Boasting bright colors, novel shapes, and layered textures, these quilted color block wall hangings by Chicago-based artist Emily Van Hoff might be just what you need to give your home a renewed sense of style. Van Hoff has a lot of fun creating, and it shows in her work. Her palettes feel lighthearted and enthusiastic, with shapes reminiscent of abstract typography and exclamation points. Maybe that’s because Van Hoff decided a while ago that the point of making art, for her, was to live in the moment and go wherever inspiration took her.
Van Hoff’s career as a textile artist began in early 2020 after a series of shocking life events pointed her in a new direction. Her husband Matt died unexpectedly in January, and then the pandemic cost her her job as a graphic designer and art director. To process her grief, Van Hoff turned to art, experimenting with new techniques that applied her graphic design background to physical objects. The things she made to fill her time during quarantine resonated with her followers on Instagram, and now, over two years later, her pieces sell out practically as soon as they’re posted online.
“Quilting and embroidery are my current tools of choice to execute my dreams of physical, tactile graphic design,” Van Hoff says. “This combination results in fresh and unexpected forms that will shine in your home and get you all the compliments as you wear them out into the world.”
Van Hoff’s “squiggle quilts” are her most popular works, ranging from 18 to 30 inches wide and up to 40 inches tall. Not only do they bring a graphic punch of color to any room they’re in — they also have a textural element that adds a little bit of extra visual interest. Stuffed pillows in surprising shapes like eight-pointed stars and “noodles” are also big hits. Van Hoff applies her skills to wearable art, too, producing items like quilted dresses, tote bags, and giant patches to customize your favorite garments.
“One of my favorite things is finding the absolute perfect piece that fully expresses the personality I want for my home and wardrobe,” she explains. “It’s exceedingly rare, but when I do stumble across that perfect thing, it’s like meeting a brand new bff. That’s why I make what I make: to provide you that thrill of discovery.”
A recent residency at the Pendry Chicago boutique hotel produced an intriguing variation on Van Hoff’s signature style. The artist drew inspiration from the Art Deco architecture of the landmark Carbon & Carbide building where the hotel is located, producing a new wall hanging in a nuanced palette of green and gold fabric.
“This is the first event where people are able to see my work in person, which is very exciting,” Van Hoff told Chicago’s ABC 13 News. “I wanted to figure out how to incorporate some Art Deco details of the building into my designs and into my quilting.”
Van Hoff’s success is part of a larger trend celebrating traditional arts and crafts. The tufted rug TikTok craze and techniques like quilting and embroidery offer new ways for young people to express their creativity.
“I do think that sewing and quilting are having a bit of a comeback right now,” she says. “I think we’re all sort of drawn to very tactile, textural things in our digital world.”