Danielle Nilsen

When art becomes playtime

<em>Candy Land</em>, 2022, embroidery on pieced found fabrics, 11 x 14 inches.
Candy Land, 2022, embroidery on pieced found fabrics, 11 x 14 inches.

Board games are “a way to easily connect with someone, especially when you’re socially awkward or neurodivergent,” says textile artist Danielle Nilsen. “When you play a game, it’s like there’s a script already laid out.” This sense of play factors heavily into her most recent work: a series of collaged textiles that she calls Sewn Paintings. During the pandemic, Nilsen began cutting images from magazines and arranging them into compositions, “like finishing a puzzle,” she says. Soon she applied the same technique to quilting by rearranging random scraps onto a cloth substrate.

  • Game Board #7, 2022, upholstery sample, baby bow, t-shirt, second-hand quilting cotton, fake satin, velour, felt, thread, 16 x 20 inches.

Nilsen, who received a BFA in painting from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, merges traditional quilting practices with improvisational textile design. She collects scraps of fabric (thrift stores are a favorite source) and works them into patterns that recall her childhood growing up in St. Louis in the 1980s and ’90s. She then cuts up the pieces to resemble board games popular in the era, such as Sorry! or Candy Land, leading viewers of a certain age into nostalgic revery. “I’ll often hear, ‘This reminds me of my childhood’ or ‘This reminds me of popsicles’ or ‘This reminds me of a wallpaper in my childhood bedroom,’” she says. “It’s all part of the fun.”

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Noelani Kirschner is a former assistant editor for the Scholar.


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