April 5, 2017

Another new-to the Hudson River Valley Fiber Arts Workshops instructor this year is quilt maker Joe Cunningham! Joe began making quilts professionally in 1979, after a ten-year career as a musician in Michigan and will be teaching our students unique ways to use both piecing and appliqué from August 13-19, 2017 in his Subject to Interpretation workshop. To welcome him to our cadre of instructors, we asked Joe five short questions about his approach to art.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?
JC: As a student and lover of 19th Century quilts, I draw a lot of my inspiration from them. But I also stay in touch with current events, and use them as thematic material. Ultimately, though, I end up using everything I have ever seen, thought, or felt as source material for my work.

Q: What are you most proud of in regards to your art?
JC: I suppose the thing I am proud of is that I have figured out a way to make human-sized blankets that look at home on museum walls.

Q: What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you deal with them?
JC: The biggest challenge for me, aside from pesky technical challenges that are always there, is to find a path in my work where I am not over-thinking it, and where I am not under-thinking it. I am trying to let the content of the piece express itself through me with a minimum of mediation, with a maximum of fidelity to my concept Sometimes it is hard to judge when I am veering off that path. Another way to say it is that my challenge is to stay open and free and true to my original idea.

Q: What advice has influenced you?
JC: Seeing in my artist’s sketchbook this quote: “If it looks like art, it must look like someone else’s art.” My wife, Carol LeMaitre, has helped me stay on track over the years by reminding me that I am not here to please anyone else with my work. William Wiley has told me that I don’t need to worry about anything by making my own work, whatever it looks like.

Q: Is there something you are currently working on, or excited about starting that you can tell us about?
JC: I am currently in the beginning of a new series of quilts inspired by the Clovis people of 13,500 years ago. They invented spear points so elegant and effective at killing mammoths and mastodons that they drove them extinct. Also I have just begun working on a book about my work of the last 20 years.

Learn more about Joe’s workshop here.
Learn more about Joe on his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram.