Charleston (Bradley County), Tennessee
Year of Award
Grant or Fellowship
Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship
Mandy Wilson is handpiece quiltmaker from Charleston, Tennessee, who is quick to reference her family members who mentored and continue to support her work as a quilter.
“I learned to quilt from my grandmother, her sisters, and my mother,” explained Wilson. “Each of these people made amazing quilts to help survive the cold, long winters. They utilized scraps that were given to them from others. They did not have much, but they made quilts in those lean times that were beautiful and portrayed their faith and hope for the future. These women taught me how to quilt. When I was in my teens, I began going to local quilt exhibits put on by the local quilt guild, of which my mother and I eventually became members. It wasn't long before we started participating in these exhibits. By my late teens, we began making annual trips to Paducah, Kentucky (home of the National Quilt Museum) for their international quilt show. I learned a tremendous amount from studying the technically flawless and stunningly designed works that were displayed there. My own development as a quiltmaker was fueled by what I saw on those trips. I have tried to learn everything I can about the craft of quiltmaking, but I have focused on hand-piecing techniques applied to traditional patterns executed in a contemporary aesthetic. I have been making quilts for over twenty years, and I can see continuing with making them for as long as I have the ability to see and hold a needle.”
“Today quiltmaking is seen more as a hobby, with commercially made quilts being made in abundance. As for me, I have a deep connection to the art form, and through my work I feel that connection to my past and to the women who taught me and have since passed on. When I quilt, I feel that they are here with me and hopefully are pleased by the direction in which my craft has gone.”
Wilson anticipates continuing her lifelong learning by participating in classes at Penland School of Craft, John C. Campbell Folk School, and the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. She also anticipates using her Folk Fellowship funds to purchase quilting supplies and a new quilting frame, travel to quilt shows, and take a workshop from renowned Gee's Bend quilters Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway. Wilson would also like to purchase a video camera, microphone, and portable lighting to conduct interviews with other quilters to document their personal stories of why they quilt and why quilting is important to them.
“It is impossible to separate the individual quilts people make from the stories they have to tell. I am determined to seek these people out and learn those stories and their techniques. I am motivated by tradition, but also by learning new things. I cannot imagine a day when there is nothing new for me to learn about quiltmaking.”