Born in Springfield, South Carolina, Peggie Hartwell spent her early childhood living on a farm amongst her large, extended family. The women were skilled quiltmakers, while the men, for pastime, were accomplished practitioners in the ancient tradition of oral storytelling, and she considered her grandfather to be a true master of the form.
Ms. Hartwell’s education began in a three- room country schoolhouse. However, since she was a child of the great migration of southern, African-American farmers who moved to northern cities during the 1940s and 50s, her education was completed in urban New York City. Interestingly, the vast distance she traveled to the North only reinforced Hartwell’s precious memories of her southern roots, as summer trips “down home” continued intermittently throughout her childhood.
Using memory as a sensory tool, Ms. Hartwell’s work is mostly autobiographical, drawing upon the continuous exposure to folk-life customs and traditions in her youth, which became the foundation for her later quilted-expressions. Another great influence on her work was the nearly eight years she spent performing Jazz, Modern Primitive and Modern dance techniques throughout Europe and the Middle East. Her unique theatrical experiences grew out of earlier studies with the legendary dance master Syvilla Fort of New York City.
When Ms. Hartwell’s performance career ended, she shifted her creative focus to visual artwork, which she developed while working at one of the nation’s oldest brokerage firms Tanenbaum Harber Co. of New York City. This position provided her with the time and space needed to explore new creative ideas while she developed as a quilt artist.
Peggie Hartwell has a B.A. in Theater from Queens College located in Queens, N.Y., and a Certificate of Completion: Artists in Classrooms, Developing Strategies for Working with Students with Disabilities from S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind, Spartanburg, S.C.(2003). She is on the Roster as a Master Artist for Opus Inc., Hartford, CT. She is also on the Roster as Artist in the Classroom for the State of South Carolina.
Ms. Hartwell is a member of the National Chapter of the Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN), the American Quilt Society (AQS), and of the National Quilting Association (NQA). She currently lives in Summerville, South Carolina, where she is Chairperson of the Summerville Chapter of the Women of Color Quilters Network. The focus of this guild is to teach school-age children the art and tradition of making story-quilts.
Narrative quiltmaking is my “voice on cloth”. It allows me to revisit my childhood and recapture traditions and customs of generations of farmers from whom I descend. These sacred voyages have nurtured and molded my art form. Most importantly, it gives me the opportunity to honor my family’s great tradition of oral storytelling through my own visual quilted-expressions.