Self Portrait
Meg Callahan’s Caddo Quilt

Photography by Walker Robins

Earlier this month, Jamie Gray of New York’s Matter was named a “game-changer” for his patronage role in the American design scene, and we’ve got to give the man his credit. Though we pride ourselves on unearthing emerging talents in design, it was Gray who introduced us to Meg Callahan, the recent RISD grad whose coolly geometric, midcentury-meets-Ma Walton quilts were released through Mattermade, his in-house furniture line, last spring. Callahan quickly became one of our favorites, for the way she mixes the traditional with the new, alternating hand-stitching with machine-quilting, color-blocking with digital printing. “I started making quilts because I really like the aesthetic nature of things, but I also like figuring out how things are made,” Callahan says. “A quilt is a functional, 3-D object but it’s also 2-D, a composition of color blocks; you have to figure out the math of how to construct it. The combination of the two intrigued me.” When she approached us with a series of images she shot back home in Oklahoma of her new Caddo quilt — well, we’d have been crazy if we didn’t publish them and get the story behind their making:

“I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma called Edmond. Now it’s a pretty big suburb outside Oklahoma City, but when I was young it was fairly rural. I mean, my high school was across from a sheep farm. Growing up, I witnessed the area’s transformation from lots of beautiful untouched land to lots of Walgreens and CVS. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing — it was a source of pride that the place I came from was burgeoning, but there was a sadness that the place I knew growing up was disappearing. Even so, there is still a lot of farmland and space. I love going back because I can breathe. It’s so flat; you can see 50 miles ahead of you. And every day the sky has a different color scheme.”

“In Oklahoma, there’s a lot of fake Native American culture, like reproduction Navajo blankets, even though there were never Navajos there. I’ve always been around those kind of geometric, compositional objects, and they pop up in my work sometimes without me even knowing. I also tend to mimic the colors in those blankets — it’ll be a canvas of neutrals with intense pops of orange or red, almost of the earth but with unnatural surges of color.”

“Caddo is a county in Oklahoma. I wish there were some great story like I sketched the pattern there, but really I just have a strange fondness for the names back home. I was home for Christmas and I’d brought a few quilts with me. My sister’s boyfriend owns some land out in the country, and his dad likes to go out there to chop wood and let off steam. He’s the guy you see in the cowboy hat. So we rounded up some friends to go out there and everything just unfolded. It was absolutely clear; the colors in the photos are exactly how the colors looked that day. I wanted to showcase that side of Oklahoma. It’s a pretty state, sort of beautiful in its boringness. The pictures are so basic, just grass, sky, and a fence, but it was the perfect setting.”