Stitched and Sewn

This week, guest blogger + artist + dear friend, Cathleen P. Cueto II, explores the art of the quiltmaking, the infamous Quiltmaker's of Gee's Bend, the legacy of quiltmaking among younger designer + artistans, and the influence of a time honored tradition in contemporary art...

Sue Willie Seltzer, born 1922, “Housetop" -- nine-block "Half-Logcabin" variation, ca 1955. Cotton and sythetic blends, 80 x 76”

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, my mind keeps leaping right past the feast and straight to the sofa after dinner is done. I love collapsing onto the couch with a groan of over-satisfaction, and curling up with my loved ones under the covers. That feeling of togetherness, all huddled close, that’s what I enjoy most about holidays with family. Inspired by a little snippet I heard on NPR about the well-known women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, I’ve gone down the internet rabbit hole researching their incredible quilted works of art and marveling at their devoted, tight-knit community.


Missouri Pettway (1902-1981) , Blocks and strips work-clothes quilt, 1942, Cotton, corduroy, cotton sacking material, 90" x 69"                                                                                                                                                                            

Missouri's daughter Arlonzia describes the quilt: "It was when Daddy died. I was about seventeen, eighteen. He stayed sick about eight months and passed on. Mama say, 'I going to take his work clothes, shape them into a quilt to remember him, and cover up under it for love.' She take his old pants legs and shirttails, take all the clothes he had, just enough to make that quilt, and I helped her tore them up. Bottom of the pants is narrow, top is wide, and she had me to cutting the top part out and to shape them up in even strips."

Louisiana Bendolph
As I Leave I Shall Return, 2014 , Color aquatint and soft ground Somerset white paper, 23" x 32"                                                                                             

Master printer Pam Paulson was so moved by the exhibition of these women’s quilts when she saw them at the Whitney Museum in 2003, that she approached some of the quilters to translate their work into prints at her Berkeley, CA studio. Some of them are currently on display at Warren WIlson College and The Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design in Asheville, NC.

You can watch a neat encapsulation of their story in this short documentary Quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend.

Inspired by their history, their deep pride in their community, and their impulse to make beautiful functional objects to simply keep their children warm, I was heartbroken hearing them talk about the lack of interest most of their kids felt in learning the craft. Luckily there are other artists out there who continue to broaden the art form of cloth + thread.

Founded by Emily Fischer, Haptic Labs is based in Brooklyn, NY. The tactile quilted maps were inspired by Emily’s mother who has begun losing her eyesight due to glaucoma.


Haptic Lab , New York City Quilt86 x 92” , $450 

Oklahoma-born, RISD-trained, Meg Callahan makes all of her quilts to order using traditional and experimental patchwork methods.

Meg Callahan ,   Spine Quilt ,     80" x 68”,      $600                                                                                                                                   

Meg CallahanSpine Quilt , 80" x 68”, $600                                                                                                                                  

Jimmy McBride is an artist and tailor working in Brooklyn, NY who hand and machine quilted these beauties.

Jimmy McBrideJet in the Carina Nebula , 73" x 89"                                                                                                                                                              

Now that your minds are teeming with all of the patched up possibilities, here’s a bit more stimulation from other non-quilting sources:

Louise BourgeoisUntitled, 2005, Fabric, 16" x 21"

Louise Bourgeois has always been a revelation for me, but these fabric works created a few years before she passed away at the age of 98, totally blew my mind apart. You can see more HERE.

This large-scale wall hanging includes elements from international maritime signal flags.

Esther Stewart is an Australian artist whose bold, crisp paintings push color, form, and perspective into new realms.

Esther Stewart
Why Can’t We, 2013, 
enamel on board, 60 x 90 cm

If your interest is piqued but your sewing skills aren’t quite as advanced, HERE’S a great online tutorial for something simple that you could definitely tweak to reflect your vision

-Cathleen P. Cueto II.

Cathleen P Cueto II is an artist living in Durham, NC with her husband and son. She is currently developing with her partner, Natalia Yovane. Art Pow Wow is a social network and online marketplace where visual artists can connect and trade art with each other, as well as sell their work to collectors.