Kim Eichler-Messmer

about kim

In my studio, 2016, photo by  Silvia Abisaab

In my studio, 2016, photo by Silvia Abisaab

With shibori master Hiroyuki Shindo at his studio in Japan, summer 2018

With shibori master Hiroyuki Shindo at his studio in Japan, summer 2018

I grew up in Iowa as an only child to two very hard working, creative, nature loving parents. I learned how to sew in the 5th grade when my dad and I made a quilt out of our old shirts. In college, at Iowa State University, I studied engineering, Spanish, Portuguese, drawing, and printmaking before finally realizing my love of textiles in a yardage screen printing class. I earned an MFA in Textiles from the University of Kansas. Now I live in Kansas City where I am an Associate Professor at the Kansas City Art Institute and make loads of quilts. Most of my quilts are hand dyed and I love teaching others how to dye fabric. I teach workshops regularly around the US (I'm eager to travel abroad to teach - email me if you live somewhere cool and you want me to come there!). My book, Modern Color: An Illustrated Guide to Dyeing Fabric for Modern Quilts, was published in 2014. I also frequently show my work in galleries.

Like countless American women who came before me, I choose to make quilts in an attempt to communicate something of myself to others, to challenge my creativity, and to provide a level of care for others and myself. The history of quilting in America is fascinating to me. Women in quilting communities seemed to develop a language of working through proximity, similarity of experience, and availability of materials. Quilting styles emerged and evolved as women were introduced to outside influences and then absorbed those influences into a quilterly way of working. You can see the history of women in America through the quilts they made. Not only do I love the process of making a quilt, I feel honored to be part of that long, and often overlooked, history.

 My own quilt work is an abstract exploration of structure and pattern in the natural world. The emotional impact of a landscape, the variability of weather patterns, and the abbreviated timeline of the earth visible in geology and landforms all speak to me on a spiritual level. I am equally inspired by the biological and chemical systems that make up living organisms, mathematical and planned systems such as central pivot irrigation, and the logistics of cities and roadways. I use color, geometry, and repetition to explore and represent these ideas.

Much of my work is made from hand dyed and printed textiles. I use natural materials such as wool, silk, cotton, and linen almost exclusively and use dyes and pigments made from plants and insects. I grow or forage many of my own dyes, such as black walnuts, Osage orange, marigolds, and weld. Inherently tactile, slow, and labor intensive, quilting provides an opportunity for quiet reflection. Like quilting, the process of dyeing or printing fabric using natural dyes is slow and methodical. From growing, harvesting, and preserving the plant materials, to creating the dye baths and carefully dyeing the fiber, each step creates an opportunity for reflection and gratitude. Though I strive for a level of control in the process, nature is inherently uncontrollable and I enjoy the variation and surprise that comes through in the work. These variations can feel magical and I often allow them to guide my work. It can feel frivolous and impractical to use such time consuming and anachronistic practices. But I am more and more aware of the importance of slowing down, of using our hands, and reconnecting with the past as a way to honestly and authentically create a future.