Butler was born in 1973 and grew up in New Jersey. When she was a graduate student, her professors gave her an assignment to make a portrait. At the time, she was taking a fiber arts class, where she was experimenting with textiles and exploring processes like weaving, felting, and quilting. The artist decided to make a quilted portrait of her grandparents, above, based on a photo of them when they were young, right.
Butler selected fabrics from her grandmother’s fabric collection and quickly realized she could tell a story about her subjects through the patterns and colors she used. For example, Butler included black fabric with purple flowers on it to symbolize her grandmother’s name: Violette.
The process of quilting itself is also significant. There is a long history of quilting among Black women in America. By using this art form, Butler acknowledges that tradition.
The artist started out making portraits of important people in her life, including her daughters, friends, and family. “My original goal for creating portraits was out of love,” Butler explains. Soon she realized she could make a bigger statement with her work.