Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s “Playing With Purpose”

I’ve been aware of Wolfe’s work ever since she won first place at an early QuiltCon for her deconstructed double wedding ring quilt. She began her career as an artist, but branched into quilting. Over the past several years she has designed fabric, opened a quilt store, taught classes, written books, and become an active presence on social media. With her most recent book, a retrospective of her work, I learned she also managed to make the 125 quilts shown, mostly since 2008, in addition to all her other activities. And these are mostly large quilts, easily 80 by 80 inches. My guess is she’s made at least 100 more quilts. She does have many of them quilted by others, but even so…

Most of her work is exuberant and lively, with lots of color and scrappy fabric. She often references traditional patterns, but will put a twist on them. Sometimes she serves tradition straight up. I’m showing a few quilts from the book that were new to me.

Wolfe tried out different styles before settling on what is now her signature. “Cheap Hotels” from 2010 uses a more minimalist approach without a block structure. It stands out in the book because there’s nothing else like it.

“Stripes, Plaids, and Polka Dots” is reminiscent of Gwen Marston’s work, with its bold zigzag border treatment. The stars and sashing are made with Wolfe’s 15 minutes of play technique, while the subdued stripes and plaids of the squares give all that busyness room to breathe. The different sizes of the background yellow/beige squares lend a casual air, while the polka dots capture the eye and direct it around the squares.

“Summer of Stars” works due to the ombre fabric surrounding the center star. I’d love to get my hands on some of it.

The following two quilts are great examples of how fabric choices and placement can change the look of a quilt. It takes an eye for abstraction to discern such possibilities.

While I don’t like every quilt in this book, I appreciate Wolfe’s willingnes to always try out an idea and use lots of different fabrics. She doesn’t let fear of “ruining” something stop her from pushing further. Her philosophy is: “You have to make ugly pieces and then learn from them. You have to make something that is just so fabulous that you look at it and think, Wow! I can’t believe I did that! For myself, the failure and the successes are equally valuable.”

8 Comments

Filed under Books, Commentary

8 responses to “Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s “Playing With Purpose”

  1. I just got this book from the library and haven’t read it yet. Nice to get your take on it. That is an impressive number of quilts she has made!

  2. Susan Greenberg

    Wow, that was a wonderful read. Thank you sharing this wonderful quilt artist.

  3. Melinda Johnson

    Do you know of Vicki Welch? She dyes fabric. She might have some ombre. (Just here to connect the dots between the people I follow.) Thank you for all the interesting things you write about.

    • Yes, I’ve ordered from Vicki and like her fabric, but she doesn’t do ombre, though she may for a custom order. Glad you enjoy the topics I write about. Knowing that makes this blog worthwhile to me.

  4. Some of these are too busy for my taste–I’m not a fan of all those mixed prints and plaids. But I love the Modern Square Dance–much better than the traditional one!

    • It’s a good thing I chose some of her more subdued quilts, then. Your eyeballs might go full tilt at some of the busier pieces. But then, Wolfe has made a few quilts that are delightfully quiet.

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