Black History Month: Latifah Saafir

I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by Latifah Saafir at QuiltCon (the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual quilt and show conference) in 2018 and have been following her work on social media ever since. During Black History Month we are showcasing the work of amazing black quilters and artists here on the Youngish Quilter blog so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to share her fabulous work with you all.  As well as being an inspiring and awesome modern quilter, Latifah works to promote the work of other black quilters, supports young people in quilting and promotes awareness of social justice issues.

Latifah is one of the pioneers of the Modern Quilt movement. She was a co-founder of the Modern Quilt Guild and the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild and is known for her bold and innovative modern quilts. I was fascinated to find out that Latifah originally trained as an engineer – I think this is evident in her quilt design.

Head over to Latifah Saafir Studios to find lots of examples of Latifah’s work.  There is so much to look at there – it’s hard to select a favourite but I particularly love her clamshell quilts which are fabulous modern versions of a classic design;

https://www.latifahsaafirstudios.com/portfolio-item/neon-and-neutral-quilt/

Up in the Air is one of my favourites – so minimalist yet so much to look at. 

https://www.latifahsaafirstudios.com/portfolio-item/up-in-the-air-quilt/

I also love Latifah’s bias tape applique quilts and if you’re inspired to find out more there is a great YouTube video showing you more about her creative process.

Social Justice Sewing Academy

We’ve talked here about the Social Justice Sewing Academy before:

Founded in 2017, the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) is a youth education program that bridges artistic expression with activism to advocate for social justice. Through a series of hands-on workshops in schools, prisons and community centers across the country [United States], SJSA empowers youth to use textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion and become agents of social change. Many of our young artists make art that explores issues such as gender discrimination, mass incarceration, gun violence and gentrification. The powerful imagery they create in cloth tells their stories, and these quilt blocks are then sent to volunteers around the world to embellish and embroider before being sewn together into quilts to be displayed in museums, galleries and quilt shows across the country. This visual dialogue bridges differences in race, age and socioeconomics and sparks conversations and action in households across the country.

SJSA has an amazing Block of the Month Pattern series – on the first of each month, they share a FREE pattern or two of a finished block that is inspired by art that youth made in SJSA workshops. Each pattern is designed by a unique quilter – and in February Latifaah was the guest designer. The free pattern for her block – Crown – can be found here:

And if you want to make more the full series of blocks can be found here.

SJSA also co-ordinates the making of textile memorials for families who have lost a loved one to violence through their Quilts of Remembrance program. They are made to reflect the life of the person by creating a quilt using textiles donated by their family.  I have been following Latifah’s contribution to this on Instagram and have been moved to see her working on a memory quilt for Steven Taylor, a black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer in April in San Francisco. She is using his clothes, given by his grandmother who raised him, to create a memory quilt. In her Instagram posts she describes the importance of honouring Steven’s life in the quilt she creates as a meditative act of love.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a bit about Latifah Saafir and her work. I could go on – Latifah is truly an inspirational quilter – but I will leave you to discover more about her work through her website, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. And we’ll be back soon with more awesome quilters for you to discover.

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