Best Of The West 2012: Suzanne Hudson's Ledger Quilt
Photography: Diego James Robles, Courtesy Will Leather Goods
At 92 inches long and 82 inches wide, Suzanne Hudson’s quilt may seem no different than most hand-sewn coverlets. But take a closer look at the sophisticated design and you’ll realize that it is in fact a unique ledger quilt, inspired by the Plains Indian tradition of painting on used ledger books (an inexpensive source of paper) in the late 1800s.
“I’ve always admired ledger art, so I was challenged to make a ledger quilt that I could be proud of and people would like,” Hudson says. After eight months of meticulous labor squeezed in between her two day jobs, Hudson finally finished the exquisite piece honoring her family, ancestors, and important Native historical figures. The quilt prominently features a large star at its center, representing both day and night, along with a series of galloping horses and dozens of hand-stitched names.
Hudson grew up outside the Navajo Nation but spent summer vacations with her great aunt Mary Ann Foster (pictured with the quilt, above), a master Navajo weaver, in rural Sheep Springs, New Mexico. Hudson’s mother first taught her to sew and quilt when she was 9 years old. “We sewed by hand because we didn’t have a sewing machine,” Hudson recalls. “Because when you’re poor, you’re poor, and that’s all you have.” Years later Hudson started getting serious about her art, and her elaborate quilts began garnering attention when she showed them off at her children’s powwow competitions in the late 1970s.
Among the many honors her ledger quilt received in late 2011 were first place in both tribal arts at the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial in Gallup, New Mexico, and in home arts at the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock, Arizona. The quilt also has the distinction of being signed by former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
“Not only did Ben name it Star Among the Shunkaa Wakan,” Hudson says, “but it’s the only quilt in the world that he has signed.”