Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How do I sign my quilts?

I am an avid listener of Abby Glassenberg's podcast, "While She Naps." It is the conversation that accompanies me to school just about every day... especially when I was binge-listening to the last two years of her recordings! Now that I have caught up with all her back episodes, I eagerly await her new podcasts each week and try to entertain my trips with other podcasters, some of who are interesting and others who get jumped midstream to the next one on my iPod just like a song that I am not in the mood to listen to.

Self-portrait quilt by Luke Haynes
One wonderful and recent episode of "While She Naps" was an interview with Luke Haynes, a graphic artist turned quilter. He began as an art major in college and it is his graphic design and art skills that he brings to his quilts. This fact caught my interest quickly and after the episode, I found myself looking up his work and eagerly examining his quilted images online.

Although I love to quilt and I love to work with thread and fibers, my initial love for traditional quilts quickly faded away.  I am not a perfect quilter and could never compete with the best-of-the-best quilters out there. I could never be judged for my sewing ability or how well I follow the rules of the quilting police. My creativity with quilting comes out of the joy of working with my hands, the joy of seeing how colors and patterns work together, and for the moment, my obsession with hand quilting the negative spaces. As I explore the many techniques for machine and hand sewing, I try to master these techniques as best as possible, then just enjoy what I can bring out of it as an art form. I am first and foremost an artist. It is what I do, it is who I am.

I pay homage to generations of women who have spent their lives stitching to perfection and may not have ever made a name for themselves in the process. But as a response to Abby's interview with Luke Haynes, there were many listeners who criticized him for getting his fame just by being a male in the mostly female world of quilts. And as one rebuttal put it, Mr. Haynes wants to be known for his quilts, not for being a male quilter, yet he signs his name so boldly on the front... a very male thing to do.

Robert Indiana 
His bold name in all caps is what I first admired about his quilts! It never crossed my mind to label that a male thing. I enjoy the artwork of Robert Indiana, for example, and I use his "LOVE" sculpture as the basis of an art lesson that I teach in school each year. I have never considered Robert Indiana's work to be a male thing either, just an artist's interpretation of a design with letters.

As well, I never go on about Georgia O'Keeffe being a female because of her soft color palette. Her work becomes the focus in my classroom when we learn how to blend colors of paint on the canvas. And that is obviously not just a female thing to do! I suppose gender matters less these days and that is a good thing. We can all be inspired by anyone.

My 2 year old quilt with a revised border design
I have completed a couple of quilts since my "Learn to Quilt" class two years ago. For the first quilt I made, I was taught to make a label on the back of the quilt. That label became a work of art all by itself, with my choice of typeface for the name and date, and the beautiful fabric frame surrounding the muslin square with the signature. As soon as I heard the Luke Haynes interview, I realized what was wrong with my label. It should not be on the back!

After experimenting with hand stitching and recently adding designs to the border of this two year old quilt, I also added my signature using the same Perle 8 cotton I used for the border. It is signed exactly as I do my paintings. I am very proud of my efforts, and I love the feeling I get when I see my signature right there on the front.

For the border, I added rows of hand stitched Perle cotton. Then I improvised with free form swirls in red.
I love the detail that the quilting stitches adds to the wide border. 
Not as bold as Luke Haynes,
but there it is.


  1. Thank you so much for these thoughtful reflections on my conversation with Luke. I enjoyed hearing how you think about signatures on artwork and on quilts. And thank you for listening to my show!

    1. It really is a pleasure to hear your voice in the mornings on my car radio! You have taught me so much about a craft world that I love and how to become business savvy as well. Thank you, Abby.

  2. I love your signature on the front! I might have to start doing the same thing. :)

  3. Thanks Kimberly! More power to the artist in all of us!!