Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quilt Artist - Kathleen Mc Cabe

I recently met up with Kathleen McCabe on the opening weekend of Quilts=Arts=Quilts at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, NY where she had two quilts on display. I was interested in interviewing Kathleen as she was curating SAQA’s traveling exhibit, “No Place to Call Home,” which included one of my own pieces.

I had never met Kathleen before and didn’t know what to expect. Her website bio was a little intimidating – a long list of juried exhibitions including Quilt National and Quilt Visions, a solo show, and representation in many other exhibitions and publications. I need not have worried. Kathleen’s warm smile and vibrant, sparkling eyes can put anyone at ease.

Kathleen’s  bio had said that she started sewing when she was 9 years old. I began by asking Kathleen how she got involved with quilting and particularly art quilts.

I was living in Southeast Ohio very close to Quilt National and my kids were young. I felt kind of stuck - with the weather, you couldn’t go outside much in the winter.  I was desperate for creative expression. So I started making pictures with my fabric. I kind of made things up myself. I figured out that if you put batting behind the fabric, the stitches stayed in better.

Then I started getting some magazines and followed directions in them. That was kind of boring because you followed someone else’s design but I still learned some things. I found a book about machine quilting and learned all I could from that and just began to read anything I could get my hands on. I started selling my pictures, a nice way to have some income, and things just sort of took off from there.

Kathleen had a piece in Quilt National in 2009. Since she mentioned that she lived for a while in Ohio near the Quilt National site, I wondered if she had been to QN back when she was starting to explore quilting and if that had influenced her.

I happened upon QN while I was living in Ohio – just chanced upon it, probably about 1983 or 1984.  I said,  “Oh, other people do this. I am going to be in this show.

Kathleen with Protea – currently on exhibit at Quilts=Arts=Quilts
Kathleen was very active in Quilt Visions for a number of years.

I found Quilt Visions when I moved back to San Diego which is my home.  I became a member and eventually I was invited to join the Board.

With so many achievements, I wondered about burnout and why she keeps quilting.

I have to do this.  It’s my meditation when life gets crazy. The only thing that can calm me down is having time to work on my art. I don’t always get to do as much as I want…..this year has been a difficult one. I just need to work on my art to keep my perspective.

We also discussed her experience curating "No Place to Call Home."
SAQA came up with ‘curator in training’ program where you could submit an idea. I had actually considered putting a show together once before – it was after I was no longer involved with Quilt Visions. I was used to being active in an organizational community and I thought it would be fun to put a quilt show together and find venues for it – particularly a show about homelessness. I was familiar with St. Vincent de Paul and the Alpha Project which does outreach to the homeless. I thought it would be fun to contact people and see how I could do this.  It turned out to be a really overwhelming task so it wound up on a back burner.

But when the curator in training opportunity came up, the venues were already in place for an exhibit. So, I submitted a proposal and it was accepted. I just went from there. There was lots of info on SAQA website on how to curate. I have loved doing it and would love to do another exhibit sometime.

Kathleen has two works in the current Quilts=Arts=Quilts show in Auburn, NY.

Flight Crew
The one of the officer and sailor is called Flight Crew. The officer in the back is the pilot is my father-in-law and when he passed away several years ago, someone from his past navy career sent it to my mother-in-law. Nobody knows who the sailor is.  They think he was at Whigbey Island at the time doing surveillance patrols. It was just a photograph in a hangar. A sailor in front and that mop. I just loved the photograph. 

The other work is called Protea. We have a protea plant in our front yard and it is just beautiful in the spring. I actually made that piece for a traveling show on the seasons. I had planned to do spring, summer, winter,  and fall but I didn’t finish winter in time. Protea was my spring piece. 

I have only shared a glimpse of Kathleen's amazing quilt art. If you would like to see more, you can check out her website.  Enjoy!


  1. I had the pleasure of meeting Kathleen at Q=A=Q as well, and spent some time talking with her about her wonderful "Flight Crew" and the story behind it. It's one of those works where the picture can't fully do it justice, in person it really "pops" and is emotionally engaging. Thanks for featuring Kathleen, I enjoyed learning more about her and her work.