Blurring the distinctions: An interview with LUKE, quilt artist

I recently discovered the work of LUKE Haynes through this post in Katharine Watson‘s blog, The Printing Press.  I contacted LUKE after reading Katharine’s post and checking out his website, and he graciously agreed to an interview.

For those of you who aren’t already familiar with LUKE’s work, he is an architect turned quilter.  LUKE’s background includes strong preparation in art and design which he uses to make quilts to “discuss utility in aesthetics.”  Like all quilters (that I know at least), he loves fabric.  He works with a lot of upcycled and repurposed materials and his website references the Quilters of Gee’s Bend as an influence.  Currently, LUKE is living in Washington State, but he was once a resident of my dear City and even attended the illustrious Cooper Union for graduate school.  His work has mostly been displayed in fine arts settings and textile museums, but he has also exhibited at quilting venues.  In addition to his website, LUKE can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Etsy, and Flickr.  (All the pictures I’ve posted here have been used with permission and are available for viewing on LUKE’s Flickr photostream.)

Self Portrait #2, Tradition

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to quilt?

LUKE: I faked it.  I started my first quilt in Arts school during a break from classes and went from there.  I took a sewing elective in middle school and learned a bit about sewing then, so I had a working knowledge around a machine.  I have also been knitting and crocheting for a lot of years, which adds to craft dexterity. (UC comment: LUKE’s sewing class sounds as useful as my middle school typing class.  I’m not sure I would have made it through college without it, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing a blog now!)

American Nostalgia #3, Abraham Lincoln

UC: You describe your recent work as being an investigation of nostalgia and function.  Tell me more about this and why you are working as a quilt artist.

LUKE: Quilts have implicit nostalgia in them.  I have found that more and more as I work with fabric and get responses from viewers, all art has within it a certain nostalgia for the artist.  They imbue the work with some idea or question which is then evocative for them in the future.  I want that to extend to the people who see my work.  I want to call memories and tactile experiences into mind as people experience my works and exhibitions.

The function is actually a means to that end.  An object with implicit function can call to mind its use.  You know intuitively and subconsciously what a blanket feels like and its importance in your everyday.  Clothes and fabric are the same.  So when those items are used as the media for an exhibition, you as the viewer have an existing response to the materiality.  This is the same way for me as the maker, which breaks down the gap between artist and viewer.

Gifts #17, Micala

UC: Do you quilt as a hobby as well, or do you have other creative pursuits in your down time?

LUKE: I quilt for myself and friends and family, though I wouldn’t describe it as a hobby as any project I make is a furthering of my own work and knowledge of the media.  (I haven’t had down time in a lot of years, though I would say that there are other projects that I create that are tangential to quilts, like rugs and clothes and installations.)

(UC comment: In retrospect, the intent of my question wasn’t that clear, but LUKE’s answer seems to get to the point.  Those of us who work at a craft are always creating and learn through everything we make.)

Man Stuff #1, Hammer

UC: What are your favorite quilting/sewing tools?

LUKE: I enjoy a lot of the process, but I would have to say that my favorite tools are the ones that have changed my method and helped me make better and faster work: the roller cutter and the long arm sewing machine.  Those two tools have streamlined my process and added years to my life I would have used with scissors or a domestic machine doing the tasks (that) those make easy and quick.  (UC comment: I have long dreamed of owning a long arm quilting machine, but alas I live in a New York City sized apartment.)

Bed Clothes #1, Log cabin reverse (made with upcycled clothes seamed outside)

UC: Where do you find your creative inspiration?

LUKE: From other designers I appreciate, or in my own experiences as a person or a practitioner of the creative process.

Causes #1, Bra (for Simplicity Creative’s breast cancer awareness campaign)

UC: What are your favorite techniques to use?

LUKE: I don’t have a favorite.  I have ones that I use to get a result I want at any given time.  I use any and all to execute to the best of my ability the project I am working on.

Flightless Birds #3, Penguin

UC: Do you have any favorite craft or art blogs or websites to share?

LUKE: I am a designer.  I draw most of my inspiration from the design community, so the ones I turn to are today and tomorrow and Design Fetish (All Things Design.  All Things Fetish.).

Self Portrait #6, Stitched

Thanks for stopping by for the interview, LUKE!  If you haven’t already, please check out LUKE’s website, his Etsy shop, his Flickr photostream, his Facebook page, or on Twitter to see more of his work and learn more about his inspirations and methods.

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