When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?
There was never a time I didn’t think I was going to be an artist. My father was a museum curator, and my mother was a quilter. I learned from her by osmosis. At 19, I asked if I could get into our scrap stash to make a quilt and she said, “Go ahead.” I’ve been doing it ever since.
How would you describe your art in three words?
“Quilts as uncovering.” I play with the concepts of “covering” and “protection” as a method of exposing or revealing hyper-personal stories. I use quilting as a storytelling tool.
What inspires you to create?
The fabric that people bring to me. I’m the last step before the garbage can. They could easily throw it away, but at the last second they remember my studio on Main Street and decide there’s a story they want to continue. I’m inspired by worn elbows on shirts and sun-bleached curtains. They’re poetic moments. You can’t paint those; they’re earned over time.
What does craft mean to you?
Craft is the beginning and end of all art. All craft serves a function, whether it’s to hold water or keep somebody warm or enrich the mind. Craft is the people’s art. To support craft is to support the people.
Fussell pieces together dynamic quilts and sculptures from items, primarily textiles, donated to her studio. She breathes new life into the discarded materials, using them as narrative clues. In doing so, Fussell transforms others’ trash into treasured vehicles of personal storytelling.
Streambed is part of Fussell’s “River Raft Quilts” series, inspired by stories of entrapment and escape and imagery from a childhood spent immersed in West Central Georgia river culture. Through reimagined configurations, Fussell frees the potential stories embedded within donated textiles, setting them on a conceptual waterborne journey toward autonomy.
Jump School is part of a series of quilts that explore Fussell’s experiences growing up in conflict with the war imagery in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia, the site of US military base Fort Benning. This round quilt, whose title references the training school for paratrooper trainees, is an interpretation of an open parachute and the exhilaration of hurtling toward a new place.