You sure as heck didn’t think I was going to leave Charley Harper out of my Ohio Star quilt, right? Of course, his art is my inspiration for April’s Ohio Star quilt block! As a Cincinnati icon, his work is delightfully everywhere.
Do you remember that huge book by Todd Oldham? It was published in June of 2007. I moved to Cincinnati in 2008. Todd Oldham was/is a design prophet. This 2007 The New York Times article reported his selection as creative director for Old Navy, just after creating hip products for brands like, ahem, Target. When you’re in your early 20s, like I was, you think Target is the epitome of hip design. Todd Oldham shining a “teeny flashlight” on Charley Harper’s work, was no small thing. Enter adoring fans, like me.
Here’s a video of Todd Oldham interviewing Harper for funsies.
AND! I recently spotted Todd Oldham’s book on Lisa Congdon’s studio bookshelf in a picture she posted to Instagram stories! And, c’mon, Lisa Congdon is a conduit of coolness: her art is amazing and her books are interesting. I could go on, but let’s get back to Charley.
You don’t need anyone (even Todd Oldham or Lisa Congdon!) to tell you to like Charley Harper’s work. Take one look and you’ll be mesmerized. I love the geometric shapes—the simplification. So, you can bet your buttons that during the beginning of my tenure in Ohio, I was excited to discover Charley Harper’s Cincinnati roots! When I first moved here, I noticed a distinct lack of hometown pride. Sure, Cincinnatians seemed proud to have been born and raised here, but they had a “it’s just Cincinnati” attitude. Look, Cincinnati is tucked into the corner of the state—commingling with Northern Kentucky and Indiana. The Tyler Davidson Fountain will never be as luminous as our western neighbor Chicago’s Cloud Gate, also known as “The Bean”. Cincinnati will never be NYC cool. (As if there was ever a chance, I’m sure some NYC-ers would snicker.) But, Charley Harper is pretty awesome—and on a national level. He’s not just locally known. And, that’s something to be proud of. Heck, who cares if anyone else knows about Charley Harper? His work is so widely appreciated in this town, you can find it in a lot of places. You’ll find a mural of Homecoming (Bluebirds) downtown. (Go downtown Cincinnati to see a lot of great murals.)
Head to Winton Woods and you’ll see his artwork in the park.
Swing by the John Weld Peck Federal building downtown to see an amazing tile mosaic.
See? Everywhere. And, I for one, am not mad about it.
Last year, Birch Fabrics came out with a new Charley Harper collection: Western Birds. I knew that I needed to incorporate this fabric into my Ohio Star quilt. But, I’m going to be honest, I was late to the game to purchase this fabric, so it was kind of hard to find. And, the patterns are pretty large scale. Not so ideal for a 12” 9-patch quilt block (so I have learned). Before stitching the 9 squares together, I was majorly hesitating. As in, I was going to scrap the entire block. I figured I would only stitch it together because I had all the squares cut out.
Then, I figured I could needle-turn appliqué one of the birds onto the front. I’m still not 100% pleased with it. I wanted it to be leafier—to have the alternating trunks and leaves create the feeling of lush trees. Yup, that did NOT happen. BUT! I’m happy enough with it to keep in my Ohio Star quilt and to share it with you! Sometimes, it’s not a win-lose situation! Huzzah!