Michael James Luminary

I have tended toward making posts about those people or events that cross my path in my work and around my interests. Here is another: Quilter Michael James

He is a professor at university of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[The Department Chair of Textiles, Clothing and design to be more specific with the proper accolades.]

His works have been at the perimeter of quilt art for quite some time.
I shan’t get into all the awards and honors because I wont then get to his works or words.
Safe to say, lots and often. Deservedly.

I am going to start with a few images of his work then bring in some of his text to illustrate his concepts and ideas then end with some more of his works.


Here is an excerpt from a speech he put together for some fancy occasion or another honoring him and his work:
[It is interesting to me to know why people do what they do. and the generative reasons for it, so if that too strikes your fancy then please take the time to read through his text.]

I began making quilts in the early 1970s, while I was a graduate student studying painting and printmaking at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. There, my work consisted of non-figurative compositions developed with very diluted pigments applied to surfaces of unprimed canvas.

“I was initially attracted to traditional quilts. We Americans were approaching the 200th birthday of our country, and we were very focused on our collective history and on all of the art forms that mirrored that history. What better embodiment of the spirit of thrift, persistence and creativity than the humble patchwork quilt?

“The graphic power and communicative value of the patterns in those quilts also drew my interest, because I’ve always been a lover of pattern, and it’s been the constant element in my creative work.

“As a quilt artist, I’ve used pattern as a metaphor for the complex systems that work through our world: physical systems, emotional systems, psychological systems, and so on. This constant tension between order and disorder is a unifying thread that has run continuously through my work since I began to experiment, beginning about 1976 or so, with designs of my own invention. It was then that the full creative potential inherent in the quilt form became apparent to me.

“In my work of the last seven years I’ve concentrated on using a variety of techniques to develop surface imagery, but regardless of the method I choose, the processing now is digital – that is, photographic or drawn images are scanned or otherwise imported into design software and then manipulated until I arrive at the “look” or color or textural qualities that I have in mind.

“Throughout the development of my work I’ve sustained an interest in representing, either figuratively or abstractly, the proverbial “two sides of the same coin”, the idea of dual realities existing side by side or within one another. I’m also interested in the unseen world that constitutes much of the emotional and psychological space that we sentient beings reside in a good part of the time.

“The reader may question why my works take the form of quilts, when the idea of a quilt implies a repeat modular design of some configuration of geometric or floral figures, two of the most popular types of traditional quilts. Aren’t my works really more like paintings? Quilt makers have long capitalized on printed fabric and the variations in texture, pattern and color that such fabrics make possible.

“For hundreds of years, each development in fabric printing, both at the artisanal level (for example, woodblock printing) and eventually at the industrial level (roller and screen printing) has produced fabrics that have altered and changed the look and the design of quilts. Today a large part of the market for printed fabrics is made up of the legions of quilt makers worldwide – latest estimates are that there are over 22 million quilt makers in the US alone – who have adapted every type and style of printed fabric to their creative purposes.

“The creative process is mysterious and, after the fact, it strikes me as simultaneously pretentious and futile to try to explain it. You spend months and years absorbing influences and experiences, thinking ideas through and spinning a thread that you hope will tie the development of your work into some sort of continuum. But in the end you can never be sure where it will take you. My quilts are witnesses to many, many hours and months and years of thinking – thinking about formal issues, about color and the feelings and emotions it can convey, about signs and symbols and the meanings they carry, about myself in the world and it in me – and about how I can connect my own experience to that of yourself, the viewer.”

© 2011 Michael James


LUKE Haynes is a trained Architect using his skills mostly for good. His work can be seen at his site and the associated blog. He is a full time Quilter and sometimes blogger, whose work is showing across the country and soon the world. You can find him here at Quilty Pleasures on the first Sunday of each month.