Quilted Leather on the Wall


“I was on a treadle sewing machine by the age of 8, creating my own patterns for clothing by the time I was 13.”

Debby Williams was destined for a life in the material world. Texas-born, now Queenstown based, the fibre artist/tutor has found a passion for quilting.

“I love that you can take something flat and turn it into a 3-dimensional piece of art.”

Colour dynamics, textures, patterns and reusing fabrics had Debby obsessed. She even went as far as making a quilt from forgotten items left on the ground.

“My family was horrified.”

“I found a sock at a zoo, and a glove, and I took all of these things apart and the only thing I added to this quilt that I hadn't found on the ground was the thread.”

Churning out the traditional bed-end quilt didn’t enrich her creativity. Debby was always looking to do something different, and inspiration struck in Idaho while op shopping with her daughter.

“I kept seeing all this leather clothing. Some of them were almost pristine and they were really cheap. I thought: 'I wonder how hard it is to make a leather quilt?'”

This opened Pandora’s box for Debby and she soon started experimenting with pre-loved leather garments. Painted leather was the first trial, but without an industrial sewing machine she couldn’t pierce the fabric properly. This first trail-and-error started her on the course for her first leather quilt, called ‘Assumptions’ – currently touring the country with the Aotearoa Suitcase quilt exhibition.

‘Assumptions’ took a year to complete. Debby says collecting the leather took the most time. “I needed the big pieces from the front and the back […] I found that not all leather is the same.”

Twelve leather items gave her enough fabric to work with. It took two months to quilt, source the metal accessories and to make the word patches.

“I've actually never seen a leather quilt before mine.”

Her leather quilt series is an expression of her religion, juxtaposed with a bike-y vibe. Now, Debby is focused on the next project, revisiting her original painted leather quilt ideas.

“[Quilting] is a great way of expressing yourself. Pictures, words, collage quilting… there is a lot of art involved.”


Words Lauren Prebble

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