It’s a familiar tale: Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy confides to girl he wants to quilt. That’s the story in a nutshell of Two Accordions’ Joe Gallegos and Ruth Hansen. Now married, their interest in the craft began with a gift from Gallegos’ grandmother. It was a simple design with clean lines—not a stereotypical, calico-pinwheel old-lady blanket. And so are the designs of the Accordions, whose quilts are a perfect fit with contemporary and mid-century modern aesthetics.
When did you first think about quilting?
Gallegos: I had this quilt my grandmother made me. I had it since I was like 13 or 14. It was predominately black, and it had these stripes of blue and red and turquoise, and she told me that it was called an Amish quilt, and I thought it was kind of odd, because … I didn’t know Amish quilts were real simple, real plain, real geometric. … But the thing was, it was falling apart and I realized I had to fix it and I didn’t know how. …
So I started to make squares for [a quilt] and never finished, because [Ruth and I] were together, and we were being in love and stuff. Then I told her what I was doing. I didn’t know what the hell she would think.
Hansen: Well, the first time that you told me, we were at work [at University Art], and I don’t even know if we were dating yet, but we liked each other, so he told me in strict confidence. I couldn’t tell the other guys that he wanted to quilt. I didn’t think that was crazy.
What’s the collaborative process like?
Hansen: We kind of design differently. We’re just lucky that we have the same aesthetic. I usually let Joe pick the color palette—he’s really great with colors—and with that same color palette, we both design two different quilts, and we just go from there. …
He’s starting to do more of the quilt tops and giving them to me to quilt, which I really enjoy doing. So I’m glad he’s finally relenting control of his baby to me to finish.
Gallegos: Finishing the quilt is the most tedious part in this whole process. Making the top part for me is kind of fun. The process of combining the whole thing together is kind of messy, because we use this heavy natural cotton, so there’s a lot of particles, and you can breathe them in, and it’s really gross.
Hansen: It’s fun, but it is tedious. I will literally be at the machine for five hours straight before I finish a full queen-size quilt, but you get into the groove.
You held a workshop in February. How did that go?
Hansen: It was a lot of fun. We had six people—who weren’t friends or family members! (Laughs.) It went really well. Joe is a great teacher.
Gallegos: Ruth was a great teacher.
What did you do?
Gallegos: We designed a little 24-by-36 [inch] throw.
Hansen: Just so they’ll learn how to cut the fabric, to iron it properly, to see how cotton does stretch a little bit when you iron it improperly; just the basics of quilting.
Are you having another workshop?
Hansen: Definitely. One the next holiday, which is in May, Memorial Day.
What materials do you use?
Gallegos: Just cotton and all solid [colors]. At this point, I don’t have any interest in using prints or synthetics.
Hansen: We have been exploring silk screening, so if anything, we’d use our own design. … I think a lot of the quilters right now are just about sensory overload, because they can do so much with the sewing machine now. They’re all computerized. It’s just a lot of stuff going on at once, where I feel like ours is like an exhale, [an] exploration of negative space.
Do you make other items, too?
Gallegos: We do coasters and bar mats. … We do placemats. If we can think of other quilted products to make, we will definitely indulge in it. Like, I made a laptop cover for [a friend]. He didn’t seem interested at all. …
I’ve definitely been toying with the urban poncho. I bet if we get one person who’s kind of cool to put on a poncho, and wear it around town—
Hansen: If we had all the time in the world, we would make anything quilted, but I think we’re just trying to focus on our designs. … I think quilts, in general, have to be treated like a work of art. Even though we use our quilts every day, we take really good care of them.
Gallegos: I do hate seeing them on walls. I mean, I understand if you have a 200-year-old thing, but I don’t like the idea of people putting blankets on walls. They’re supposed to be there to keep you warm. It’s not comforting to see a wall with a blanket on it.
What if the wall is cold?
Gallegos: If you lived in the tundra, I’d totally understand.