Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Magic Patch, July/August 2011

Original article (English) by Linzee Kull McCray:

Erick Wolfmeyer thrives within limitations. Unlike most quilters, he has a modest stash of fabric and uses what he has before buying more. He lives in a small dwelling, just 565 square feet. He’s chosen work that pays his basic bills and little more. He has no television, no pets, no Internet connection at home. For him, quilts are a metaphor for this life.

“I’m piecing it all together, with what I have to work with,” he says.

Yet there is abundance in Erick’s life, too. His quilts are intensively pieced (Turning Point, which ultimately became two quilts, has 4,608 pieces) and his color choices are strong and vibrant. His creations stand in rich visual contrast to the simple weathered barn boards and picket fences against which he chooses to photograph them. And once finished, he doesn’t hold them close; all his quilts are either given as gifts or sold immediately. “They come from inside of me and when I’m done with one, I’m on to the next,” says Erick. “For me, it’s about the process.”

Erick’s quilts walk a line between traditional and modern. Unlike many art quilters, he uses no embellishments—no paint, no sequins, no buttons, no embroidery. Instead, he relies on piecing and quilting to telegraph his message. His quilts could function on a bed just as easily as they can be hung on a wall. But each is inspired by events in both Erick’s life and the wider world, and created with an artist’s eye toward design and color.

His formal training came when he earned a degree in photography from Washington University. But the toxic chemicals associated with developing and processing film made him increasingly uncomfortable. In 1990, he stitched a baby quilt as a gift for friends and was intrigued. Fabric seemed the perfect medium for him to explore. “A quilt is portable and very forgiving, and I love the feel of fabric,” he says. He notes too that there is something meditative and soothing in the rote processes of sewing and cutting fabric.

Perhaps most important for Erick is that quilting connects him with the women in his life. The loss of some of those female relationships plays large in his life and in his art. Given up for adoption when he was seven months old, Erick mourns the lost connections with his biological family. “For most of us, something in life didn’t work out as we’d planned,” he says. “Women lose kids, kids lose their moms. I’m working it out through my quilts.”

Erick’s inspirations range from the mundane to the majestic. When U.S. President Barak Obama was elected, Erick stitched a log cabin quilt with houses in the center of the blocks that faced both right and left. “Though they had different views, they were all part of a single community,” he says of the quilt’s metaphorical message. Packaging on a beer carton inspired Smokehouse Rose and old-fashioned movie tickets sparked the pattern of Chromotopia. He created Rapture in response to the countless news stories surrounding the recent Haitian earthquake and recession. “These quilts are my way of showing up in the world,” Erick says simply.

While traditional quilts inspire Erick (he employs Amish quilters to hand quilt his quilt tops), a keen understanding of color theory sets his work apart from antique quilts. “I love color and texture and I use a lot of visual trickery,” he says. “I’ll take two greens that would clash in clothing and put them side-by-side in a quilt and they vibrate. That tension gives quilts shimmer and life.”

Bringing life to quilts is the focus of Erick’s days. In his tidy home he has fabric for multiple quilts cut and stacked in orderly groups, awaiting stitching. He keeps an ever-growing list of ideas for future quilts and admits that he probably won’t live long enough to complete them all. But that doesn’t stop him from trying. “Quilting is what’s gotten me through and what gives me hope,” he says.

For more information about Erick and his quilts, along with additional photos, visit