I felt compelled to create a small series for you, focusing on the type of work that has been a source of inspiration for me. I've named it The Humble Stitch - Let's dive straight into the first part: American Quilting.
My knowledge about American quilts was limited until I encountered the work of Natalie Chanin. Her pieces were captivatingly suspended above me in a breathtaking visual display at Barneys in the early 2000s. What intrigued me the most was the contemporary appearance of her work, largely attributed to her technique of exposing the running stitch and allowing threads to dangle from the garment, remaining uncut.
The history of American quilting traces back to the early 1700s. Initially, quilts were fashioned primarily from utilitarian fabrics, pieced together from scant cloth remnants to provide warmth to colonial Americans on the frontier. These early quilts often resembled patchwork. Decorative elements began to emerge in quilting during the 1800s, as the activity evolved into a leisurely pursuit for women when they weren't engaged in farming or other responsibilities.
In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the utilitarian purpose of quilts resurfaced due to rationing. This era also witnessed the emergence of improvisational design, notably pioneered by the accomplished quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama. During this time, the majority of Gee's Bend quilts were crafted from worn-out work clothes. It's truly astonishing that they transformed literal rags into stunning works of wearable art through their boundless creativity.
I believe that these artisans encoded our American narratives into fabric. Quilting serves as a visual history, encapsulating both our painful and remarkably beautiful experiences. The work that continues to influence me today mirrors our collective struggles and endeavors. It reflects our persistent effort to create something beautiful out of the ordinary, much like the patchwork process itself.
To me, American quilting embodies a compilation of the incredibly diverse experiences that constitute American life, all interwoven through the unassuming yet powerful Humble Stitch.
If you're interested in sharing what I've written here in visual storytelling form, please click here to be taken to my slideshow on Instagram!