For as long as mankind has lived together in groups, interlacing, weaving, sewing and all manner of work that starts with the humble thread have brought physical comfort and served as a means of expression. THREADS explores the needle arts, including storytelling through quilts and textiles that speak to the creativity of the human spirit.

Faith Ringgold, Randall Darwall, Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, and Terese Agnew– nationally acclaimed fiber artists who through story-quilts, fiber collages and woven textiles go beyond pure technique to tell us fictions and truths that pierce our sensibilities and hold secrets to the history of this country stretching from coast to coast.

Faith Ringgold, Echoes of Harlem, 1980

Faith Ringgold’s bold colors and forms express her strongly held, loudly expressed credo “Anyone Can Fly”. From a family of quilters she developed her craft, and even though a painter, author, teacher and necromancer organizer, she is best known for her painted story quilts which regale us with rich and determined stories of African-American life. Ringgold works in many other media, such as a notable mosaic for the New York subway system at 125th Street in Harlem, where she grew up and taught for many years, bringing the proud history of African-American masters to a new generation.

Faith Ringgold painting in her studio, Mark Markley photograph

The clear light and bold sunsets on the Cape Cod beach inspire premiere colorist/weaver Randall Darwall’s sophisticated fabrics, which affect our intellect and emotions through visual rhythms and sensuous tactility. Darwall and life-partner of 25 years, Brian Murphy create a panoply of colors that fill their studio and dye pots – "Why use five colors when fifty will do nicely?" they ask as they joyously produce their unique and beautifully crafted scarves, shawls, quilts and clothing.

Randall Darwall sets up the loom. Mark Markley photograph

For Consuelo Jimenez Underwood, life began in the green fields of California’s Central Valley as a child laborer. Artistic expression was deeply tied to traditional Huichol weaving, a heritage she incorporates into her large mixed media textiles. For her, it is the thread that links the past to the present. Borders and barriers are the vocabulary she uses to describe and celebrate the lives of migrant field workers and indigenous people who are marginalized and downtrodden.

Consuelo Jimenez Underwood at the loom. Mark Markley photograph

All of Terese Agnew‘s quilts are stories drawn from real life. Fueled by environmental and labor rights concerns, Agnew paints and sews painstakingly detailed quilts in her sunny Wisconsin studio. Agnew’s important Portrait of a Textile Worker, pieced together from more than 30,000 clothing labels mailed to her from all corners of the world, underscores the abusive conditions endured by disenfranchised workers who make our clothing in countries we rarely think about.

Terese Agnew embroiders her leaf design. Mark Markley photograph

Throughout history, man has sought ways to craft a domestic environment that is warm, comforting, and redolent of meaning and memories. Through interviews with nationally acclaimed artists working at the forefront of their media, artists devoting their lives and pushing boundaries of technique in the pursuit of their art, THREADS looks at ways in which the needle arts have evolved from the “functional” to the “meaningful”.

Terese Agnew, Portrait of a Textile Worker, 2005, Courtesy of the Artist

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THREADS Episode Preview
Artist Faith Ringgold talks about the process of creating the "Tar Beach" story quilt.
Artist Faith Ringgold talks about her writing process and "Tar Beach".
Laura Perez talks about fiber artist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood's work.
Collectors Margarete and David Harvey talk about Terese Agnew's "Margarete's Garden".
Weaver Randall Darwall tells how preparing for a craft show is "like building a house".
Brian Murphy and Randall Darwall talk about incorporating cloth fragments into garments.
Charles Kernaghan on Terese Agnew's Portrait of a Textile Worker.

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Learn more about the artists in the THREADS episode HERE >


Craft In America Educational Materials look further at THREADS as a concept in craft. Visit the EDUCATION section to see what's available and download a Lesson Guide HERE >