6 October 2023

Material Memories

Cory Emma Siegler’s modular quilted
textiles connect and comfort


by Kate Mothes

“I think of my studio as a sort of living archive, an ever-evolving inventory of cloth, or my own private recycling center,” says artist Cory Emma Siegler, whose vibrant ongoing series, Modular Quilts, incorporates buttons along the edges of each piece so that they can be combined and rearranged to create different shapes, pattern combinations, and functions. “The quilts were made to the scale of my body, and can be worn on the body or shared across multiple bodies,” she says. “In this way, the users become part of the piece and determine its structure.”

During a photo shoot last autumn with the artist’s friend, photographer Rob MacInnis, the quilts were captured in a natural setting, juxtaposing a medium we typically associate with domestic interiors into a wild, wooded landscape. “With this shoot, and with all my work really, I’m interested in seeing how the quilts interact and integrate with the environment around them,” Siegler says.

In their traditional role as bed coverings, often with symbolic and historic patterns or canvases for incredible narratives, quilts provide a rich and diverse legacy to tap into. As objects of comfort, often passed down as family heirlooms, they are treasured connections to ancestry and home. For Siegler, they represent an exciting versatility, shifting within both two-dimensional and three-dimensional space, neither strictly decorative nor utilitarian. Beyond simple blankets, they can be spread out for a picnic, donned as capes, and buttoned together to create a chain.

Her studio process reflects an exploration of material and time, sensing when colors, textures, and patterns work in harmony. She says:

Pieces of fabric become markers of time and relationships, imbued with a history that’s imprinted in the creases, the stains and the worn out spots. Each piece is touched and felt and considered by me before being sorted onto a shelf to mingle with the other gathered fabrics. I’ll sometimes have a scrap of fabric sitting for years before I rediscover it in my studio, and it finally makes sense to use it. Other bits of fabric slowly make their way across several pieces, a travelling thread between works, until eventually they’ve been entirely repurposed. The studio becomes a site for alchemy. It is a place where material memories are remixed and recontextualized, where disparate scraps from different corners and ages of my life are stitched together into something new and whole.

Find more on Siegler’s website and Instagram.

Images © Cory Emma Siegler, courtesy of the artist. Forest photos by Rob MacInnis

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