I was born in New York in 1945, into a family of many generations of prolific artists, and from my earliest childhood art has been as important to me as breathing. In 1967, I earned a BA in Fine Art from UC Berkeley – it was certainly an interesting time to be there – and then went on to work as a graphic artist in San Francisco before moving to Santa Cruz in 1970. I began sewing clothing in college, but didn’t come to quilting until much later as I was convinced that cutting up all that fabric into little pieces, then sewing them back together again was too much work! However, in 1998, I discovered that the quilting world had branched out in exciting new directions, especially art quilts – at which point my “painting genes” kicked into overdrive and I’ve never looked back.
My quilting journey has taken me to many special places, and I have had the privilege of working with many fine teachers (Priscilla Bianchi, Gloria Loughman, Velda Newman, Judy Mathieson, and Laura Fogg – to name a few). Quilting has also given me the chance to teach and meet many wonderful and enthusiastic students. In 2006 and again in 2008, I traveled to Guatemala on Priscialla Bianchi’s textile tour, and was so inspired by her vibrant country and beautiful people, that I created “Las Mujeres Azules de Guatemala (The Blue Ladies of Guatemala)”, which won 2nd Best Innovative Quilt at the Mancuso Brother’s 2007 Best Quilts of the World show; and has been included in Lark Books 2010 publication: ‘500 Art Quilts’. My second Guatemalan quilt, “Flower Market at Chichicastenango, Guatemala” was awarded ‘Best Quilt in the World’ at the Mancuso Brothers’ Best Quilts of the World 2009 show – truly an honor indeed! – and in 2010 it won ‘Best Art Quilt: People, Portraits and Figures’ at the Houston IQA Quilt show. “Dawn Prayers on the Ganges” was awarded Best Quilt in the World, 2011 at the Mancuso Brothers’ Best Quilts in the World 2011 Show. “The Basket Makers of Axoum, Ethiopia” was awarded Best of Country at the Mancuso’s 2013 Best Quilts of the World show. “Free Tibet“was also awarded Best Quilt in the World, 2015 at the Mancuso Brothers’ Best Quilts of the World contest. I have also had the priviledge of teaching students in Beziers, France, Melbourne, Australia, at many California quilt guilds, and have continued to teach at the Empty Spools Seminars, in Asilomar, CA – a wonderful and inspiring setting that’s filled with truly dedicated and gifted students. In addition, in 2018, I published my memoir, ‘Hoosier Hysteria: a Fateful Year in the Crosshairs of Race in America’.
I think it’s really important to be inspired by the work and ideas of others. Collect all that luscious fabric! Read all those fabulous quilting books! Take lots of classes! Look around you! And then incorporate it all into your repertoire of techniques and create something that represents your own unique vision of the world!
I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a line.
Meri Henriques Vahl