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Column #51

Quilted Pages

Doll Quilts
The page illustration for Australia from Alphabet Atlas, written by Arthur Yorinks and illustrated by Adrienne Yorinks. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Yorinks.

Textile artist and designer Adrienne Yorinks has conversations with fabrics. The same piece of fabric might tell her a completely different story, depending on the time of day or night.

Based on her mindset at a given time or what is going on in the world at a particular moment, a fabric’s message might change. And Yorinks’ feelings about it may change as well. Some fabrics whisper, some shout, some laugh. Some are highborn; some are common. Some come from other countries; some are homegrown. Adrienne gets to know them all. She spends time with her fabrics, learns about their ages, their places of origin, what they’re made of, how they’re formed. It is through such intimate communication that she translates their stories into images that speak to the rest of us.

Looking at books illustrated with original quilts by Adrienne, it is clear that she uses her love of fabric to good effect. A piece of 1885 mourning fabric is used in a quilt to illustrate Eugene O’Neill’s The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog, written in the 1940s about the death of a beloved pet. Cloth featuring honey possums—an animal unique to Australia—and, artwork by Aborigines, borders a block depicting Australia in The Alphabet Atlas.

In Quilt of States (written with assistance from 50 librarians and published by National Geographic), conversation prints depicting iconic images about each state playfully enliven the descriptions, encouraging readers of all ages to enjoy learning things they might have overlooked had they not examined the quilted illustrations.

Adrienne’s passion for fabric began when she was just a child. Growing up in New York City as the daughter of an artistic mother, she was exposed to art early on. As she was particularly drawn to color and texture, fabric was a natural choice to express her creativity. She started out by making doll clothes, a hobby that propelled her at an early age to assemble what has now become a huge collection of textiles of all sorts.

Although fabrics have always been Adrienne’s medium of choice and she has been sewing most of her life, she has not always been a quilter. She became one when she moved to upstate New York and joined a quilt guild. Serving as program chair, being inspired by others who were as passionate about fabrics as she was, and learning by doing, Adrienne fell in love with quilts and quiltmaking.

She is now internationally known for her art quilts, and her clients range from public entities such as the AFL-CIO, the Texas Library Association, and City University of New York (to name a few), to private collectors such as well-known children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. Her pieces often contain a powerful social message.

Adrienne certainly did not set out to be a book illustrator, using quilts as a medium for those illustrations. Lisa Holton, the publisher of Hyperion Books for Children, who had seen a one-woman show of Adrienne’s work, approached her about doing the illustrations for a book entitled Stand for Children.

The text was a famous speech by the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman, in which she said, “If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much.” The publisher thought that quilts would be a good choice for the book and felt certain that Adrienne would be the best person to realize that idea. It was the beginning of a new facet of Adrienne’s career.

Since illustrating that first book in 1999, she has steadily worked on others, including the recent Hummingbirds, which was published in 2011. Each book features quilts that add another dimension to the subject matter and text—a visual narrative that enhances the written one.

Adrienne designs her quilts on a wall, like a puzzle, putting up different fabrics to see how they look, varying the colors and textures as the piece takes shape and comes together. “I like to work big,” she says. “Some of my quilts are 8 ½ feet by 10 feet, and that feels comfortable to me. Learning to work within the parameters required for book illustration has been a real stretch.”

Thankfully for readers, she has managed that transition, allowing her fabrics to reveal their secrets and share their stories in an unexpected way. In short, through her quilted illustrations, Adrienne Yorinks has given her beloved fabrics a voice and allowed them to speak to an audience they might otherwise have never reached.

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Archived blogs:

Column 149: Rosie’s Redwork
Column 148: The Quilt of Belonging
Column 147: Kanthas—The Quilts of Bangladesh
Column 146: Patterns
Column 145: Suzy on Carolyn Mazloomi's Groundbreaking Quilt Exhibit
Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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