Waterloo, Indiana Quilter Stitches Together Family History and Riotous Color

By Eric Olson

June 18, 2010 Updated Sep 22, 2007 at 5:43 PM EDT

Lina Zerkle is one of the most talented quilt makers you’ll find anywhere in ‘Your Country’.
“I like taking bits and pieces of things kind of a chaotic approach and making some organization from it. So I guess maybe it's chaos contained!” says the Waterloo, Indiana fibre artist. ‘Chaos contained’ describes here studio to a thread. Stacks of riotous-colored fabric fill every corner; blasts of color explode on every wall. This artist never met a loud color she didn’t like. It’s a trait her fellow fibre artists caught on to long ago.
“They would give me uglies,” Lina says, “they'd say give that bright gaudy color and that ugly fabric to Lina she'll find something to do with it.”
What Zerkle would do with it is craft something breathtaking, ugly duckling shards of fabric cobbled into quilt swans, warm, cheerful, stunning. Zerkle discovered quilting in the ’70’s, she cut up her paisley bellbottom pants to make her first quilt. But that instinct for color and affection for small scraps serves her well. And the artist has a sense of humor. Her latest piece is a quilt with large mouthed men and women shouting at each other. It’s called ‘Talking Heads and Media Whores”, a commentary on 24 hour news channels. Zerkle says she’s doing fewer designs these days and more figurative pieces, like her recent series of self-portraits.
“This is me with duct tape wrapped around my head,” she says, holding up a sewn fabric caricature of a woman with silver duct tape covering most of her face. "Has that ever happened?" we ask. “No, but sometimes I'd like to because people make your head explode!”
Quilters know their work will likely outlive them; a quilt can last for fifty or a hundred years, maybe more. And that fact isn’t lost on Lina Zerkle. She’s using her art to honor her family, to add something to their story that will survive long after she’s gone.
“I started a series on my ancestors, the women in my family and I did one of my mother and I want to do one of my grandmother and great-grandmother. Time goes fast and life is a little shorter now, so I hope I'll finish some.
We have no doubt she will, and they will be gorgeous.




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