A new gallery emerged onto the London craft circuit this year, the Batsford Gallery, in East London. Launched by Batsford Books, a specialist publisher, covering textiles and applied arts literature. And for their first London Craft Week they bring an exhibit focussed on the art of quilt making.
Quilting is a traditional textile craft whereby pieces of fabric are stitched together and or layered to create a soft padded material. In recent years this craft has seen a significant resurgence. Perhaps as people become increasingly concerned with the renewal and recycling of textile waste. Whilst through the pandemic textile techniques that could be practiced within the home gained interest once again.
Quilts: A Material Culture brings together five artists each with a unique approach to constructing new contemporary narratives with a process steeped in history. Featuring artists; Catherine-Marie Longtin, Julius Arthur (House of Quinn), Sophie Giller, Adam Herbert and Kate Williams.
So who are the makers steering the way for quilt making today?
Image courtesy of Kate Williams
Catherine-Marie Longtin is a French Canadian textile artist based in London. Learning embroidery skills from her Mother and taking in evening classes at Morley College. In 2008 Longtin left her academic career behind, immersing herself within the art of quilting. Now turning this hobby into a career. Forming interesting combinations the quilts are confident in colour and patterns. Reflective of the abstract art references like the work of Rothko and Albers that she draws her inspiration from. Each quilt one-of-a-kind, Longtin creates bold art pieces and works to bespoke commissions.
Cornish craftsman Julius Arthur left a career in menswear to turn his hand to quilt making and founded the studio House of Quinn in 2016. Creating limited run editions of quilts and handcrafted objects, Arthur draws on the daily rituals and familiarity of the everyday objects, whilst imbuing them with a contemporary crafted narrative. Using the craft of quilt making to explore where the meeting point between art and function lies. Sustainably minded Arthur works with reclaimed cloth. Foraging for interesting materials and sourcing end of rolls from suppliers. Offering a new sense of life to something that may otherwise be discarded.
Image courtesy of Julius Arthur (House of Quinn)
Sophie Giller is a Norfolk based textile artist and graduate from the Royal College of Art in 2021. Bringing attention to the value of process, labour, craft and care of everyday materials. Gillers works are individually born from personal narratives. Working with second hand materials she has sourced and collected over time, she is simultaneously collecting the memories attached to these remnants of cloth, their emotional remains. Which then through the art of quilting are constructed together to form new dialogues.
Image courtesy of Sophie Giller
Print designer Adam Herbert trained at the Glasgow School of Art and Royal College of Art and has since gone on to lead a very successful career over the last twenty years; working with brands such as Liberty and Paul Smith. It was then during lockdown in 2020 that Herbert found quilt making. As a pattern designer this technique offered a new mode of expression for connecting shapes rhythmically. Building interesting material combinations and upholding the handmade feel of the process, Herbert reveals a unique personality for each quilt.
And finally Kate Williams, a visual artist based in East London, previously working as a documentary filmmaker, Williams now works predominately in the medium of textiles and quilt making. The quilts are made using natural fibres of linen and wool. Taking form as large scale art pieces her quilts present a playful position on postmodernist narratives. As Williams endeavours to capture “an eerie yet pleasurable sense of estrangement”.
Ahead of the show I caught up with each maker to find out what it is about quilt making they find so fascinating, resulting in a devotion of their practice to this textile technique...
I knew nothing of quilts and quilting growing up, but I was surrounded by people who made things with their hands - my mother in particular was an accomplished seamstress. I often went with her to the haberdashery and loved the endless displays of colours, patterns and types of fabric. I was more into interior textiles than clothes making, and I came to quilting much later, mostly as an excuse to buy fabrics for myself. I now have a huge collection that I use as my palette to create quilts and artworks. I love combining fabrics so that the marriage of colours and textures is better than the sum of its parts.
I have been captivated by the relationships we have with objects and the act of collecting and arranging them since a young age, and quilts embody so many of these facets. From the creative process of making the quilt to its potential use and the passing down of the object to others, quilts can become an integral part of our daily lives and personal collections, carrying with them memories and stories.
I have found myself drawn to the endless possibilities of quilts and textiles over the past years. The ease of obtaining fabric, and its ubiquitous presence in my life, has undoubtedly contributed to its significance in my work thus far. I am enjoying the process and development of my work and have discovered a practice that feels right for me, allowing me to be myself through the act of making.
I began working with quilts as a response to the 2020 lockdown. I was immediately captured by the process. My quilts often feel very graphic and have become an extension of my print design practice, for me this was a new medium through which I could combine singular forms and colours into repeating patterns. I am also a hoarder of fabric and I love spending time placing, cutting and arranging fabrics and colours together to create a new image or pattern. This process for me is addictive.
Teaching myself to sew at around 20 and falling in love with patchwork quilts gave me a new way of joining materials together. I think the aspect of joining fabrics or other materials in a deeply repetitive way is very important to me and so is working with colour. I love that a quilt can hold so many things: their pieced fabrics - that can have so much behind them: sentimental, formal, narrative, pictorial, historical, patterns etc, stitches, labour, materiality, layers, and how many aspects to the process allow for personal expression to come through.
I’ve loved quilts since I was a child - their soft tactility and the contrast between that and the careful structure that underpins them as patterns and objects. But actually, I am really quite a poor quilter! I don’t know how to ‘quilt’ in a traditional sense - I suppose I have sort of borrowed the particular techniques that I needed in order to explore a synergy between the surface qualities of a quilt and the materiality of the objects and landscapes that I wanted to represent in my art.