Kyra Hicks

Photo: John Woo

1 of 8
The Quilter: Kyra Hicks
Twenty years ago, a friend and I were visiting the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati and saw an exhibit of African-American quilts. I'll never forget one particular piece by the artist Faith Ringgold—a family sitting at a Thanksgiving table, with their thoughts sewn into the fabric. I just knew right away: I wanted to tell stories with cotton.

It's exciting to start on a quilt. I tape paper to my wall and sketch patterns and notes. Going to the fabric store for the right colors or prints feels as important as the actual sewing. And then I clear out a huge empty space in my family room, and I get busy. I don't know how to draw, so it amazes me that this magical, creative part of me comes out.

Here's an example: A few years ago, when I was yearning for a date on a Friday night, I asked myself, "How can I capture this feeling in fabric?" So I made a quilt that reads "SBF praying for a SBM to share my quilt." The image is of a black woman, and if you look really closely, the background pattern is filled with couples. I love layering the story like that.

I probably couldn't make a living quilting, and I'm glad of that. My 9-to-5 job as a product manager means I don't have to make quilts to sell. There's a freedom to being pure to the art, to not being motivated to pay the mortgage with it. My quilts are motivated only by my need to tell my story. —As told to Margaret Rhodes