How to Make an American Foreclosure Quilt

Patchwork as complex as Americana. 

A quilt is never just a quilt. It’s like Winona said in How to Make an American Quilt: “Young lovers seek perfection. Old lovers learn the art of sewing shreds together and of seeing beauty in a multiplicity of patches.”

In the mid-1990s, the United States economy was well into an economic expansion, doing so well that the Federal Reserve had to engineer a “soft landing” the previous year to slow it down. Had Noni been quilting in the late 2000s, however, her character might have channeled Kathryn Clark instead of a carefree, forlorn lover.

Modesto Foreclosure Quilt, 2011

“Quilts…are a diary of the hard times people have lived through,” Clark explained via email. “People know that quilts tell a powerful story. When they see that quilts are being made about current issues, they react to it on a more emotional level because it reminds them that these events are historical.”

Her Foreclosure Series is a quilting expression that visually punctuates the gashes left in the wake of our economic turbulence. As a former urban planner, Clark is keenly aware of the impact the foreclosure crisis has had on the fabric of communities. The crisis, when delineated in a quilt, shows a changeable yet recurring pattern affecting neighborhoods from sea to shining sea, and the rolling fields of grain in between.

Albuquerque Foreclosure Quilt, 2011

Cape Coral Foreclosure Quilt, 2011

All visually stunning, yes. But sadly, hers are quilts that bear little comfort.

Clark mapped out her quilts using RealtyTrac, denoting foreclosed lots as holes in the patchwork.

Conversely, her Inhabit Project, created in collaboration with Vanessa Filley of Moira & Obbie, explores what it means to literally “inhabit” a space, to live in it and among it. Her studio served as muse; leftover remnants sewn into used napkins, her materials. The collaboration itself, she explains, is elemental to the discipline.

“I think people are realizing that recent generations have followed paths that have taken us away from our community and are harming our planet in the process. Quilting is just one way to slow down and reconnect with what’s in front of you, without producing waste.”

Bookshelf, 2011

Floor, 2011

To borrow from Clark’s Idiom Series, which “renders literally the idioms of everyday language” out of hand felted wool, steel wire, embroidery thread and twine on sewn linen and silk, what goes around comes around.

What Comes Around, Goes Around, 2010

…including economic prosperity. During the next boom, let’s hope, homes will be treated as places to inhabit instead of commodities to trade, gamble and lose.

Via Trendland and Kathryn Clark


K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.