Sometimes We Don’t Recognize Our Excellence Until Someone Else Points it Out
A Quilter is Born
For years, Lorraine Woodruff-Long, like many working moms, was firmly ensconced in that “in-between” place – in between projects and meetings, in between carpool and kid activities, and in between finding ways to quench her creative thirst. While admitting to never really seeing herself as an artist before the pandemic, Lorraine was no stranger to artistic expression, and she reveled in the various ways that she was able to meet her creative needs during the spare time she carved out for herself.
At first, Lorraine mostly saw herself as a musician, playing the flute and piccolo during college and her first years living in San Francisco. But drawn to many different kinds of art, she serendipitously found her way in 2006 to the “The Quilts of Gee's Bend” exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. That experience “rocked her world!”
As a child growing up in Texas, she learned to sew early on and had turned to quilting when her own children were young, so already this artform was of natural interest to her. What she didn’t expect to gain from the Gee’s Bend Quilters – who in the 19th century changed the face of traditional American quilting by piecing together scraps of fabric and clothing and creating abstract designs – was inspiration and a bubbling up of her own creative juices. Through her exposure to these modern quilting pioneers, she envisioned more improvised pieces that focused primarily on color and incorporated recycled and repurposed materials.
A Quilter Evolves
Lorraine quilted whenever she could find time – between her demanding marketing and advertising career and her responsibilities as a mom, raising two kids in San Francisco with her architect husband. She stumbled quite by accident onto the Modern Quilt Guild, an international organization that seeks to support modern quilting as an artform and unite its more than 16,000 members. Lorraine soon realized that quilting wasn’t just a hobby. For her, she says, “[I] used it as a creative outlet to explore color, fabric, and shape. I found it so immersive and satisfying. I craved it.”
Fast forward a couple of years, and Lorraine had moved into an equally demanding job in the nonprofit world. However, she still made time to quilt after work and on weekends and was growing ever more interested in creating with a purpose – to communicate her strong convictions about important issues, like women’s rights, climate change, democracy, and social justice. And, thus, were born her “Commentary Quilts.”
A Quilter Excels
Like some, Lorraine was blessed by the extra time afforded to her by the pandemic. She was laid off from her job and needed a way to fill the time. Not surprisingly, she turned her attention even more intentionally to quilting and began to see her work as not simply a desire to create one-off pieces, but rather to develop a series of quilts that contrasts the warmth and coziness of something handmade with the starkness of a people whose rights are slowly being chipped away.
Inspired by the work of outspoken artists like Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, whose images often incorporate provocative and controversial language, Lorraine began to see her own work as a way to convey compelling messages about the recent political climate. Using “soft, feminine pink and pastel-colored quilt tops embellished with lacy vintage doilies rescued from thrift shops and estate sales” as a backdrop for the evocative quotes and phrases she gleaned from protest signs, Lorraine has created newer works that are, simultaneously, gentle and ferocious.
With her new series, “Women’s Work,” and even before, Lorraine has been recognized for her artistry and expertise. She has received numerous awards at local, national, and international quilt shows, and she is a member of the Modern Quilt Guild, the San Francisco Quilt Guild, Studio Art Quilt Associates, East Bay Heritage Quilters, ArtSpanSF, and the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art. Further, she is a volunteer with the Social Justice Sewing Academy Remembrance Project.
Her work has been displayed at the de Young Museum, the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica, the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica, the Drawing Room in San Francisco, and the San Francisco Women Artists Network Gallery, among others. And her work was featured in the 2021 book, Stitching Stolen Lives: The Social Justice Sewing Academy Remembrance Project.
She believes her crowning achievement was when her work was juried into the de Young Museum Open Exhibition in 2020, where she displayed alongside roughly 750 artists chosen from 11,000 entries. The icing was that she sold her first piece from that show and is now being commissioned for her work.
Learn more about Lorriane's work on Quilting in the Fog
What Lorraine says about her Suggies Italian Belt Bag and Crossbody Pouch:
In addition to having an eye for quilting, Lorraine knows a great bag when she sees it. Not only is her “go-to” made of soft, supple Italian suede and leather, but it’s sustainably made. Further – it’s hands-free – so she can even quilt with it on!
“I love my Suggies Crossbody Pouch! It is my go-to bag, and I wear it every day when I walk my dog, Pearl. I like that I can keep it on while driving in the car and then can hop out and keep it on for shopping and going out and about. It holds everything I need to get the job done – keys, phone, wallet. With it, I’m set!”