Quilts that won’t keep you warm, but look hot on the wall
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Teetering towers of paper swatches fill every inch of desk space at artist Egle Jauncems’ London studio. Each piece has been salvaged from somewhere unexpected, such as the iridescent pink packaging from a dolls’ house she bought for her daughter. “I always make these little prototypes first, which is why it takes me so long to get started on a piece,” says the Lithuanian-born artist, tearing the card in two. She then starts to weave together sheets of acrylic-painted newsprint, and more refined parchments, to create large-scale abstract compositions.
Jauncems is part of a wave of artists and set designers taking the quilting trend – inspired by the Alabama women’s collective Gee’s Bend – into the realm of paper. Handpainted, collaged, stitched or stapled, the surface effects of this material in quilt form can touch the sublime.
Jauncems uses her quilts to weave stories. Patterns, a series of six naïve paper quilts (from £3,000), tells the true tale of a Lithuanian shoemaker who would spend his evenings drawing intricate weaving patterns. They were never realised while he was alive, so Jauncems adds a cut-out paper car, clouds and fruit trees to create a brighter outcome. Rabbit-skin glue and oil paint mixed with beeswax are just a few of the coats she applies to add depth and complexity to her creations. “I like paper that’s like a sponge, that paint sinks into,” she says. “I like to confuse people with my materials and textures. The finished work can’t look like a painting or a drawing.”
“There is a growing trend towards materiality and the three-dimensionality of a [hanging] artwork,” says collector and art consultant Andreas Siegfried, who showed Jauncems’ works at his Gstaad gallery in 2022. “Egle’s works are almost wall sculptures and also have the vibe of a recycled piece of art, which I especially like.”
In Suffolk’s The Engine House, a derelict Victorian industrial building transformed into a holiday rental, art director Sandy Suffield creates paper quilts from found material including naan-bread wrappers and tissue-paper packaging. Even the frames are sourced from “junky antiques stores”, which determine the works’ size. Guests can purchase her paper quilts directly (from £450) or via Suffield’s Instagram page, where, along with a brief description, the caption simply reads “DM if you fancy a not-at-all functional quilt”.
One post resulted in a commission of 45 paper quilts for Dawn Ranch, a boutique retreat on the banks of the Russian River, California, where Suffield’s quilts now hang in almost every room. “America and California are by nature a patchwork,” says Bridgeton Studio’s Whitney Clark, who co-designed the space. “Many exciting ideas sit at the intersections of this patchwork. But Sandy brings quilting to the here and now.”
For Suffield, who has worked for Apple and London design consultancy Pentagram, the quilts are an antidote to her screen-based work. Paper tiles are glued onto a single surface in different configurations. “With newer quilts, there’s a regimen in their pattern,” says Suffield, adding: “I like how something so strict gets messed up in the process: flat colour takes on the texture of the paintbrush, lines end up on the wonk, flat surfaces become wrinkled. Increasingly, it’s the humanity in work that attracts me; that it’s very much of the hand.”
Abstract painter, sculptor and furniture maker Dominic Beattie, who emulates the surface pattern of crochet quilts using spray paint and oil pastel, agrees. His latest series of works, Glyphs (from £400), takes its cue from a vintage “psychedelic” quilt he spied in a friend’s studio. Each piece follows a grid, making it appear symmetrical yet naïve at the same time. “A funny thing happens when you allow the eye to tune into geometric patterns,” he says. “Before you know it, you are seeing line and triangle combinations everywhere.”
One of those places might well be a Comme des Garçons T-shirt (£180). Earlier this year, a series of works by artist Sofia Clausse caught the eye of Rei Kawakubo, who commissioned three of her paintings to feature on a trio of printed tees for the Homme Deux AW23 collection. “My heart stopped a bit when they told me Rei Kawakubo loved my work,” says Clausse, a Royal Academy Schools graduate.
Quilting techniques interweave across Clausse’s practice; what begins in one piece informs and transforms the next. Particularly striking are XII of Sunstars, 2022 (£2,000), which features six large rectangles of acrylic-painted tissue paper interspersed with stars and floral cut-outs and motifs, and Pressed Flowers Quilt (£1,250), made with layers of transparent tissue-paper squares and filled with pastel-coloured petals. When the door to her dockside studio opens, each hanging panel flutters. “I love that paper quilts have a rhythm and sound. Over time, they curl around the edges – but they age beautifully,” she says.
“Not everyone thinks about hanging quilts on their walls but they bring so much texture, colour and interest,” adds Tintin Macdonald of roving craft gallery Felt Collections, which recently showed Clausse’s works. Paper quilts in particular, she adds, “fall into demand among buyers for works that are made from unusual materials and remnants”. They are a gorgeous example of craft that is “statement, exciting and liveable with”.