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Quilter Profile: David Walker

Cincinnati Artist and Quiltmaker
Takes the Art of Quilting Seriously

I had a heck of a time getting David Walker out of his studio long enough to be interviewed for this profile. As an art quilter with a growing reputation both as artist and teacher, David is spending a great deal of time at his sewing machine these days. He is a resident of Cincinnati, where he lives with his dog, Snicker.

David got his start in quilting twenty years ago. "My first quilting experience was in 1981 when I made a quilted pillow top, just one square, an eight-pointed star. At that time, I was a school teacher by profession (7th grade English and religion---22 years in all) and was a weaver by avocation. I attended a small workshop where I made the pillow top. I had no idea at the time what effect this experience would have on my life."

By David Walker
All Rights Reserved

Indeed in the years since David has exhibited and published his quilts worldwide, including such places as Prague and Kharkiv, Ukraine, as well as in the fairs of the National Patchwork Association of the U.K., and in many shows in his native midwest. He has also published many articles in major quilt magazines, including Fiberarts and Art/Quilt magazine.

It is obvious that David uses quilting as a medium for his own unique artistic vision, and I asked him about his self-description as an "artist and quiltmaker":

"I call myself an artist and quiltmaker because what I am is an artist and because what I do is make quilts---which specifies my medium of expression. One title gives credit to the artist who I am and the other gives credit to the craftsperson who does it.

"Following a similar line of thought, I suppose that you could say that Georgia O'Keefe was an artist and painter, and that Louise Nevelson was an artist and sculptor.

"By calling myself both an artist and quiltmaker, I am avoiding the question that often follows when I call myself only an artist. I would like a nickel for every time I have told someone that I am an artist, and then they immediately ask, 'What kind of paintings do you do?' Yikes! . . . what a narrow vision of what an artist really is and does.

"I would like to add only one other point. In my opinion, it is not so important that I call myself anything in particular. The most important thing is that what I am and what I do adds to the positive quality of my life and hopefully extends out from myself to others and into the environment. Giving a name to what I am and what I do does not make it magically happen.

"However, on the other hand, if what I think I am and what I think I do doesn't happen, then why do I feel so guilty? Perhaps this is the more important question in the long haul."

David's quilts are non-traditional and largely abstract, including surface embellishments accomplished through the use of sophisticated machine applique techniques. He has, however, done some traditional patchwork quilts. "My first quilts were crib quilts---machine pieced and hand quilted. Now most of my work uses the machine applique techniques I have developed and is hand embellished.

"Much to my dismay, I have never made a bed quilt and do not own one. I feel much like the shoemaker's son who had no shoes."

Although he has now abandoned traditional patchwork, David says it has left its mark: ". . . the early traditional lessons will never be forgotten. Our subconscious creative selves will not allow them to be forgotten."

As for what inspires his art, David says: "Books, music, beautiful people, beautiful objects, anything that catches and gives off light, the inspirations are endless . . . Most anything, often the most unlikely resources."

In addition to his quilting, David has shown an active interest in computers and the internet. He is a regular participant on the Quiltart maillist and has established one of the most elegant quilt-related web sites on the net, named number two in TVQ's "Top Ten Quilt-Related Websites."

"In the last five years," he says, "I have developed this strong attraction to my Macintosh computer. I never thought this would happen because I am not a very technical person at heart. I have found a new community of friends in the outback reaches of cyberspace. It is another link to like-minded people who love art quilts as much as I do." His website at http://davidwalker.us/Pages/QAboutDavidWalker.html is a labor of love and shows the same artistic care as his quilts.

Asked if he uses a computer in quilt design, David replied: "Once in a while I use the computer in the design process when making small pieces---24"x24" or less. The larger pieces are designed by going directly to the fabric without sketching, without a color plan, without templates. When I begin a quilt, I have absolutely no idea how the end product will manifest itself. I am always surprised."

David is also active giving workshops and lectures both on technique and on the personal and spiritual aspects of the art. His workshops, which last from one to several days, focus heavily on applique techniques using the sewing machine. They are described in detail at his web site, and reflect his continuing interest in innovations in surface embellishment and design, including the use of cut-through machine reverse applique, free-form machine direct applique, and embellishments such as yarn, ribbon, fabric strips, and fabric paint.

On the more philosophical side David offers a 3-5 day workshop to assist quilters in "the finding of personal images" to use in their design and the development of confidence to depart from the tried and true and move toward more self-expressive modes. David also gives a slide-lecture called "Surviving Midlife as a Quilt Artist" which he says "is everchanging because I am everchanging."

Of his teaching David says he loves it: "It is a joy to see someone discover the artist within herself/himself. I am also absolutely convinced that I learn more than the students."

David had no interest in my questions about being a male quilter, and was also reticent about his personal life. He did, however, want to acknowledge Snicker, who, he says, "continues to teach me the important lessons of unconditional love."

To see some of David's quilts, visit his website, where he displays scans of his work, as well as that of other quilters, on a rotating basis. You'll also find there much that is pertinent to those who would elevate the ancient craft of quilting to the highest realms of self-expression.



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