Kathreen Ricketson’s Brave New Quilts Legacy Tour (or Why I spent an Entire Day Looking at Bauhaus Art)

on October 1 | in Books, Quilting | by | with 18 Comments

I’ve written before about my shock and grief over Kathreen’s death. The online sewing community lost a trailblazer, a visionary and a friend who we’ll always miss. Please continue to hold her family in your hearts–their lives will never be the same.

But this blog tour isn’t about mourning a loss, but rather celebrating Kathreen Ricketson’s legacy, part of which is this amazing book she wrote, recently released by Stash. I received it about a week ago, at first flipping through quickly to see the quilts, then sitting down to slowly read the content.  In Brave New Quilts, Kathreen, who has a background in visual arts, breaks down 12 different 20th century art movements in a way that’s very easy to understand. Along with each chapter is a quilt pattern that is consistent with that movement’s aesthetic.  The information is fascinating, the quilts are amazing, and the design principles are inspiring and approachable.

Over the weekend my family took advantage of the Smithsonian’s Museum Day Live, visiting the Portland Art Museum. Throughout the day I noticed the influence that Kathreen’s words had on the way I was processing the work I saw. Although I studied Art History for several years in college, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about and connecting what I knew about visual arts to quilting. As I walked through the museum, however, I was looking at paintings and seeing quilts, I was reading the names of artists and making connections to many well-known modern quilters.

Although Kathreen’s book doesn’t contain examples of the art of each period, in homage to the spirit of  Brave New Quilts, I thought I’d do a little research and share some inspiring art from just one of the 12 movements that are discussed in the book–Bauhaus. I hope that by reviewing this work, you’ll recognize the influence this art movement–from nearly a century ago –has had on the modern quilts of today, and perhaps be moved to make an art-inspired quilt of your own. (The quilt on the cover of the book, Weave, is Kathreen’s take on Bauhaus, and happens to be one of my favorites.)


The Bauhaus was an art school founded in Germany in 1919. The objective was to unify art and design, so students studied all aspects of fine art as well as architecture and manufacturing technologies, learning to produce art and objects that were both beautiful and practical. (The essence of quilt-making!)

From Brave New Quilts:

The Bauhaus weaving workshop, headed up by Gunta Stolzl, was very productive and radically modern. Texture, line, shape, and color became the main design elements. These simplified and functional geometric shapes are what the Bauhaus is most known for today–clean lines, precision, and the absence of ornamentation.

A few of the most well-known and influential artists of the 20th century were instructors at the Bauhaus.

Josef Albers

Homage to a Square (Part of a  series. Check it out!)

Bundled – Gebundelt, 1925

Skyscrapers on Transparent Yellow, 1929

Learn more about Josef Albers

Gunta Stolzl

Design for a Carpet, 1926

Design for a Carpet, 1926

Jacquard wall hanging, 5 Choirs, 1928

Learn more about Gunta Stolzl

Wassily Kandinsky

Farbstudie Quadrate, 1913

Several Circles, 1926

Sketch for Picture XVI The Great Tower of Kiev, 1924

Learn more about Wassily Kandinsky

Paul Klee

New Harmony, 1936

Maibild, 1925

Highways and Byways, 1929

Learn more about Paul Klee

Theo Van Doesburg

Counter Composition XIV, 1925

Counter Composition, 1929

Composition VIII–The Cow, 1918

Learn more about Theo Van Doesburg

Anni Albers

Although not an instructor at the Bauhaus, Anni Albers was a student there when she met and married Josef Albers. I ran across these pieces, created much later than the  “Bauhaus period”, which I thought were amazingly relevant when put within the context of modern quilt design.

Second Movement II, 1978

Floating, 1980

DR XVI (B), 1974

 Learn more about Anni Albers

I encourage you to check out Kathreen’s book, Brave New Quilts, (we sell it in our book section here) and perhaps do a little art exploration of your own.  I know it has definitely changed the way I see quilt design. Also, be sure to follow the rest of the Brave New Quilts Legacy Tour to read other bloggers’ reflections on Kathreen’s life and her final work.

Tuesday 10/1 Heather Jones
Wedneday 10/2 Kristin Link
Thursday 10/3 Maya Donenfeld
Friday 10/4 Alexandra Smith
Monday 10/7 Sonya Philip
Tuesday 10/8 Ellen Luckett Baker
Wedneday 10/9 Andrea Jenkins
Thursday 10/10 Shannon Cook
Friday 10/11 Mimi Kirchner
Monday 10/14 Cheryl Arkison

Please comment! I’d love to read what you think about the influence of fine art on modern quilts, whether it be some of the pieces from the Bauhaus artists above, or a completely different art movement. Do any modern quilters come to mind when you look at the work above? Do you ever look to art for quilting inspiration? Also, feel free to express your thoughts about Kathreen’s life and legacy.

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18 Responses to Kathreen Ricketson’s Brave New Quilts Legacy Tour (or Why I spent an Entire Day Looking at Bauhaus Art)

  1. Mary says:

    Bauhaus design still informs and influences so many aspects of design today. Amazing for how short lived it was. Wonderful review and great to see that Stolzl piece again.

  2. Esther F. says:

    Thank you for this inspiring post,
    Quilter and art teacher,

  3. Nupur says:

    What a gorgeous book- Kathreen did such beautiful work. I think of myself as “just a crafter” and not an artist but quilting is my gateway to the world of art.

  4. trixi says:

    Kristin I really enjoyed your post. Thanks!
    I love the philosophy of the Bauhaus. I often look at different artists to find inspiration, colour combinations, design ideas etc for my own work. Miro and Paul Klee are 2 artists whose work I love to look at …again and again. Paul Klees work Antique Harmonies was the inspiration for this quilt that I made for my son
    Now I’m making some appliquéd felt purses and using Klee’s magical looking flowers as a starting point for my own magical flower creations!

    • Kristin says:

      Trixi, what a beautiful quilt! I really love the tones. I was very inspired by the research and have printed a few of the Anni Albers pieces to work from.

  5. Lizzie says:

    wow! I wish I had seen Whip Up /Kathreen’s blog sooner than the month before the accident. What a fascinating looking book! I have studied art history, ceramics, paper collage and I just love to see how poeple are influenced not only by what they see, but their other disciplines too. Lovely post, thank you.

  6. Theresa says:

    Thank you for sharing your research on the Bauhaus movement. I studied art at high school but, like you, had forgotten much of it. Your article reminded me of some of my favourite artists – and I now realise that they have influenced my quilting, sewing, and other artistic endeavours subconsciously! I love a good light bulb moment!
    Seeing Kathreen’s book published and explored by the Legacy tour has been quite lovely. Although I didn’t know Kathreen personally I live in the same town and have friends who did know her. I remember being quite surprised when I realised that the person who I was learning so much from online was a person in my neighbourhood that I had heard of! Now I am just grateful that she shared so much of her vision with us – and as a legacy of herself for her children. Thanks for your tribute to her and her legacy.

  7. Qlt812 says:

    Thanks so much for the research which is very informative and I’m a new comer to modern quilting but love every moment of reading the information from different bloggers. I appreciate your blog and may Kathreen Ricketson’s family continue to be blessed to have had such a wonderful and aspiring, and richly knowledgable person who was true to the art of quilting for her works will live on in quilters for years to come. We salute you Kathreen Ricketson….

  8. Christina says:

    Wow, thanks for showing all this great art, and for the insight into Kathreen’s book. I have a painter friend who has a lot of Bauhaus influence and his paintings have a very patchworky feel! I feel very inspired right now.

  9. Anya King says:

    As a family, we go to the PDX Art Museum at least once a month. There are some interesting new pieces in the Contemporary Native American section that have been inspiring me lately. While I love looking at textile arts, I think there can be inspiration from all types of art! Great post.

  10. Jenn Rodriguez says:

    I tend to go to museums when I need inspiration for quilting. I live near Savannah, GA and recently visited the Jepson art museum. They had a group of tibetan monks visiting for the week, creating a sand mandala. I loved the colors and the design behind mandalas. I also loved watching the monks work – so intricate. Needless to say, I was inspired and have a new quilt on my to-make list.

  11. Rozina D. says:

    Wow! This post really hits the nail on the head. Thanks for reminding me of Bauhaus’ design principles.

  12. Ruthann says:

    Til this post I had not heard of Kathreen Rickertson as I am new to modern quilting. What a legacy she left behind and her book looks so inspiring. Many of the artists she has in her book I have pinned their works in my Inspiration board on Pinterest. Next challenge is ‘how do I make that?’ I have some good friends who love Kandinsky. I would love to make a Kadinsky inspired quilt for them. Kathreen’s book will be a good tool too help in constructing these beautiful works of art. Thank you for sharing.

    • Kristin says:

      Please note, Ruthann, that Kathreen only discusses the art movements at a high level in the book. There aren’t any examples of art from the periods in the book (probably because the rights are hard to get for print). I just was inspired to do a bit of research. Still, a great book and the quilts are really fun!

  13. DNA says:

    Are proceeds from the book going to Kathreen’s family?

    • Kristin says:

      I’m sure the proceeds of the book are going to Kathreen’s estate.

  14. Josée says:

    I think that Bahaus art and other contemporary art styles are a great source of inspiration for many of us, modern quilters. I’m looking forward reading this book by Kathreen Ricketson. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Jen S says:

    So fascinating! I too went to the PDX Art Museum and kept thinking how similar quilting and textile design are influenced by paint eras. I have always wanted to sew a variation of a Mondrian painting.
    Next time I visit I’m bringing a sketchbook.

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