Cathy Fussell is a local fiber artist who has created original textile art using traditional and innovative techniques for over 50 years. She and her husband, Fred, own an art studio in Columbus, Georgia, where they produce independent work and have collaborated on a series of quilts based on famous stories in southern literature. She has also collaborated on art pieces and exhibitions with her daughter and fellow quilter, Coulter Fussell. You can learn more about Cathy's quilting work in the next section.
Cathy grew up surrounded by sewists and picked up the craft by watching her mother and grandmother sew throughout her childhood in Buena Vista, Georgia. As a teenager, she learned how to quilt from her school librarian, who was also her best friend’s mother. Cathy graduated from Georgia State University, majoring in English Literature. Later, she became a schoolteacher and English Professor at Columbus State University (CSU). While at CSU, Cathy assumed the director role for the Carson McCullers’s Center for Writers and Musicians. She was eager to return to her quilting passion upon retirement from CSU, concluding her 28-year-long career as an educator.
Cathy Fussell has made hundreds of quilt pieces in her lifetime. Many of those pieces have been included in juried and curated exhibitions, and added to private collections. In addition, she has received multiple awards for her fiber artistry. However, it is not a career for Cathy. Quilting is a passion, a meditative act, and an art form.
Inspiration for Cathy’s quilting work comes primarily from regional geography, American modernism, and southern literature. History and storytelling are important aspects of Cathy’s art. Many of her recent quilts are topographical maps of historically relevant sites. Her collaborations with her husband, Fred, depict meaningful scenes in famous works of southern novels and short stories. To see examples of Cathy's quilt work, check out the pages "Snake Shoals on the Chattahoochee," "Corona! Corona!," and "Everyday Use" on this website. Youcan learn more about her and her work at cathyfussellquilts.com.
Oral History: Cathy & Fred Fussell
“I taught literature for 28 years and I wanted to incorporate a lot of my love for that literature in the visual art that I was making.” - Cathy
This is an oral history interview with Cathy (right) and Fred Fussell (left). They discuss their quilting process, where their inspiration comes from, and future projects. Cathy and Fred collaborate on projects but offer feedback and suggestions on each other’s works. Their art spaces are adjacent to each other, making communication easy as they work. “We holler over the kitchen through that hole in the wall a lot.” - Cathy
In the interview, Cathy and Fred speak about their first collaboration on an art quilt – depicting a scene from As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. They developed their collaborative process, which includes re-reading the original text independently and recording the imagery and phrases that stand out to them. They frequently reference the original text for details throughout the design process. “We depend pretty heavily on the descriptive wording that the writer has used. The more detailed the descriptive writing is, the clearer the image can become in my mind.” - Fred
Fred draws the scenes in black and white, and Cathy does a fabric pull so they can finalize colors and Cathy can begin stitching things down.
“When the drawing comes to me, that’s when the color starts to happen. And that part is really fun.” - Cathy
The following citations are licensed under:
About. Cathy Fussell Quilts. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2023, from http://www.cathyfussellquilts.com/about
Wallace, C. B. (2022, March 9). Women in the arts: Cathy Fussell. thecolumbusite. Retrieved January 19, 2023, from https://www.thecolumbusite.net/post/women-in-the-arts-cathy-fussell