"A Walk In Their Shoes" Process

The pieces seen in "A Walk in Their Shoes" were created using a variety of both traditional quilting techniques, along with newer, software-based image and cutting technologies. Below is that process outlined in order by steps, each with examples and videos from each piece along the way.  


Step 1: The Interview

After contacting each individual, I sat down with them, either in person or virtually, to learn about their life experiences, inspirations, and point of view,  in order to understand better what it's like to walk through life in their shoes. These interviews were my primary source of information when coming up with the visual representations of each individual. Oftentimes, a phrase or word said in that interview sparked a visual image in my mind that stuck with me. For example, in the case of T.S., their childhood nickname, given by their aunt, was "Phoenix". In learning more about T.S., I believed this image fit their personality and narrative well, and so I ran with it. 

It is important to note that these interviews, and subsequent pieces, represent each person at the time of the interview: a "snapshot in time" if you will. If the same questions were asked today, perhaps completely different answers would be given, and entirely different imagery (both in my mind and theirs) would be generated. Therefore, it is possible entirely different pieces would likely be made despite it being the same person.


Step 2: The Digital Mockup

The digital mockup served as a way of communicating what I gleaned from the interview, back to the person I interviewed. Created using the iPad application Procreate, and an Apple pencil, these pieces were my translation of the interview into a visual medium. Oftentimes, a series of images, given to me in the interview, were manipulated along with other references, and paint strokes to create these mockups. As you will eventually see, the colors and patterns change from what this mockup shows, but larger elements stay the same. 

This initial image also opened up back and forth conversation between the interviewee and me, as we figured out the best way to communicate their narrative.


Step 3: The Posterized Mock-Up

Once the interviewee and I decided on the starting point digital mock-up, a digital posterized (simplified) version was created. Using a posterization filter, smoother gradients and values became easier to outline shapes. Using the filtered image as a starting point, I started to develop the shapes I eventually cut out of fabric. 

Essentially, the posterized mock-up served as the bridge between an initial rough image and what gets fed into the fabric cutting software. This entire process was also done using the Procreate application the prior step uses. 


Step 3: The Cut Files

In order to ensure the maximum amount of detail and precision was preserved in creating each image out of fabric, a digital cutting software and machine were used: the Cricut Maker and matching Cricut Design Space software. However, in order for the machine to cut out pieces from fabric, it needed each individual shape, created in the posterized version, to be input into the software. 

Using the image import tools on Cricut Design Space, I put in parts of the posterized image at a time and isolate each shape and feed it into the software, scaling it to size.

Because of how these files are saved, these pieces could be technically duplicated if I ever needed to. Once the shapes were in the software, they were ready to be cut out by the Cricut Maker machine.


Step 4: Cutting/Piecing Shapes Together

Using the rotary tool on the Cricut Maker, the fabric was loaded (sometimes backed with freezer paper for stability), into the machine on large, sticky mats. 

This is also the time when color and pattern choices were decided in coordination with each interviewee's personal style and personality. The initial interview was often referenced to ensure representative decisions are made. 

After all the pieces for a given section are cut, they were held in place using a small amount of adhesive before they are quilted. Using tweezers and other tools, referencing the posterized image as I go, this process was very much like piecing a puzzle together.


Step 5: Quilting & Finishing


After individual components were created, they were placed on the larger background fabrics, ready to be quilted. Using my BERNINA Aurora 440 QE, and the BERNINA stitch regulator, I physically quilted the pieces to a sandwich of background fabrics and batting (the material that makes a quilt thick and plush. 

The quilting process allows for the introduction of more colors through thread choices. Threads colors and stitching are able to create tiny details that fabric simply cannot.   

After the main piece is quilted, a border was applied to create a finished quilted portrait. Sometimes vinyl was applied to add in additional details. These were applied just like a sticker. 

 Want more process videos? Click HERE to see timelapse videos from "A Walk In Their Shoes"