Although quilting dates back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt and China, it is perhaps most closely identified with colonial and pioneer America, epitomizing Yankee thrift and ingenuity. It could be said that the ultimate quilt is the first American flag, which represents a literal and symbolic stitching together of the thirteen colonies into one individual whole.
Over time, quilts have transcended functionality to act as historical markers, chronicling significant events in the life of the nation as well as in the lives of their makers. Quilting found its stride with the advent of manufactured textiles in the 1840s as an artistic outlet and communal activity for women, leading to a wealth of regional styles. This tradition continues on with the celebrated quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama, whose improvisational compositions parallel the development of jazz and modernist painting.
Tangram reflects America's vibrant heritage and extends the continuous reinvention of quilting. Through recontextualization, Tangram's bold composition creates new relationships between long-familiar forms, which were drawn from antique quilting squares found at a flea market. In flat, woven form, these traditional motifs are stripped of their usual dimensionality. This graphic treatment draws attention to their geometric complexity, which is also highlighted by a selective application of vivid color.
Tangram was created in collaboration with Bart Hess, a Dutch designer we discovered as a student at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, then under the leadership of color and design theorist, Lidewij Edelkoort. While much of Hess’s work centers on the use of technology and unconventional materials, Tangram modernizes a popular folk-art form, perhaps relating to Edelkoort's observation that, "in reaction to the increasingly digital landscape of our lives, a craving for tactility and dimension has led designers to reconsider the role of fabrics once more."
After graduating in 2007, Hess earned immediate international recognition for his work in animation, fashion, and textiles. He continues to collaborate with the Maharam Design Studio.