing Amazing Sweetie,” LHB 2023. Cotton and thread, machine pieced, hand- and machine-quilted.