Joe Cunningham – A Product of Michigan

I have known Joe Cunningham since the early 1980’s. Joe grew up in Mid-Michigan in the Flint area near me, and I had the pleasure to watch his quilting talents grow and flourish. Joe is now in Southern California, and thanks to the Internet, I have been able to keep up with his work. It only seemed fitting that I ask Joe to participate with the other Michigan Quilt Bloggers on Michigan Quilts! Welcome, Joe!


Here in San Francisco there is an Artist in Residence program at the De Young Museum, the big museum in Golden Gate Park. Because I was working with the staff there on a catalogue essay for the Amish Abstractions quilt show, someone suggested that I would be a good candidate for the program, so that they could have a quilt artist in residence during the quilt show. I applied, got accepted, and Bingo, found myself in the most beautiful studio ever designed–all mine for the month of March.

postcard webThe AIR program begins when they design a postcard advertising it. They used my last press photo to design the card as well as the hologram-like hovering projection just inside the door.

scene 1 Next, they help you hang your work on the walls and project pictures of your work on
three large glass panels.
scene 2 scene 3

For public interactivity, I had a design wall with a bunch of fabric scraps, so people from 2 to 92 could make a design. Then I would take a picture of the design and print it out for them on the spot. I also printed a copy for myself, which I taped on the Quilt Wall O Fame. Here is my quilt frame, set up with an all-white quilt top upon which people could quilt anything they wanted, and the design wall in the background, along with one of my quilts, “The Way Home,” from 2006.

scene 4

scene 5

People loved making designs.

I continued to sew while my assistants (!!!) helped take pictures and helped with any-thing I needed. Eventually I finished two quilt tops. Here is one, with the final Wall O Fame.

In front of the Wall O Fame is a small quilt frame with a burlap quilt, upon which I let kids use plastic needles and pearl cotton to quilt anything they wanted.

scene 6

scene 7

The month passed by in a blur of fun and work, talk and laughing. Here is the view out my window, across Golden Gate Park at the Academy of Sciences building.

To top it all off, the artist gets not only all the publicity, not just assistants to help with the public every day, not simply a fantastic place to work and show one’s work, but also a paycheck and a materials budget! It was a ton of fun, and I hated to move out of the studio. I threatened to bring in some sand bags and build a bunker in the corner, but they just laughed at me.

Now I am back in my own studio, where I finished the second quilt top I started at the museum. I’ll get these two quilted by next week and start looking for something else that needs to get done. Maybe I’ll even clean up my desk.

San Francisco, April 7, 2010


Check out Joe the Quilter website for more information and to learn about the workshops and lectures he has prepared.

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