By Senta Scarborough
This is the first in her monthly series of artist profiles.
Erick Wolfmeyer would be the first to tell you he can barely stitch a button on a shirt, but that hasn’t stopped him from making quilting into a fierce fine art. It all began with a heart-felt gift. Erick made a baby quilt for a friend. He got positive feedback and was hooked.
For the past twenty years, he has been creating abstract works of fabric art. His goal is simple—envisioning quilts to inspire and endure for generations. He hopes his work offers his audience a “big experience, to lead them to something deep within, to help connect or reconnect them to something greater than themselves.”
The two fundamentals to all of Erick’s quilts—a commitment to preserve the tradition of hand quilting and a passion for color composition. Erick loves color, playing around with it, bending and shaping its tones and values. Quilts are a canvas that, for him, offer infinite possibilities.
Constructing each quilt can take from six months to three years to make, involving long days of studio work at the sewing table.
Erick is driven by a sense of purpose as an adoptee and his search for all of his family.
As an adoptee, other people, laws and institutions have literally tried to define not only my identity, but my experience. My art is how I resist and persist. It is my opportunity and vehicle to own and define my lived experience as I know it, and to to reclaim basic human rights inequitably afforded to adoptees, if at all, he says.
Sewing bits of fabric together can be an external expression of his search like piecing together the many bits of information and thoughts gathered over a lifetime. That process of gathering small pieces of information here and there, collectively, will give a complete picture.
My hope is that my work and my voice will affect a positive shift in the cultural narrative around adoption, an experience that is grossly misrepresented and misunderstood by contemporary culture at large, Erick says.
Erick is also adamantly anti-machine. Even though his quilts are machine pieced, they are all quilted by hand so the workmanship is visible. He says it marks each quilt in time through “subtle irregularities and inconsistencies.” Those qualities make each quilt “tangible, digestible, and whole.”
“I’d sooner switch to painting than have my quilts machine quilted,” he says. Amish women hand stitch his designs into stunning, thought-provoking art works. “Their energy is imbued in the final piece,” he says,” I love the look and feel hand quilting gives to a completed quilt….Hand-quilting is true to the history of the medium so it imbues the work with integrity, honesty and authenticity.”
All of his work is crafted with 100 percent quilt-grade cotton fabrics. His way of promoting sustainability: he only buys fabric when he needs it. If he likes a fabric, he purchases it knowing it will eventually make an appearance. A close study of two decades of work shows each of those fabrics make repeat performances.
“It’s fun for me to see ‘old friends’ pop up in my current work,” he says.
Ericks begins with a vision of a finished quilt. Some of his works are traditional, some are portraits, but each is almost always an abstract expressionist or photo impressionist style. With a pencil, he sketches what’s in his mind, figures out proportions, block size, and quilt size.
It’s about following the joy. What might seem to others like whimsy is a “deeper and more connected” journey for him. “My quilt making is a spiritual practice,” he says. “I want them (collectors and viewers) to have their own call to reflecting and insight inspired by the work.”
Erick’s trek to fabric artist began as a student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri where he earned a BFA in photography. His quilts have been featured across the United States, Europe, China and even the Alsace region of France.
“People spend so much time with their heads bent down looking at a screen sometimes I just want my work to start by inviting them to look up, look out and then maybe if I’m truly successful—look in and look beyond what the eyes sees,” he says.
Find more of Ericks work at EWolfmeyerQuilts.com
All photos courtesy Erick Wolfmeyer except "Swim" courtesy Kineret Zabner
Why We Love
We at Fierce Hazel are drawn to the hand-stitching so evident in Erick's work. We think it's important to show the human element in the products we make and it is especially evident in the design details of our Echelon Pouch and Tour De Fierce Wallet. Because people make our products, not "factories."
This is the first in a series of artist profiles by Senta Scarborough. She is an award-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated producer, and the founder of Sentamatic Media focusing primarily on screenwriting, journalism and non-fiction projects. Her work has appeared in Adweek, Into, USA Today, E! News, US Weekly Magazine, and Asheville Poetry Review, among others. She is a lifetime member of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist’s Association where she served as a board director for two terms. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California Riverside/Palm Desert. She lives in Atlanta with her wife, Katie, and their dog, Sadie. Find her on social media @sentascar.