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,
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
is a labor of love and shows the same artistic care as his
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
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.