Beyond the Quilt: Textile Artists
Quinn Hawkesworth • Cindi Huss • Sylvia Richardson
By Angela Wampler / A! Magazine for the Arts | May 30, 2012Quinn Hawkesworth is best known as an actress and storyteller, especially for her one-woman shows portraying Ivy Rowe in an adaptation of Lee Smith's "Fair and Tender Ladies," Charlotte Bronte in "Mistress of the Moors," and Emily Dickinson in "The Belle of Amherst."
She has taken her "art" as an actress to another level — creating a series of wall hangings, "Mountain Ivy," based on the novel "Fair and Tender Ladies" and its main character, Ivy Rowe. The series features one piece for each season.
Hawkesworth says, "The first one, 'Winter,' evolved from my love of this Appalachian region, combined with a desire to explore images evoked by my one-woman performance of 'Fair and Tender Ladies.' All four pieces have four animals I regard as my personal touchstones — owl, fox, raven, and hare. Each hanging focuses on one of these animals; the others are subtly quilted in — I wanted viewers to have the pleasure and challenge of looking for each one. These four pieces have quilting, applique, embroidery, and perhaps some beading. They are dear to my heart."
To indulge her passion for embellishment, Hawkesworth created "The Favorite" (cover photo), a representation of a royal Chinese concubine. "I like the sense of quiet, self-contained mystery she seems to project. She calms me when I look at her," Hawkesworth says. "She is a combination of antique fabrics, Victorian costume pieces, jewelry, and embroidery. The only difficulty with working in this style is making myself know when ENOUGH is ENOUGH!"
She works in the traditional style of quilting. She also uses scissors, fabric, embroidery, embellishment, and glue. "The style all depends upon my particular mental image of the piece," she explains.
Hawkesworth often compares working with fabric to herding cats. She says, "Fabric has a mind of its own, sometimes acquiescing to manipulation, oftentimes leading me off in cockamamie directions I'd never anticipated. As an actress and an artist, I have learned that a preconceived image is fine to start with, but the most rewarding results happen when room is made for the "happy accident.'"
She first discovered textile art in the late 1970s when she lived in New York. "Although I had never sewed before, somehow I had accumulated a lot of fabric from my mom's sewing collection, costume shops, and the theatres I had worked in," she recalls. "The first thing I did when I moved to New York City, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see an exhibit of Russian costumes. It was exquisite — the colors, the textures, the ornamentation, the silhouettes were a feast for the eyes. After viewing the exhibit several times, I returned to my apartment determined to translate that experience into a piece of art. I made some wall hangings and some fixtures. I taught myself, and I'm still teaching myself.
"It's the colors and the textures, the challenge and the sensory satisfaction of manipulating fabric, the different effects you can get with types of fabrics — silks as opposed to cottons," she explains. "I like to work with natural fabrics. I don't work with synthetics all that much, but the richness of it all, the three-dimensionality you can achieve with fabric, appeals to me."
She said her first exhibit, "The Favorite And Other Textile Wonders Of Quinn Hawkesworth" in 2010, was a dream come true. "It was literally like a dream the night we hung it at The Martha Washington Hotel in Abingdon. It was like being in some sort of dreamscape," she recalls.
An "army brat," Hawkesworth moved often as a child. As an adult, she worked off-Broadway and in regional theatres. She came to Abingdon in 1996 to perform at Barter Theatre and has been a permanent fixture of the community ever since.
When Hawkesworth isn't acting, sewing, hiking, or standing by her beloved Boston Red Sox, she works with the Animal Defense League of Washington County, Va. to help stem the tide of unwanted and abused animals.
>> Extreme Quilting, Cindi Huss
>> Elaborate Wall Hangings, Sylvia Richardson
>> Back to the main story.
In her "Mountain Ivy" series, Quinn Hawkesworth explores images evoked by Lee Smith's novel "Fair and Tender Ladies." Above and the following photo are details from two pieces in the series.
Hawkesworth came to Abingdon in 1996 to perform at Barter Theatre and has been a permanent fixture of the community ever since.