Edna J. Patterson-Petty draws on memories, experiences, her heritage, her hometown, and recycles all into art quilts that she often constructs from recycled fabric and clothing. In this first photo of her fabric art "You Got Soul," you can spot a bit of an old blouse. In the second photo, her art piece "Your Love," includes a recycled silk jacket. The spider-like image is an old necklace someone had given her. The last photo, but certainly not the least, "Lady Sings the Blues" dresses the lady in a recycled blouse fabric. Edna explains that "I purchase old and broken jewelry from flea markets. If I see an interesting pattern in an old dress, etc. at the thrift store or Goodwill, then I use that in the art piece. I seldom purchase new fabric by the yard unless I'm creating a commissioned piece. In memory quilts, of course, it is recycled clothing."
Here's Edna's Story in her Own Words:
For me, art is like an old friend. It is always there during my trials and tribulations, during my good times. I honor it and nourish it and give thanks for it. I am truly blessed.
When recently, I was presented with Grand Center Visionary Arts award for ‘successful working artist’ and then the very next day I found out that I had been nominated by my peers for another award in the arts -- it was blessing heaped atop blessing. To receive recognition for doing something that I am truly passionate about and to know what my purpose in life is. Who could ask for more? Regardless of what life throws my way, I have been able to make a living doing something I love.
Neither of my parents were artistic, so I am not sure how far back in my gene pool my creative sparks began sprouting. I went from the first grade all the way through high school without any teacher, or students for that matter encouraging me as an artist. Now believe me, I didn’t know what an artist was and didn't until much later in my life.
I am the oldest of seven children, yet I never felt that I belonged. I enjoyed creating, I saw designs in the clouds and fascinating images in the trees. I found beauty in things that were not so beautiful. My siblings, two sisters, and three brothers’, enjoyed the typical things kids love, I guess. I do know that they all thought I was weird. I was a very quiet child; I kept to myself on most occasions. I did play with them and had fun doing so, but when the creative urge visited me, I would become lost in doodling. As I grew older I began writing poetry.
What I did as a child was soothing, it was my way of escaping into another world.
My love for working with fabric came very early in life. I assisted my mom to recycle our old clothing in preparation for her making quilts to keep us warm in the winter. I was in elementary school at the time. My job was to rip the worn garments apart, the zippers were placed in a large plastic bag and the buttons were placed in a large pickle jar.
I did not learn how to sew until I entered high school and that is where I learned to make my own clothing. My mom sewed by hand, she did not own or know how to use a sewing machine. Once I learned to sew by machine, I was able to teach her. Many years, and 4 children later, I attended college for the first time as an art major, and when I began in my fibers class the flood of memories returned of those early days of ripping apart old clothing and watching my mom create bed quilts.
I learned so many wonder things such as hand painting, vat dying, weaving, etc. I was in heaven. Having to do numerous fabric samples in class, I knew that I did not want to waste the fabric. That is when I started to re-assemble the fabric scraps into a ‘whole’ thing of wonder. Many of my much younger classmates would throw their samples away, and I would wait until everyone left class and returned later to forage through the trash to gather the tossed scraps. That was the beginning of my fabric art, and I still to this day recycle. Here are images of a few art quilts where I recycled old clothing.
I was born and raised in East St. Louis, IL. and still live and love here. It is an impoverished city, but it wasn’t always this way. Many people look at only the negative things about the city, and over look the good. My city is very rich in talent: people such as Ambassador McHenry; Jackie Joyner-Kersee, sports icon; Lorna Polk, at one time was appointed by Pres. Johnson over education. The first African American FBI agent is also from my city. My husband, a former Peace Corp Director of 4 countries in Africa, also added to the city's rich history. Yet few see the core of strength, only our demise.
My love of helping people led me also into a career in Art Therapy. I completed a double Masters’ degree while in college. Art therapy is counseling using the arts. Over the years I have combined the skills of my fine arts training, my art therapy skills, my mother wit, and intuitiveness and genuine care for people in to a unique way of doing creative workshops. I also apply those skills into my fabric art. I have constructed many memory/commemorative quilts to tell other peoples stories.
Last year I received a NAACP award for the Arts and have received many accolades for my involvement in the arts over the years. Such great blessings, and I don't take any thing for granted. But being asked to create a quilt for the Presidential Inauguration was the icing on the cake. I am still very excited about that.
To see more of Edna's stunning fabric art and learn more about her successes, visit her website and flicker photos. And there are a few surprises of non-fabric art to enjoy.