Creating A Story in Fabric

It was a year ago when the quilting group at Bear’s Paw Fabrics hosted a quilting and book event featuring Cork Wars. I didn’t realize how the book’s story, centered in Maryland and involving a material at its heart, lent itself to quilting.

On entering the store in Towson, Maryland, I was struck to see, dominating one wall, the remarkable quilt that Marty Vint had created, “Cork Oak.” She had absorbed the book’s narrative and re-imagined it in the visual medium of quilting. Here she talks about the choices she made in crafting that narrative, using fabric and cork. Bear’s Paw has created templates for others to adapt the story in their own way.

Her work recalls the work of artists in other material traditions, for example the Hmong story cloths that commemorate epic movements and their migration through landscapes of war and refugee camps.

Fabric culture is a fascinating field with remarkable intersections. Janneken Smucker is an historian and fifth-generation Mennonite quiltmaker, and author of Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon (Johns Hopkins University Press). As Associate Professor of History at West Chester University, she specializes in digital history and American material culture. Janneken wrote to me about my book Soul of a People to say, “I recently got my copy of your book and it’s proving useful for my chapter on how the FWP and Index of American Design (and a few other related projects) celebrated historical quilts. Good stuff!”

Thanks to these craftspeople and scholars for opening new vistas for me.

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