Quilts, Queerness, and Community

A Virtual Lecture with Grace Rother and Sunny A Smith



Tavi Veraldi, Sunshine & Shadows Quilts Diptych, scrap bag, 27 x 31 inches, Grace Rother, January, 2022.
Sunny A. Smith, Camp Curtain 2006: “Ahistoric occasion,” MASS MoCA, north Adams, MA, 2023.

How does quilting chart relationships between the past, present, and future? How does it preserve or make visible histories that traditional modes of historical authority have overlooked or marginalized? Drawing upon the spirit and history of the quilting bee as a site of expression, resistance, inquiry and community, multidisciplinary trans* nonbinary artist Sunny A. Smith presents examples of socially-engaged quilting while unraveling how quilts have been tethered to a problematic Americana aesthetic that can reinforce unspoken racial, class, and other hierarchies. Through examples from their research and practice, they propose the ways quilts can serve as arenas or platforms for urgent political discussions while also memorializing intimacy and time, embodied knowledge, and lived human experience. 

What does it mean to queer quilt history and how might we begin to engage with queer patchwork traditions? How have quilts been used as records of identity in the past? Drawing on local quilt archives, broader queer history, and their own relationship with the craft, quilter Grace Rother pulls a thread of connection between the current climate of queer resilience and the handwork of the past. In this lecture Grace will share how they approach the recovery of queer community within the quilting past. By examining past reinterpretations of traditional patterns they will highlight opportunities to contribute queer perspectives. Join them in digging through the quilting legacies on record to find seeds of queerness and marvel at the power in creating something both soft and sturdy to tell your story.

After their talks, Sunny and Grace will be in conversation together. There will be time for questions and audience engagement, moderated by Dr. Jess Bailey of Public Library Quilts.

Wednesday, November 29th, 2023


2 pm – 3:30 pm ET

Zoom, a link will be send to participants the day before the event

All Tatter lectures are considered community programming and therefore ticket prices are donation-based. The suggested donation for each of these lectures is $25. Donations start at $15 for each lecture and $90 for the whole series.

*This session will be recorded. A link to the recording will be emailed to all those who register following the live session. This link is live for 24 hours only.


Grace Rother (she/they) is an artist and writer based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has lived her whole life in the Great Lakes region of the midwest and her relationship with the land and those who love it create the parameters of their practice. Grace works deeply with reclaimed materials and views each quilt she makes as both an archive of stories and a practical way of preserving textiles in use. As a non-binary lesbian Grace is always peering at so-called “women’s work” through a queer lens.

Grace grew up in SE Michigan surrounded by people with strong convictions and passionate creativity. Following in the footsteps of many American quilters, Grace utilizes quilts as catalysts for change through community organizing and raffles. In 2020 Grace organized the Abolition Quilting Bee. Her work has been shown in Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and Ypsilanti Michigan.

You can find more information about Grace’s work on her website: gracerother.com


Sunny A. Smith (they/them) is a nonbinary trans* artist grateful to be living and working as a guest on the homelands of Chochenyo and Ramaytush Ohlone peoples in the San Francisco Bay Area. They learned to quilt from their mother Kitty Smith in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Smith’s work resides at the intersection of traditional craft, sculptural objects, experimental performance, and social practice. In addition to an active exhibition practice, they have been teaching for over two decades and now serve as the Dean of Fine Arts at California College of the Arts.  

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