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ADAM FOREMAN/Lake Gaston Gazette-Observer

Cathy Wiggins holds her book, Quilted Leather, at her stand at theA Farmer’s Christmas at The Old Cotton Gin event last Saturday.

 

Lake Gaston quilter and author Cathy Wiggins was listed in American Quilt Retailer as one of the top 100 people you should know in the industry in its Fall 2019 Quilt Market Recap Digital Issue, available online at americanquiltretailer.com.

According to Wiggins, American Quilt Retailer is the number one publication for quilt shop owners. 

The short profile listing by her name in the article reads: “Self-taught quilter who shares passion through teaching, lecturing and judging; now focused on leather and exploring quilting on leather techniques; launched leather line for home sewists.”

Wiggins said she had no idea it was coming, and she didn’t see the article until a friend posted it online. She did feel a lot of buzz around her at the recent 10-day International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, where she has exhibited before, but this was the first year representing her company, Gypsy Wood Leathers. 

Wiggins’ company and products were on display for over 65,000 guests at the festival, which is one of Texas’s biggest events. 

As a quilter

“I’ve been working with leather for about five and a half years, and it’s my passion, and it’s what I absolutely love. I’ve been driven to actually bring this to the industry,” said Wiggins. “It’s so humbling in one sense, because I can’t believe I’m getting the recognition that I am, but yet it’s so rewarding to know that when I follow my heart and work hard, this is what happens. I’m on this list with everyone that I have idolized in the quilting industry.”

Her work with leather is seen as a turning point in the industry, and the industry is coming along in leatherwork. One way Wiggins sees the growth is when someone asks if she knows so and so who does leather, and it’s rippled out far enough that people don’t realize that she’s the one who started the trend. 

Wiggins said in a 2016 interview with The Warren Record. “When I started working with leather, a whole world opened up. There were endless possibilities of fabrics and embellishments.”

She began crafting designs with peace symbols and hearts. Wiggins also found inspiration in memories of family horses to produce quilts that depicted them. An art collector ordered one of her leather creations.

As Wiggins moved forward in the art of leather quilting, she began to see her early leather works, such as peace signs, as part of the process of moving away from quilting fabric. She sold her complete stash of cotton fabric, marking the end of the transition.

Wiggins began to introduce the medium of leather quilting to the fine art world.

That same year, Wiggins made her first saddle, a small one to fit a horse statue named Bentley, which lives in her studio, just to see how it would turn out.

In 2017, Wiggins started making quilted saddles in earnest and exhibited a couple of pieces in the International Quilt Festival in Houston. Her first full-sized saddle was a traditional Western style. But being an artist means you don’t have to follow the rules, and that saddles don’t have to be brown or black.

As an author

Wiggins released a book, “Quilted Leather,” last year, available for purchase from major retailers; has discussed leather quilting on television, in YouTube videos and in workshops and lectures; has won awards and been featured in numerous magazines, exhibitions and solo shows, including “Against the Grain,” a solo exhibition at the Lincoln, Neb. Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2016-17; and she was the featured artist at the 2016 Road to California Quilt show.

Since the release of her first book, her publishing company has signed her for two more books, one about home decor and leather crafts that she is working on now and should release early in 2021, and another about cosplay and making leather crafts like masks and costumes. 

Cosplay, or costume play, is defined as the practice of dressing up as characters from movies, books, and video games. 

The latter book concept Wiggins describes as a bridge to younger generations’ interest in superheroes and sewing. When the cosplay book comes out, she plans to take the featured costumes she created to the New York Comic Con, an annual convention dedicated to comics, graphic novels, video games, cosplay and more.  

Wiggins said that sees the industry moving in the direction of cosplay because it has been a lot more mainstream. 

Wiggins is currently working on creating Christmas decorations out of leather, like poinsettias and wreaths, for a chapter in the home decor book.

As a local

Wiggins is also working on a locally commissioned piece, turning a trophy African water buffalo hide into bags and a gun case. The artist said that she is picky about the commissioned work she does; it has to mean something. 

Wiggins limits the amount of shows where she vends to a few a year, but those few shows are all around the country. She does try to participate locally, appearing last weekend in Warrenton, N.C., at A Farmer’s Christmas at The Old Cotton Gin. 

For more information on Cathy Wiggins and her work, visit gypsywoodleathers.com.