Maria Wulf has found fulfillment stitching together the fabric of people’s lives.
Through her quilts and patchwork potholders, the fiber artist looks to make a connection with others.
For the past three years, Wulf has been creating functional art in a former repair shop turned studio off a country road in West Hebron. Her inspiration comes from the book, “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend,” a collection of photos of quilts by a community of black women in Alabama, many who are descendants of slaves who made quilts out of necessity.
The examples are improvisational compositions with imperfect designs and uneven borders.
“You look at them sometimes and you wonder how they chose that, but (the patterns) are all intentional.” Wulf said. “They are like modernist paintings and have their own kind of unique aesthetic.”
The artist uses recycled fabric from thrift stores or patches together creations from scrap material other quilters send her. Her signature element is to throw in a strip of incongruent color to an otherwise well-coordinated scheme.
Wulf started by making quilts and tried selling them at craft fairs but found few people willing to pay between $250 and $300. She knew browsers liked her creations, as they often commented on their beauty. She thought about making smaller, inexpensive versions of her work that people could take home. That’s when she got the idea of creating potholders. Between October and December of last year, she sold about 300 of them and received another hundred orders after Christmas. At $9 each, the potholders have become her bread-and-butter products. She said she sometimes finds people who want to frame them instead of using them to remove a hot casserole from the oven.
Wulf believes each work has a different “personality” and even wrote about the “existential” potholder she created on her blog, prompting a dialogue with the owner.
“I like the idea that someone who is cooking pulls out this thing that’s part of your everyday life; you want to look at and that gives you pleasure. That’s important to me,” she said.
Recently Wulf was sent a box of neatly folded fabric from a woman whose mother suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home. She asked Wulf to make 20 potholders for her family out of the vintage 1960s and 1970s material. Each piece represented a different memory, like the dress that was worn to a family member’s wedding. The mother didn’t grasp what a potholder was, so the daughter folded it over and sewed an eyeglass case out of it.
“Her mother understood that. I loved that. It gives you such a bizarre way of connecting with people,” she said.
Wulf said for many years she denied her “passion” of creating art while following her ex-husband’s love of fixing up old houses and selling them. Destructive thoughts of not being able to make good art stopped her.
Working in the studio gave the artist, now 46, the chance to rediscover her art and let go of worrying about creating original or “great” works as she approaches the “full moon” phase of her life.
“If you’re not doing (what makes you happy) then, it’s just not going to happen. This is the last opportunity,” she said.
Now engaged to West Hebron writer Jon Katz, Wulf changed the name of her business to Full Moon to reflect her philosophy and feels she’s doing what feels right. Still, she doesn’t look too far into the future.
“I don’t know where this is going to go, but I know it’s important to keep doing it,” she said.