September 10, 2010

Denyse Schmidt: The Modern Quilt

With the onset of the fall season, comes the need for warmth and comfort.
I have a postcard in my office with an image of a brilliant graphic pattern.
The Medium is unique.
It is a textile.
An extraordinary Modern Quilt.
I learned of the graphic clarity of the design work of Denyse Schmidt many years ago at ICFF in NYC. A graphic designer, educated at RISD, her quilts are gorgeous works of art.   I recently had the opportunity to ask Denyse about her work, process, and artistry.

Cynthia: What inspired you to create quilts with a modern aesthetic?
Denyse: “I had been admiring old quilts (late 19th century, but also early 20th century), but found that what I loved about them – simple color palettes, lots of solid fabrics, a spareness and sometimes quirkiness – wasn’t being widely referenced in contemporary quilts. Art quilters were making quilts to be hung that were more conceptual or about making a statement, home quilters were using traditional palettes with way too many prints and colors that were murky, and the commercial world – quilts made overseas for department or specialty stores, were not very exciting. I loved the history and lore of quilting, the community and family feeling of it, and the tactile-ness and collective memory of fabric combined with designs that are very graphic. As a designer, I wanted to get other people to see quilts in the same way that I did, to bring this amazing craft to a wider audience”.
Cynthia: From where do you draw reference to create dynamic, yet graphically restrained patterns?
Denyse:  Lots of things inspire what I do. Much of the form of the designs comes from traditional quilts, but other inspiration can come from fashion, magazines, art, music, nature – whatever seems to strike at the right moment. I really like working within constraints or parameters, so just endeavoring to rethink traditional forms – making the traditional methods feel more modern – continues to provide a wealth of inspiration”.
Drunk Love In A Log Cabin
Run And Fall
Four Crosses
Cynthia: Denyse, you designed the Simple Stripe Quilt in 2008, for the Philip Johnson Glass House Commissions Program.  I understand artists and designers were invited to create limited-edition works inspired by a visit to the Glass House, renowned architect Phillip Johnson’s home and now a National Trust Historic Site.
What a great honor!   Please share some of what influenced your design.
Denyse: “I am inspired by the spareness, refinement and restraint. The subtle layering of details, color, and the transparency and reflection between the architecture and the landscape are beautiful.  …one large chunk of the background has the grain running in the opposite direction to create a very subtle shift, in much the same way as the glass and layers of reflection do in the house, from both the inside and outside perspectives. The stripe is composed of very narrow strips of several different fabrics that together speak to the palette of the house in early winter, and also the structure of the house itself.
Simple Stripe Quilt Denyse Schmidt
Glass House by Phillip Johnson
The traditional handcraft of quilting  with a modern design aesthetic.
I am not an experienced seamstress. Yet, I love the idea of creating a textile of my own design, by my own hand, in my own time. Denyse has wonderful resources for modern fabrics, and even patterns for those who would like design guidance.
As we bunker down with the onset of cooler weather, I look forward to the opportunity to explore a new design medium, with the artful inspiration of Denyse Schmidt close at hand.
To find out more about the work of Denyse Schmidt, check out her website
All photography courtesy of

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One Response to “Denyse Schmidt: The Modern Quilt”

  1. » Denyse Schmidt on FLOR Says:
    September 14th, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    [...] clipped from [...]