Issue 27 | California Bay Area
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Welcome to the vibrant California Bay Area! Nestled along a picturesque coast, this region is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, cultural diversity, and technological and artistic innovation. You won’t be surprised to learn that it’s known for its quilts as well. Quilting in the Bay Area is a beloved and thriving craft, deeply rooted in the region’s rich artistic traditions.
The Bay Area is centered around the iconic city of San Francisco, famous for its hilly streets, cable cars, and Golden Gate Bridge. This city offers a dynamic mix of attractions, including world-class museums, bustling neighborhoods, and an eclectic food scene that showcases a wide array of cuisines. While many might consider San Francisco the heart of the Bay Area, the region encompasses eight other counties as well, each enhancing its cultural richness.
Across the San Francisco Bay, you’ll find Oakland, known for its vibrant arts and music scene, historic architecture, and lively waterfront. You’ll also find Berkeley, home to the prestigious UC Berkeley, offering a bohemian atmosphere with its intellectual community, independent bookstores, and the renowned Berkeley Repertory Theatre. A bit further south is San Jose, located in the heart of Silicon Valley—a thriving city full of tech industry giants, a diverse culture, and beautiful parks. And the northern part of the region boasts stunning wine country, with Napa Valley and Sonoma County bursting with world-class vineyards and picturesque towns.
Originally, Quiltfolk had planned to include the Bay Area in an overall Northern California issue. However, as we began to review reader submissions, it became clear that the Bay Area alone was overrun with quilting talent and history. Eventually, we determined that, in order to give both the Bay Area and Northern California their due space, they needed to be separate issues. Honestly, dear readers, this issue is packed to the brim.
From traditional quiltmaking techniques to innovative contemporary designs, this region dazzles with a range of styles and opportunities for enthusiasts to showcase their masterpieces, exchange ideas, and inspire others with their talent.
Join us in discovering the extraordinary quilters (somehow) packed into less than 7,000 square miles, and learn why the Bay Area promises to be a truly unforgettable experience.
Writers for this issue: Rebecca Bratburd, Mel Burke, Meg Cox, Aleeda Crawley, Kestrel Michaud, Diane L. Murtha, Frances O’Roark Dowell, Sharbreon Plummer, Carmen Schell, Teresa Duryea Wong and Pokey Bolton.
Photographer for this Issue: Melanie Zacek
Photo Stylist: Kimberlee Zacek
Guest Photographers: Bréana Parks and Jodi Foucher Photography
Offset printed and perfect bound, full color on uncoated paper. Printed in the USA.
Previews From Issue 27
Quilting Pioneers of the Bay Area
The quilting fervor that seized the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s and 1980s was remarkable, fueled partly by a local academic and museum scene that lifted up crafts of all kinds. Some of the leaders of the national quilt renaissance like Roberta Horton and Alex Anderson went from eager students to famous teachers in a flash. But the Bay Area was also home to a who’s who of risk-loving art quilters such as Therese May, Ellen Oppenheimer, Joan Schulze, Miriam Nathan-Roberts, Freddy Moran, and Judith Content. The mix got juicier because it wasn’t only contemporary quilts that starred here; guild leaders and prestigious dealers also put a big spotlight on antique quilts.
Alice Beasley’s subject matter follows her curiosity and interests as they develop, which makes for a robust body of work. In addition to portraits of American presidents and commentary on gun control, this Oakland-based fabric artist has also been commissioned to create wall hangings that show the comfort and power of community for hospitals and care centers.
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Quilt Collection
Featuring 3,601 quilts and artworks, over three-quarters which are made by African American artists, the quilt collection at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is bursting with quilting treasures and historical significance. Associate Curator Elaine Yau and her team have been hard at work processing not only the collection’s objects, but the stories they have to tell.
Ben Venom’s quilts are inspired by Gee’s Bend, Atlanta punk, and skateboarding counter-culture, pulling together a hybrid fusion of textures, patterns, and techniques to create work that practically screams “off the wall”—in a good way.
C&T Publishing and The Cotton Patch
If you learned to quilt at any point during the past 40 years, chances are good that books from C&T Publishing were among your best guides. The publishing company was started by Carolie Hensley and her husband because Roberta Horton, a popular teacher at Carolie’s quilt shop, The Cotton Patch, needed a publisher for her book on Amish quilts. Both the shop and the publisher are still going strong. Come hang out with Carolie, who still runs The Cotton Patch, and her son Todd, who runs the publishing company.
Native Californian Freddy Moran is famous for her love of color and having fun wherever she goes. She began making quilts in her early 60s and, from the very beginning, insisted on doing things her own way. Always a liberated quilter, her many years of collaborating with Gwen Marston honed her approach to making colorful creations and sharing her process in books and classes. At 92, Freddy continues to bring her love of color—and life—wherever she goes.
Jennifer Sampou began her career as a textile designer and quickly found herself in the quilt world. In the beginning, she made quilts to learn about the people she was designing fabric for; it would be years before she considered herself a real quilter. A lover of travel, art, and all things luminous, Jennifer is an inspirational teacher who delights in helping her students become passionate about color.
During her art career of over 50 years, Joan Schulze has made nearly 1,000 original art quilts—well, 955 to be exact. She keeps meticulous records of her journey, and each piece in her prolific portfolio is logged in detail. She is known internationally as an influential artist who keeps pushing fiber art forward, and through her dedicated years of teaching and lecturing, Joan has also inspired countless quilters to think of themselves as artists.
This New Englander moved to the California Bay Area as a high school senior and discovered her true home. Judith Content loves the inspiration of the coastline; and it shows in her exceptional and successful studio art work. She uses hand-dyed silk created with a contemporary approach to the traditional Japanese arashi-shibori technique. You can find her art in corporate buildings, medical foundations, museums, private collections, as well as along beaches, coastal cliffs, and hills.
Julie + Joe + Rod
Within the robust quilt scene in the Bay Area today, certain names come up over and over. Among the group of groundbreakers who are still considered A-listers are quilt dealer Julie Silber, quiltmaker Joe Cunningham, and quilt collector and curator Roderick Kiracofe. Their friendship is a close one, marked by shared sarcasm and a reverence for eccentric, sometimes off-kilter quilts.
Nine years ago, Pokey Bolton found herself reflecting on the state of her life—her 16-year marriage had ended, her quilting company was no longer hers, and she had resigned as a TV host. She felt like she needed a reset. Quilting had always been more than a hobby for Pokey; it had given her independence and a sense of identity. With a notebook by her side, she scribbled down ideas and sketched a design for an art space that celebrated creativity and collaboration—a quilting retreat business in Napa, California. Now, she cherishes the journey that led her to Craft Napa, no reset needed.
Rachel D.K. Clark
Rachel D.K. Clark is simply the queen of quilted coats. Using a mixture of quilting techniques—appliqué, Seminole, traditional blocks, improv, and more—she creates wearables that tell a story. Using what she calls her “sewing toolbox,” which is extensive, Rachel has created enough coats to fill a walk-in closet over the past 20 years.
Vanina Doce-Mood grew up in a family of knitters and crocheters, and while she dabbled in embroidery, she became passionate about quilting when she was expecting her daughter. Her supportive and empathetic energy reaches beyond her family and into her kindergarten to second-grade art classroom in Oakland, where she teaches her students how to make magnificent things while embracing their mistakes. As one of the most active members of the East Bay Heritage Quilt Guild, Vanina inspires local quilters through improvisational workshops and the annual Voices in Cloth exhibition.
Sara Trail and Social Justice Sewing Academy
Sara Trail founded Social Justice Sewing Academy with the mission to make quilts that make a difference and to teach others to do the same. Read about her love for community and how she bridges quilting and social action to educate and uplift youth of color as creatives and future leaders.
Pamela Nobel lost everything in the devastating Tubbs Fire of 2017. Just as she’d done when she lost her mother, she turned to quilting to help her healing process, using materials donated by fellow Sonoma County community members.
Sujata Shah stitches her life’s stories into every quilt she makes, creating unique pieces that capture each moment in time. Heavily inspired by the quilters of Gee’s Bend and the unique quilting styles across India, her work is part function, part art, and part journal.
Tara Faughnan learned lessons on color and value by working as a freelance textile designer for over a decade. Today, she passes that design knowledge on to her students through her self-made, professional quilting business. Yet, quilts are not just a job for Tara. She revels in the emotional and historical connection women throughout history have had to this tactile art form.
Dorian Cunningham, along with brothers Raymond and Jerome Porter, are members of a band called The Quilters, a surprising name considering that in Dorian’s youth, he held some embarrassment over his father’s profession as a quilter. However, the name felt fitting for their Americana-style music, which had a folksy and alternative quality. Dorian noticed similarities between his father’s creative work and the band’s approach to music, both starting with a basic idea and shaping it through active practice. Now in their mid-20s, The Quilters aspire to make a living from their craft, much like Dorian’s father did with quilting.
Uzoma Samuel, an artist from Lagos, Nigeria, was visiting the US and leading a portrait quilt class during our visit to the Bay Area. Despite the deep roots of fabric in West African culture, Uzoma encountered similar challenges of art versus craft distinctions faced in the US, as galleries often regarded his work as craft rather than art. Seeking a supportive community, Uzoma reached out to Sara Trail and joined SJSA at QuiltCon 2023 in Atlanta, marking his first entry into a quilt show and his first visit to the US. Uzoma and SJSA view their collaboration as an exchange of skills and knowledge, sharing stories and techniques to refine their practices and enhance their work.
Youngmin Lee grew up in Seoul and moved to the US when she was in her late 20s. At the time, she thought she had a thorough understanding of Korean culture, but it wasn’t until she started making traditional Korean stitched art that she truly began to feel a deep connection with Korea’s ancient textile traditions. Now, she leads tours back to Korea to share her passion with fellow quilters.