The first feature in this series focuses on contemporary quilting duo, Hopewell. We spoke with Eliza Kenan and Claire Oswalt of Hopewell about setting up shop in Hollywood, working as a team, and how their quilting inspiration comes from art and architecture – read the interview:
Modern and abstract quilting have been around for a long time but has only recently come into the popular internet limelight. Who are some of your favorite modern quilters?
Denyse Schmidt, Meg Callahan, and the men and women in the LA Modern Quilt Guild.
As a team of two, how do you decide how a quilt is designed and made? Can you give us a look into your process?
Claire works quickly and intuitively, while Eliza works methodically and with precision. Our styles compliment each other, and the design process unfolds pretty simply. Much of our process involves play – moving around small color swatches and letting a design emerge organically. Or perhaps we begin working towards an inspiring palette or with a pattern we’ve been carrying in our back pockets for years; regardless, the results feel whole, considered, and truly collaborative.
A NJ/NY native and Texan who make quilts… how did you end up in Hollywood?
Eliza: I came to LA in 2003 to work as a set designer for film. I wasn’t planning on staying very long but then I met my husband. He’s a filmmaker so Los Angeles is the easiest place for us to live and work.
Claire: I was 20, and I foolishly followed a boy across the country. I finished school at USC, then stayed to begin a career in art.
Tell me more about the influence of the Hopewell Exchange System?
The Hopewell Exchange System is a network of trade routes connecting a number of related Native American populations. We like the romantic notion of an old-fashioned system of commerce, where handmade goods were created from the raw materials traveling the route, then again sent along the route in a converted form; especially since we make a product known for it’s handmade nature and historical symbolism.
What are some of the challenges and benefits of working as a team?
You always have a lunchdate.
There’s always a second opinion.
We split all the work.
You argue over what you want for lunch.
There’s always a second opinion.
We split all the profits.
Eliza, how does having a degree and background in architecture affect or influence your quilting work?
I’ve always been a fan of geometry and simple construction that ultimately leads to a beautifully functional object or space. I use the same vector drawing program to design our quilt patterns that I use in architectural renderings and set design.
Also, You have been quilting for over 11 years – has it always been modern?
Would you be willing to share an older work you did? 12 years now! It’s hard to define modern, but I think anyone looking at my work would say yes. I started my first quilt as a way of keeping my hands busy after a long day staring at architectural plans on a computer screen. The visual language I was surrounded by in New York was modern and minimal and I had no ‘How to Quilt’ guidebook, so I just made it up. I was self-taught and ultimately I think I naturally brought my minimal architectural aesthetic to my quilts.
Claire, how does your background in painting have an influence on quilt designs?
The mere practice of drawing and painting has given me a design foundation that I trust, and that has become second nature. It also allows for a painterly element of movement to be added to the typically structured designs.
What was the inspiration for The Deep End quilt?
The quilt simply mimics water, and more specifically the layers of an ocean. Water on the surface is seemingly light in color and in continual movement. Deeper waters are dark and dense.
What’s next for Hopewell?
We have larger throw quilts and throw pillows on the horizon, as well as children’s pillows and garments. And keep your eye out for paper goods. They will be making an appearance in the near future.