Designer Spotlight: Meg Callahan

We first spotted Providence, Rhode Island–based designer Meg Callahan's work at Matter's Next World exhibition this spring and instantly loved her quilts—a contemporary take on traditional crafts.
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The Ada quilt by Meg Callahan.

The Harrah quilt by Meg Callahan.

The Spine quilt was a personal breakthrough for Callahan. "It's bold, but subtle; soft looking and inviting; but it's also sharp and intense," she says.

The Porter quilt by Meg Callahan.

Growing up in a semi-rural Oklahoma town, Callahan was always interested in making things. "My mother was an artist, painter, and architect, and we always had projects going on—our house was full of craft supplies," she says. "I loved having something to hold in my hands at the end of the day."

Callahan went to RISD to study furniture design but soon adopted quilts as her medium of choice. "I really like furniture design because it can be very logical, but I felt like wood wan't the right material," she says. "It's very stiff and I've always been attracted to soft goods. I'm really interested in American craftsmanship—what it meant in the past and what it means today. Quilts are perfect since they play into that theme."

During her senior thesis critique, Callahan met Lindsey Adelman, who encouraged her to get in touch with the folks at Matter since her approach aligned with the gallery's craft-oriented sensibility. Callhan's sent over an email and soon after, she was asked to create a collection; Spine, Harrah, and Ada resulted from the collaboration. "Since they have manufacturing contacts, Matter helped me create things that I wouldn't be able to on my own," says Callahan. "It opened up a lot of possibilities." 

Callahan's quilts are a combination of handcrafts and digital technology. "It begins with me sketching, sketching, sketching," she says. "I try to find something interesting and unique and work out the visuals by hand." After that, Callahan uses a computer to figure out all of the exact measurements and dimensions. She then sends the file to a printer who applies that pattern to a piece of 100-percent cotton fabric. Then, the printed fabric is joined with batting and another layer of material and sewn on a computer-controlled machine—"It's like a CNC mill for sewing," she explains.

What's coming down the pike from Callahan? A collaboration with Shaker-inspired Rhode Island furniture company O&G Studio and California's Bevara Design House.

We also sent Callahan a few questions from our Proustian questionnaire. Here's what she has to say.

Designer Meg Callahan

Ideal working environment: A melding of the library from Beauty of the Beast, an old barn, and the Eames Studio

Lucky break: Being born into a loving and eccentric family, getting into RISD, working with Matter

Dream commission: To design, make, and install wallpaper and tile for an entire house.

Hero: Anni Albers, Beyonce, and my mother.

Best compliment: Anytime someone compliments my hair

Currently reading: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Last film watched: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Most recent playlist: I am bouncing between the The Black Keys' Brothers and Jay-Z's Black Album.

The house is on fire, the first thing you grab is: Honestly, I would just get the hell out

Your eureka moment: My senior year of college—I was studying furniture design—and I made a quilt for my thesis. I loved physically constructing the pattern and I loved the history of it. It hit me then. I found "my object"—it was like putting on a pair of pants that fit perfectly.

Best advice: I'm not sure it counts as advice, but every time I talk to my grandfather on the phone, he ends the conversation with "keep a' goin", and every time I talk to my grandmother on the phone she ends the conversation with "guard you health!" I feel like these two little blurbs are words to live by.

Also...measure twice, cut once.

When not designing: I cook and eat avidly, exercise, get into T.V. shows, read, and try to learn new skills.

The best seat in the house: Here and here

Wish you had: An infinite drawer of really sharp scissors

Looking forward to: Christmas in Oklahoma


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