Stitching Narratives

Kerry Larkin’s Comma Workshop

Kerry Larkin brings a fresh perspective to the time honored tradition of quilting, exploring the intersection of art, design, and craft. In 2010, Kerry founded Comma Workshop, with the intention to “elevate the everyday by creating thoughtful, modern inspired textiles.” Her approach is unique in the way that she combines the art of quilt-making and storytelling, stitching narratives directly onto quilts, blending elements of fantasy and wit. Her collections speak of “intentional action, consciously and actively moving through the world.”
In 2006, the idea to start Comma Workshop was first explored when she participated in an art show at the SAAW Gallery in Philadelphia titled, “The Greater Good.” This gallery was about to be torn down for the expansion of the Philadelphia Convention Center…thus posing the question, “What is the greater good?” In response, Kerry collected stories that she sewed onto translucent scrims that hung from the ceiling one after another. “The viewer could not read one story without being influenced by the subsequent stories. My intention was to show that there are layers of people’s experiences and stories that overlap, reflect, and conflict—and defining the greater good becomes difficult.”
 
Kerry comes from a family of quilters and has memories of growing up sitting around a quilt frame, participating in quilting bees, which traditionally was an opportunity to connect and socialize. When she founded Comma Workshop, her goal was to put a new spin on this concept, creating a collaborative effort, “where the sharing of fabrics, transforms functional quilts into cultural artifacts.”
 
Her CONTEXT collection particularly captures experiences and stories gathered from people and places across the country through conversations and observations. She collaborates with friends, passing around ideas of words, themes, and colors. She says, “I am constantly using all of my senses to gather information, images, sounds, etc.” She merges, layers, and catalogs these experiences, giving them voice within each quilt piece and pattern. They are often fun and quirky and not meant to be taken too seriously. The COMMABABY collection explores “patch and pattern” through narratives inspired by the cycles of the season, nature, and birth. She says, “They are poetic in nature and flow from one season to the next.”

Kerry’s design process is non-linear, in the sense that she sketches, sews, and jumps back and forth between the two. She has numerous notebooks filled will ‘haikus’ that capture past experiences, acting as a starting point for the quilts. Once she gets the general idea about where the narrative is headed, she jumps right on the machine and starts quilting, allowing her to feel and see how the words work with one another. She uses the machine as if she were writing with a pencil. She loves clean, crisp lines, paired with a “little realness.” She moves away from anything that looks "too sterile and gravitates toward the modern-inspired design fused with the everyday." She likes to use the word, “dirty realness.” She says, “For me, it’s taking the sterile white box and throwing some life into it.”

For more information about Kerry and her quilts,  please visit: www.commaworkshop.com

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