The Source for Contemporary Art Quilts, Exhibitions & Appraisals

Pamela Studstill

During the 1980s, Pamela Studstill's remarkable body of work established her as a member of a group of pioneering artists who broke the traditional bounds of quiltmaking and launched it into today's art world. Studstill's #21 won Best of Show at the 1983 Quilt National exhibition, and she was awarded National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowships in 1983 and 1988. She also was one of fourteen artists invited to make quilts for the genre-defining 1987 exhibition "The Art Quilt," curated by Penny McMorris and Michael Kile. Quilts by Pamela Studstill are in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution's American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery; the Museum of Arts & Design in New York City; the Ardis and Robert James Collection at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, (which includes six of her quilts); the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and the John M. Walsh III Collection of Contemporary Art Quilts.

Currently available quilts by Pamela Studstill.

#94 by Pamela Studstill#94, 1990 #76 by Pamela Studstill
#76, 1988

More about Pamela Studstill:

Studstill trained as a painter but says the first thing she did after she got her B.F.A. was to make a quilt. “It was really odd,” she adds, “but I learned quilting from my Texas grandmother. She’d send us quilt blocks to work on as kids when we’d move around the country with the military. It was her way of keeping in touch with us.”  

Although many of her quilts evoke landscapes, Studstill gave them numbers rather than titles because, she says, "I don't want people to think about 'things when they look at the quilts." She began each quilt by drawing the underlying patchwork grid on graph paper and color-coding the myriad small blocks and rectangles that would make up the work. She then assembled the quilt from solid–color commercial fabric to which she added minutely detailed painted patterns with her brush. After the quilt was pinned together on her design wall, Studstill further embellished the surface with paint to calibrate the subtle color shifts and gradations she was seeking. Her mother, Bettie, often assisted with the final textures and patterns of the quilt stitching.

Studstill has said, "I consider the technical processes involved in constructing a quilt to be very satisfying. I like hand painting the fabric, dot-by-dot, stripe-by-stripe, and have no desire to employ timesaving printing processes. I like cutting out the fabric and seeing the little stacks of shapes waiting to be sewn together. Somehow, the orderliness of the activities involved in quiltmaking are comforting even though the end product—the quilt itself—is not used for physical comfort."

She adds, "Each of my quilts is a study in light. I like to play with color gradations, using hand-dyed and commercial fabrics. The surface paint not only creates a random pattern but also helps ease the transition from color to color. I am inspired by landscape views and vistas, fields of anything, all the quilts I've ever seen, and looking at my boxes of colored material. I like all that pattern; I like the way it moves. It's like the background buzz on a TV screen, without form or meaning. To me, that shimmering quality is the mark of a successful quilt."

Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)

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Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)

Bottom left and right: Toward Barred Island (detail) by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade