Quilting has been an art form for hundreds of years. These contemporary makers are elevating the craft in fresh, exciting ways.
Emily Van Hoff hanging quilt on wall
Credit: Emily Van Hoff

Quilting has been a powerful art form for hundreds of years—whether a traditional patchwork pattern folded at the foot of a bed or a modern piece of art that bends our expectations of the craft. "Quilting is for everyone," says Rachael Barr, curator at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, which is just across the Ohio River from Indiana. "Contemporary quilters today will incorporate all the older techniques and begin to create new ones. It's very personal and everyone has a memory. Now it's evolved into an artform, and now people are being recognized for their art." Read on to learn about seven Midwest quilters who celebrate the heritage of quilting and take it to a whole new level.

Quilter Emily Van Hoff wearing quilted denim jacket
Credit: Emily Van Hoff

Emily Van Hoff, Chicago

Inspired by graphic design but wanting to make it tangible, Emily Van Hoff has decided to use quilting and sewing to bring her designs to life. "I love the process of design, but I want to have a physical product to hold when I'm done creating,and my quilts are the perfect combination of the digital design process and the physical product," says Van Hoff. Through this process, she's created an expansive amount of wall art, accessories and quilted bags. Van Hoff even collaborated with designers at the California clothing brand Citizens of the Moon to create a quilted dress.

Nicole Daksiewicz quilt on ladder
Nicole Daksiewicz quilt on the beach
Nicole Daksiewicz pillow on couch
Left: Credit: Nicole Daksiewicz
Center: Credit: Nicole Daksiewicz
Right: Credit: Nicole Daksiewicz

Nicole Daksiewicz, Indianapolis

Nicole Daksiewicz got the idea to quilt when she had her first son and discovered the limited bedding options for his nursery. That project grew into a passion, and in 2011, Daksiewicz founded the sewing blog Modern Handcraft, where today she shares tutorials and her signature mod, geometric quilt patterns. (Her newest, Beads, resembles strings of colorful beads lined up across the quilt). "Quilting lets me unplug from things around me. It's an incredible stress reliever and a way of creative self expression," says Daksiewicz. "It has also allowed me to be a part of an amazing community with people from all over the world who share the same passion."

Phoenix quilt on ground with plant by Sharon Holland
Credit: Sharon Holland

Sharon Holland, Springboro, Ohio

Sharon Holland began dabbling in quilting when she was still in college. Not knowing anything about the craft but curious about fabrics, she headed to the library. Sadly, the books she found offered little help. Inspired by the experience, and wanting to guide other artists, Holland was set on the path to becoming not just a quilter, but also a textile designer. Today she creates designs for Art Gallery Fabrics. "I'm a big picture designer," said Holland. "I think of every aspect that's going to be used. I want people to be happy and in love with what they make."

Moonshadow quilt design by Laura Hopper
Credit: Laura Hopper

Laura Hopper, Chicago

Laura Hopper began to quilt to work through the grief of her mother's sudden death. Her first project was made for her infant nephew, and she found it healing to make a quilt for newborn life. Years later, the former musician says she finds inspiration for her quilts in song. "We all have deep and personal connections to songs that are important to us," says Hopper. "Music is therapeutic, and quilts can be objects of comfort, which makes the two mediums a good pair."

Sarah Nishura orange x-shape quilt with varying shades of orange squares.
Credit: Sarah Nishura

Sarah Nishiura, Chicago

Quilting began as a childhood activity that Sarah Nichiura could share with her mother. Later in life, she leaned toward abstract oil painting, though she always used textile art for inspiration. And then she came full circle. "The universality of quilt-making has evolved to combine both warmth and decorating which is part of human nature," says Nishiura. "Beyond the function of it as something to make you warm, you can't divide it from the function that it beautifies your world." Working with fabric has served as an extension of the work she had been doing for most of her adult life.

Heidi Parkes quilt Cream, Sugar, Snow
Heidi Parkes portrait sitting in front of quilt
Heidi Parkes Michigan quilt
Left: Credit: Heidi Parkes
Center: Credit: Heidi Parkes
Right: Credit: Heidi Parkes

Heidi Parkes, Milwaukee

In 2013, Parkes was gifted a quilt top from her grandmother, who had stored it for a decade, and felt inspired to finish it. "I fell in love with making the quilt, and that flow it feels in your hands when you successfully make something," says Parkes. "Quilting drew me in as an art form that I could commit to full time." Parkes had been teaching ceramics, but within a year, she changed career paths to become a quilter, ultimately moving from Chicago to Milwaukee to be closer to the women in her family—and to the Museum of Quilt and Fiber Art.

Johnny Cake quilt over desk by Eric Wolfmeyer
Credit: Marianne Fons

Erick Wolfmeyer, Iowa City

Since 1998, Erick Wolfmeyer has been a quilter. "The endless possibilities of the medium drew me to quilts initially and continue to keep me engaged after over 25 years, without pause," says Wolfmeyer. "I celebrate the relatability and democracy of the medium, and its association with family, home, comfort and connection." Over his long career, the Iowa City artist has created a portfolio that spans traditional and modern styles, as well as quilts that resemble oil paintings and ones, like Dreamer, that reach the scale of murals, more than 20 feet wide.