I first came across Hillary Goodwin via her blog and corresponding Instagram account, Entropy Always Wins. Hillary participates in the Instagram quilting bee #beesewcial, where you can go if you wish to drool over the modern work of some truly astounding quilters and simultaneously question every stitch you’ve ever taken (JUST KIDDING! [Sort of.]).
But what’s really interesting to me about Hillary is how she blends the different parts of her life as a quilter and an emergency room physician. She recently created a quilt inspired by the pervasive problem of prescription opioid addiction (which was at Quilt Festival this fall and will also be at Quiltcon next month) and her beautiful anatomical thread paintings look like they’ve popped straight out of the Netter Atlas.
Hillary was nice enough to let me ask her some questions about her inspiration and how she finds the art of medicine to go hand-in-hand with the art of quilting.
What’s your sewing story?
I come from a large extended family of women in the Seattle area, most of whom sew and knit. My mother is an amazing seamstress and quilter; though she hasn’t quilted for years, I treasure a bright hand-quilted piece she made for me as a child. Growing up every cousin on marrying received a wedding quilt we all contributed to, though all of my blocks from that era were cross-stitched or embroidered. I didn’t pick up quilting until about six years ago when I bought a Kaffe Fassett kit composed of tiny two-inch squares. With time I got interested in making my own designs, drawing inspiration from modern art and trying to develop a quilt aesthetic outside of classic patchwork design. My piecing and compositional skills have expanded dramatically over the last year, mostly because of my involvement in the BeeSewcial Quilting Bee, and I feel like I’m just starting to scratch the surface of what is possible.
You have such a wide aesthetic in your work. Is it challenging transitioning from one to the other?
I have dabbled in almost every maker’s medium, and so it feels pretty natural to me to bounce around from quilting to bag making to embroidery, etc. I learned how to machine sketch/stitch for the first time this year, and that opened a new world for me. My mother was always the artist and I never felt confident in my painting or sketching skills. Somehow, rendering an image is much easier for me with a sewing machine. When I was on maternity leave with my daughter several years ago, I feared losing my medical mojo so I started collecting “Dr. House” kind of medical cases that I present regularly to the medical and nursing staff for education. One day I decided to stitch-sketch some of these cases onto discarded antique linens. The combination seemed so very wrong, but also very right as it describes the dichotomy of my life: homemaker and healer.
What about medicine has influenced your quilting (and vice versa)?
Clearly my profession shows up in my quilting. My 5/325 quilt, for example, shines some light on the problem of prescription narcotic addiction that I deal with daily. I would say that my involvement in the quilting/making community makes me a better doctor. The art provides a wonderful medium to work through some of the challenges and stressful parts of my job. Being involved in the quilting community helps me break down the barriers between doctor and patient. In my opinion, we are all on the same path trying to help each other out. I love the practice of medicine for its scientific base, but there is much we don’t know. The task of treating an individual is an art.
You’ve called your 5/325 quilt a “statement piece.” What potential do you believe quilting has to effect change?
The issue of prescription narcotics is complicated and I hope my piece expresses that. I’m excited it has gained attention in the national quilting community exposing this issue for more discussion. It also has gained some attraction locally and was featured in an interview by the California Opioid Safety Commission in a publication sent to all of the physicians in our area. I will soon be speaking to our whole hospital medical staff about the issue with my quilt in tow and I have been in discussion with some other venues about displaying it–so yes! I find it very exciting to bring this issue to light in a new way.
All of us who spend time in this medium benefit from attention outside of the traditional quilting community. When people see these pieces as more than just snuggly blankets (which is also a valuable and important purpose for our makes), the more we advance the art form.
Thanks so much, Hillary!