Larkin Van Horn




Larkin Van Horn




Larkin Van Horn


Jana Hawley

Interview Date


Interview sponsor



Houston, Texas


Rachel Grove


Jana Hawley (JH): Okay, I'm Jana Hawley. I'm interviewing Larkin Van Horn. [laughs.]

Larkin Van Horn (LVH): [speaking at the same time as Jana.] Larkin Van Horn.

JH: Spell that for us.

LVH: L-A-R-K-I-N, V-A-N, H-O-R-N.

JH: Okay, thank you. This is November 2, 2001, at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Larkin, your quilt that was in the exhibition today is part of the American--

LVH: America from the Heart.

JH: America from the Heart call for quilts. Can you tell us how you learned about that process?

LVH: I belong to an online quilter's list called Quilt Art, and people were talking about the work that they were doing in response to September 11th, and I had a small piece in the works. About a week and a half after September 11th, Karey Bresnahan sent e-mail to twenty-eight of us and asked for opinions on whether she should do an exhibit like this or not, and I was one of the people she asked, and about a week after that, she said, 'Okay the decision's made. We're going to have this exhibit. Those of you who are already working, get it done and those of you who haven't started, get started.'

JH: Okay and do you remember what day that call went out?

LVH: I don't.

JH: Okay. So how much time do you approximately--what two months?

LVH: Yes--no, not really, because she had to have them by October 24th, so I would guess that was about a month.

JH: Okay. Now tell me if you would describe the design for the tape recorder, so that we can have an accurate description here.

LVH: This is two color waves sliced in curves and then melded together like you would shuffle cards, and one of the color waves is deep, almost black, purple up to turquoise, and the other is bright, marigold yellow down to fire red.

JH: Okay. Now why did you choose those designs?

LVH: I didn't choose them. They chose me. I had this piece, most of the background laid out in strips but nothing done to it as a color study for a larger work, and when I started working the quilt for the exhibit, which I didn't know was an exhibit yet, I thought those are the perfect colors. We've got fire, and we've got the sky behind the fire, which is part of it. Without the building imagery that's the colors that we were seeing outside of all the dust and the gray and the broken buildings. So, I knew that that color was going to work, and then the tower that's on top of it--I had been given an artist's residency in August, and I had made that during my residency. So, I had no idea that this was all going to go together until they were there on my cutting table, and I went, 'This is it.'

JH: Tell me about the three-dimensional part of this quilt?

LVH: It's a tower. It's made out of handmade paper to which was added some powered clay body like potters use to give it a little more sturdiness. Then it was laid over a Pringles potato chip can to mold it into a half round and then embossed with rubber stamps and some plaster of Paris molds that were at the classroom.

JH: And then how did you attach it?

LVH: It's attached with hand dyed pearl cotton through holes you just poke holes in the paper with a pen, and you can get right through it. And you use just--

JH: That's it. It's done.

LVH: [speaking at the same time as Jana.] take five or six stitches on each side.

JH: Now what special meaning does this quilt have for you?

LVH: While I was sitting watching all of the horror unfold on September 11th and for the next couple of days, I was in shock just like everybody else, but the one coherent thought that sort of penetrated was that the terrorists chose two airlines that absolutely spoke to the national identity: United and American. It could have been Delta. It could have been Southwest. It could have been Continental. It wouldn't have made as much sense, but United and American--that's us, and so that sort of crystallized as let's focus on the planes and the people who were on the planes and what that would come to mean, and then I did a mind snap and went to there are always memorials, war memorials, with the names of the dead, and so the column to me is essentially the wall that like the Vietnam wall. This is the column, and all those little beads that are attached, there's one for each of the people who died on the planes to the exact number.

JH: Oh, really. So, it's representing the other [inaudible.] planes--

LVH: [speaking at the same time as Jana.] They represent those people.

JH: Okay. So those are what kind of beads?

LVH: There's a bugle bead with a seed bead on each end.

JH: Okay. And then what's the color?

LVH: It's silver lined gold with topaz.

JH: Okay. How--what role do you think this quilt will play for the future?

LVH: I will put it in shows that I do, and I have a one woman show coming up in January. It will hang there. I will hang it at my church on commemorative Sundays when we honor martyrs and saints of the church, and I will hang the story with it, and I think it will serve as a memorial, which was my intention.

JH: Can you speak about the whole collection of the America from the Heart collection?

LVH: Take your heart out and stomp on it. Take a box of Kleenex. The images are powerful. They are sweet. There's every range of emotion represented here that you could possibly ever think of from rampant patriotism to gut wrenching pain. It's an amazing exhibit.

JH: It really is.

LVH: Yes, yes.

JH: Tell me how you got interested in quilting.

LVH: Back in the early eighties a very good friend of mine took me to my first quilt show, and I was stunned. I had been making my own clothing since I was about eleven, had never been to a quilt show. They were completely outside of my view, because there are no quilters in my family, and I saw what they were doing with fabric and color and texture and line and form and said, 'I can make clothing that looks like this.' So, I got into quilting, because I wanted to make great clothes, and I fiddled around a little bit, got a book. It wasn't making a lot of sense to me, because the terminology was completely foreign, so I went to my local quilt shop, and she said, 'You need to take a class with Nancy Ann Twelker, and I had no idea how lucky I was to be taking a class from Nancy Ann Twelker. She was just another name to me, and I got through her class, and I learned a lot of the basics. Then I said, 'But this is way to traditional for me,' and so then the quilt shop owner was smart enough to say, 'Okay, you need these other people, these more contemporary quilters in your life,' and so I started. For about three years I took at least one class every month, and then I just started running on my own.

JH: How old were you at that time?

LVH: Oh, let's see.

JH: [inaudible.] add up these days. [laughs.]

LVH: Thirty-five.

JH: Okay. Good, good. So, you learned from different teachers?

LVH: I did.

JH: Not from a parent or a grandparent?

LVH: No.

[tape recorder shut off because of loudspeaker announcement and was not turned back on again.]


“Larkin Van Horn,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,