Creative Inspiration, Quilters Take Manhattan, Special Events, WCQN

The “Dance Partner” – Michael Cummings at QTM 2017

Sitting in an airport waiting for a flight seems like the perfect time to write a blog post.

I am flying back home to Central Oregon, to the other side of the country from where I have spent the past four days – New York, New York (aka NYC). I spent time with my family who lives on the East Coast and joined me in NewYork; I attended the Quilt Alliance’s 2017 Quilters Take Manhattan (QTM) event, which featured speakers Sherri Lynn Wood, Merikay Waldvogel, and Michael A. Cummings, interviewed by Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi; and I went on a behind the scenes tour of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

It was quite the four-day weekend (I am planning a series of blog posts to share various snippets from this inspirational weekend) and what is currently resonating in my mind (and my heart) is the inspirational interview Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi held with the NYC based art quilter, Michael A. Cummings.

Mr. Cummings and Dr. Mazloomi in front of one his incredible pieces from his African Jazz series – African Jazz #10

The Dance Partner

During the interview, Mr. Cummings referred to his sewing machine as his “dance partner”.

The first time he mentioned this my heart smiled (I felt it in my chest!). What an exquisite and beautiful way to refer to one of the primary tools an art or traditional quilter’s uses to express their creativity.

Mr. Cummings stated he has been using the same sewing machine for 40+ years and if I remember correctly, it is just a standard department store sewing machine. Colleagues have suggested he upgrade to an industrial or more modern sewing machine, but he stays faithful to his “dance partner”.

Mr. Cummings and his “dance partner” tell stories through his art. He shared during the interview that he has been influenced by cinema and music to include musical storytellers such as Bob Dylan.

Here are some examples, on display during the Quilters Take Manhattan Event of the incredible dances that Mr. Cummings and his dance partner have performed (please check out his website for his official portfolio – he has exhibited his art quilts and sold works to public institutions and private collectors around the world and has work in the permanent Smithsonian Folk Art collection):


These are very large quilts and Dr. Mazloomi (a longtime friend and colleague of Mr. Cummings) states that most of his pieces are around 8 x 9 feet. All of this huge quilts are pieced, appliquéd, and machine quilted on his 40+ year old “dance parter”.

Lesson: You do not need a fancy new sewing machine to create incredible art. You just need to have story to tell and a creative mind to translate that story in fabric!

Mr. Cummings had a bounty of inspirational answers to Dr. Mazloomi’s questions. Some other inspirational answers he provided included:

  • When asked when does he know a quilt is done, Mr.Cummings responded “I let the quilt tell me when it is done” (paraphrased).
  • Mr. Cummings shared that for years he worked full-time for the Department of Cultural Affairs for New York City and made himself find time every evening after work to work on his art quilts. At times he wanted to do something else in the evenings (relax after work, attend social events, etc.) but he knew that if he truly wanted to be an art quilter he would have to sacrifice and “do the work”.


To say I was creatively inspired after the interview, would be an understatement.

I feel like I am ready to go home and continue working on my Stories My Father Told Me Series (see post Creative Inspiration: Stories My Father Told Me).

Sorry little wallets (Little Wallet Madness) it’s time to return to art quilting and tell some stories – I am ready to dance with my partner!

Well it is time to go get on my plane and return to quiet Central Oregon (quite different from NYC in so many ways) but I have much more to share in future posts from my trip and this incredible weekend!

Feature image (cropped) credit: Yan Moura,


36 thoughts on “The “Dance Partner” – Michael Cummings at QTM 2017”

  1. Yes, I think any art at its best tells a story, if only to the maker. Better yet when also telling a story to the viewer. It is the story that draws one in, asking them to look a little more closely. I’m glad you had a rewarding visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was truly an incredible interview. I loved his descriptions of his artistic process–having a dance partner is an apt metaphor in his case, for sure. I’m trying to choose a print of his work to inspire me when I’m having trouble dancing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an amazing opportunity you had! I like his term “dance partner.” I am amazed he has only had one machine. I certainly can’t say that. I think it would be great if you got back to your project about your dad. Can’t wait to see updates.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Love the quilts you shared as well as the summary of the interview. Wish I’d been there but looking forward to vicariously experiencing more as you post. I too love the image “dance partner” for the sewing machine and the sticking with an old model.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Incredible! WOW! How wonderful for you to have been there! He is a fabric Picasso for sure!

    After seeing the quilt of your father, I think you have talent like Mr. Cummings.

    I really appreciate his loyalty to his machine. I find myself missing my 1957 Kenmore all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness you just made my month, you are too kind! Awww at 1957 Kenmore bet it is still working! Oh and he did mention he had been influenced by Picasso as he started out as a painter before he got into quilting!


  6. Glad to read that you enjoyed an inspiring stay in NYC. Thank you for sharing these art quilts, and Mr. Cummings’ reflections on them. I really like the idea of seeing our materials as our dance partners, and there is something very true about this! Looking forward to reading more about where this inspiration will take you next (I very much loved the quilt and reflections you shared from the Stories My Father Told Me Series). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and although I am recovering from a terrible cold I either picked up in NYC or due to air travel (airplanes filled with germs), I actually started drawing out my next piece for the series tonight! More to come about the Quilters Take Manhattan event (I was too foggy from cold medicine to write anything coherent lol)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The detail in Mr. Cumming’s quilts is incredible! They speak volumes and really do tell a story! I love the dance partner analogy too.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the stories you will also be telling through your craft. “Stories My Father Told Me” sounds like a delightful theme for story telling quilt art. I can hardly wait!

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.