What to Read: Grace Rother is unraveling quilt making
This week, we interviewed Grace Rother, an artist who writes about traditions in quilting.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What’s your Substack about in one sentence?
My life as a gay Midwestern artist turning discarded textiles into functional art objects.
You’ve described quilt making as asking a series of questions. Do you ever find the answers you’re searching for?
Quilt making is the medium by which I (currently) process and make sense of the world. I do this with drawing sometimes too, but right now it’s mostly quilting.
Because quilts are produced through a lot of repetitive motion and muscle memory, I settle into old grooves and excavate new ones. Those same repetitive motions create a sort of rhythm for my thoughts to travel alongside. Sometimes I find answers in my work—but so often, I find more questions.
You mention your work falling under the canopy of “women’s work,” but you approach it through a queer lens. How does that take shape for you?
As a queer person, the major events in my life don’t always align with tradition, which means I sometimes miss out on opportunities to connect with the past. Quilt making is a way that I connect to my ancestors through shared skill and familiar movement. I didn’t get to meet or grow up with the quilt-making women in my family, so doing this work myself is a way that I maintain a thread of connection between my life and theirs.
But quilt making as women’s work is also something I am working to shift as I redefine what gender means and doesn’t mean to me.
How would you describe your creative process?
The flurry of action that comes with quilt making or writing an essay is usually the end product of a lot of time spent gathering thoughts and ideas, organizing them, fermenting them, combining them. Sometimes that unseen work comes out in notes or sketches, but mostly it cooks inside of me while I water the plants and walk around the neighborhood and fold laundry and lie awake at night. By the time the concept is ripe, I am completely ready to execute the quilt or write my essay from start to finish: the mental germination that comes first is what really takes time and creative energy.
That’s all well and good for quilts, but I am slowly building a framework for my writing practice, as I think it could benefit from some structure. My newsletter is a part of that: a schedule! A commitment! For the past few years it’s been all about the quilts, but right now I am feeling like it’s time to put more days toward writing.
Who’s another Substack writer you’d recommend?
I’d like to recommend my friend Maya Skylark! She’s brand-new to Substack, so you’ll have to take my word on it. She is one of my favorite writers, and I am so excited for her work to become more accessible through this platform.
Browse the Substack publications Grace recommends here.