Water Valley seamstress refashions the art of quilting

This is a picture of Coulter Fussell in her studio. Photo by Sela Ricketts
This is a picture of Coulter Fussell in her studio. Photo by Sela Ricketts

Sela Ricketts
Oxford Stories

A Water Valley seamstress is taking a classic artform and refashioning it in her own unique way.

Coulter Fussell uses recycled fabric to create art. She runs YaloRun Textiles, an experimental textile studio and textile supply store in Water Valley.

Fussell creates quilts and teaches workshops to students curious about the world of textiles. Her studio hosts weekend and week-long workshops with a curriculum lead by Fussell and guest artists. Classes include textile design, native-natural dying, and quilting with experimental and traditional techniques, according to the website.

Fussell, a native of Columbus, Georgia, has always been interested in art. She was born into an arts family. Her father was a museum curator, and her mother is an avid quilter, which is where Fussell learned most of her knowledge about quilting.

“When I was a kid, I was like, ‘Oh I’m gonna be painting and drawing’,” said Fussell. “I’m sure I had this vision of an artist wearing a beret in front of an easel, you know, and then later on, it wound up being in textiles.”  

Fussell started her textile business in 2015 in Water Valley. She gets in early every day after dropping her kids off at school and sews until the school day ends. This leaves little time to work on her quilts. However, it doesn’t bother her. It’s all about time management. 

“I work on two different projects a day,” she said. “If I have to do something that involves a whole lot of thinking and concentration, I do that first. Then, if I have to do something that’s real mechanical that doesn’t require a lot of thinking like, ‘Oh, I have to sew this piece of fabric to this piece of fabric,’ I’ll do that toward the end of the day.” 

All of the quilts she has created are made from donated fabric, which means she gets a variety of clothing. She receives donations ranging from vintage 1920s vests to neon spandex made a week ago in China. While this is an inexpensie way of acquiring new materials, it presents its own challenges.

The wall inside YaloRun Textiles. Photo by Sela Ricketts
The wall inside YaloRun Textiles. Photo by Sela Ricketts

“You can’t reproduce a piece of fabric,” Fussell said. “Once you have used it, it is gone forever in that piece. If you have a piece of fabric that you love, but you only have three inches of it, once you use, it its done.

“You really have to self edit and make very careful, conscious decisions about where you put these certain colors and pieces of fabric because it’s gotta be in a good spot.” 

With a variety of clothing and fabrics, her quilts are unique.

“Some of the wilder stuff [that I get] is really not functional at all,” she said. “There will be quilts with like, holes in it, or quilts with big chiffon areas that will never keep you warm.”

That adds to the magic of the pieces. They are visually striking, and that is what Fussell tries to achieve in her artwork. When she makes her pieces, she looks at shades, color, and value, like one would when painting.

She doesn’t use traditional patternwork, but takes elements of traditional patterns. While this works for her, she advises young sewers to learn the rules of quilting before breaking them.  

This is a picture of Coulter Fussells studio. Yalorun Textiles . Photo by Sela Ricketts
Coulter Fussell’s studio, YaloRun Textiles. Photo by Sela Ricketts.

Wil Cook is owner of Southside Gallery in Oxford, where one of Fussell’s pieces is displayed.

“I have always been fond of her work ever since her paintings, ” said Cook. “Her quilts are even better than her paintings. They are so inspiring and adventurous… It is a very exciting time in her career.

“She is very resourceful. In discarded fabrics, she sees opportunity in what she could make and all the possibilities that people, or even other artists, can’t see.”

Fussell sees her work as a documentary. She wants to show the techniques and talent women have perfected over years. Her work is not political and she believes it should speak for itself. While she likes political art, she believes her visuals should say everything.

“Sight is a miracle,” she said. “I want to see color. I want to see shape. I want to see how they interact. I’m a visual nerd in that sense…There is only so much I can talk about.”

If she has to say anything her art didn’t say already, Fussell said she feels she failed at that piece. 

When people ask her how she does it, she said, like most skills, it takes practice and time to get good at something, but there is a wealth of knowledge available to anyone curious. 

“[W]e are in a peak of textile renaissance again,” she said. “[A]nd I think a lot of that has to do with the internet and people being able to look at each others work.

“If somebody wants to learn anything craft-related, you go to Google and type in, and those women…have made not only just a video for everything, but several videos for everything, and every video is superb.” 

Fussell is now doing smaller pieces and some bigger commissioned pieces. She will continue doing what she loves, making quits.

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