Nancy Goodman is an Alabama Maker creating quilted works of art

Nancy Goodman is an Alabama Maker creating quilted works of art
Nancy Goodman creates smaller quilted art pieces that sell easier than her larger pieces, which she enters into national shows. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Nancy Goodman Quilted Art (Mobile)

The Maker: Nancy Goodman

This is not your grandma’s quilting.

When you hear that Nancy Goodman makes quilted art, you’re probably apt to think, “Oh, my grandmother used to do quilts.”

But odds are Mawmaw never did anything like this.

Goodman used to make traditional quilts, and she knows the difference between making something that looks pretty and is functional versus something worthy of hanging on a wall.

“That’s a joke around the quilting world,” she said. “If you say you make quilts or if you say you make art quilts, the next word out of the person’s mouth is, ‘My grandmother …’ but what we do isn’t really the same thing. It requires a high technical ability and a lot of imagination. Some traditional quilts meet those criteria but most of them don’t. They’re pretty in their own way.”

Goodman started quilting about four decades ago and only made traditional quilts for the first dozen years.

“I took one class when I started,” she said. “I’ve taken other workshops along the way.”

Nancy Goodman is an Alabama Maker using fabric as a canvas from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

For many years, doing traditional quilts one square at a time held her interest.

“When I first started quilting, every block I made would be a surprise,” she said. “I would do the final ironing and go, ‘Ooh! Wow! That’s pretty.’ But I lost that feeling and I got it back when I started working on art quilts.”

The stitch work and the creativity of art quilting are what keeps it exciting for Goodman.

“It’s the same skills that you use for traditional quilting but traditional quilting uses established patterns and art quilting does not,” Goodman said. “Each one is unique. You won’t see any two that look much the same.”

Goodman said she usually has a vague plan about what she wants to create, and will even scribble the basic concept onto a small piece of paper.

“The rest, I just wing it,” she said.

Her larger quilts can take a few months to complete.

“I like to work big, because big quilts just have more impact than small quilts,” she said. “The small quilts are what sell.”

While people see the colors and the patterns or the subject matter, the real art is in the quilting and the stitching.

“Something people don’t always understand about quilts is the quilting part,” Goodman said. “A quilt by definition is three layers that are stitched in an overall pattern to bond them together.”

Stitching on quilts was originally used to hold cotton in the center in place to keep it from settling after washing. For art quilts, the stitching work is very much a part of the artistic expression.

“That is the lion’s part of the work,” Goodman said. “I estimate I spend 60 to 80 hours quilting on a major quilt. When you get up close, it adds a whole other dimension to the art.”

She creates large quilts that she will sell, but the main reason she makes them is to enter them into national shows. Her life’s ambition is to get a quilt entered into Quilt National, which is held every other year. Only about 10 percent of the quilts submitted make it into the show.

Goodman sells her stuff from her shop in the  Central Arts Collective in Mobile’s Central Presbyterian Church on Dauphin Street. Former school classrooms have been converted into studios with low rent for artists. She also sells through her Etsy shop online.

“I have done many experiments and they’re not all completely successful but they all go on Etsy because you never know what someone is going to like,” Goodman said.

She used to do arts and crafts shows but found they weren’t the best outlets for her art form.

“People mostly came by and said how pretty it was and then they didn’t buy anything,” Goodman said. “So, I quit doing that after a while.”

Goodman keeps up on the latest techniques and hones her craft through workshops. The Azalea City Quilters Guild in Mobile offers workshops.

Goodman was fortunate to participate in a workshop in Ohio with Nancy Crow, a renowned quilting artist.

Though she does still do some work by hand, most of Goodman’s stitching is done using a large machine that takes up one-third of her workshop.

Even as the tools change, Goodman said the goal is to always produce a beautiful piece of art. As with all art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

“I used to tell my students that the only quilt that was ugly was the one that wasn’t finished,” she said. “But I’ve changed my mind. I think there are some really ugly quilts out there now.”


Nancy Goodman Quilted Art

The product: Quilted art pieces suitable for hanging.

Take home: A piece called “Farm Girl Vintage Quilt,” which is Goodman’s artistic take on a traditional Southern quilt ($500).

Nancy Goodman’s creations can be found at her Etsy shop online or at her shop at the Central Arts Collective at 1260 Dauphin St. in downtown Mobile.

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