My first potholders were small versions of my quilts. I came up with the idea to make potholders when I started my business and my quilts weren’t selling quickly. I imagined if I were looking at my quilts and wanted one, but didn’t have the money to buy one, I’d like to have something to take with me to remind me of the quilts. Like a post card or business card with an image on it. That’s when I thought a potholder was even better than just a reproduction, because almost everyone could use a potholder at some point, even if you don’t cook much. And if you’re going to have a potholder, it might as well be something pretty to look at.
I was always drawn to functional art, the idea of surrounding myself with beauty whenever possible. The potholder also spoke to me of the idea of women’s work. Something that has been a running theme in most of my art. These are the repetitive tasks and chores traditionally done by women. It’s the daily work of keeping house, but also the creativity that shows up in that work. Quilting is the perfect example of this. Done out of necessity, it can become an outlet for creativity. An interruption to the ordinary. The voice and identity of the quilter.
All of my work does this for me, whether it’s functional or not. And the only necessity I work out of is the necessity to create. But as the objects that I make change, my potholders and quilts remain a constant. But my potholders, even more than my quilts, are the continuing story of the evolution of my work. Like stepping-stones I use them to develop new ideas or express a quick thought or a short story.
The first stitched drawings on my potholders were of the inside of my Studio Barn at Old Bedlam Farm. As I became more confident and self-aware I created my Every Day Goddesses who spoke words of empowerment and encouragement. My Affirmation Potholders, which had no images at all, were the words I was telling myself to make it through the day. And more recently, my hen and barn cat potholders tell stories of the farm. My latest potholders, that I’m making from Vintage Hankies, feel like something new to me. More subtle, less obvious there’s an intuitive freedom in making them. It’s more like dancing than walking.
I feel as if I’ve made the potholder into an important art form for me. It wasn’t intentional, it’s just how it evolved. They’re my sketches, the place I jump off from. Where I go to try out a new idea. They are a part of my creative language. Each new potholder makes sense, has legitimacy because of the potholder that came before it. They are a constantly growing body of work, known and dependable in one sense and ever evolving in another.
When I think of it, it’s kind of amazes me that a potholder could have so much meaning and importance for me. No matter where my work takes me I always seem to come back to the potholder. It’s my touchstone. Always bringing me back and moving me forward.
5 thoughts on “Potholder Art”
Dear Maria, I love this story of your work, your creative life. Your entry about the “Gee Bend Creative Bible” is another beautiful story and understanding of your creative life. Your thought process along this vein is so encouraging, as well as fascinating. Annie
Hi Maria so glad to see this post and hear about your evolving process. I have 2 of those first pot holders and I gave 2 to my sister DJ, who lives 3000 mi away She is a great cook and uses them all the time, mine are the art on my fridge. Every day I enjoy looking at them. Thank you for that.
That is so nice to hear Susan. It’s wild to think some of the older ones are still out there.
I love these insights into your process. I had wondered what brought you to potholders and now that I’ve read it, the logic is so clear.