Liberty Worth at work on “River Canyon,” 2022 in her studio. River Canyon is 57”x57”. Silk wool, and cotton.
“Art is a big enough container to hold all the things that we encounter, both the pain and the questions,” says Los Angeles-based textile artist Liberty Worth who creates art quilts inspired by nature and family stories. Using leather, wool, and upholstery fabrics, Worth sews quilts as a way to visually capture moments of her life. Recently, she’s ventured into even more non-traditional fabrics, designing a pair of Ugg-like boots in her signature style.
For Worth, whose work has appeared on television shows and been exhibited in galleries, getting a studio outside her home was a vital step toward growth and success as an artist. Most importantly, it’s allowed her to hire college student interns whose assistance has become vital to her creative process.
Los Angeles-based textile artist Liberty Worth.
Becoming an artist
Growing up, Worth’s father worked as an artist and toy designer. Watching him was both inspiring and intimidating. Worth says she wanted to be a maker, but was worried she would never be as good of an artist as her father.
In college at Pepperdine University she majored in public relations while also taking art and art history classes. A semester abroad in Italy was transformative. It was there that she began experimenting with all kinds of textile processes and became hooked on the materials for artmaking.
After graduation, Worth worked for six years in a corporate setting doing textile design. The corporate job was all digital, and as a break she took up quilting in her off hours.
Developing a style
The signature shape in Worth’s quilts looks like a rose, although that was not her initial intention.
The very first piece in this style represented water and was inspired by trying to capture a moment of joy. On a trip to Costa Rica, her three kids were in the pool and were all getting along. She asked herself, “Could I capture this moment of joy?” The resulting quilt is called “Swimming” and is mostly in blue tones.
Worth works with repurposed interior design samples of fabrics leather, vinyl, and even wallpaper. Her quilts often radiate out from a central point, curved pieces hugging smaller curved pieces, creating the rose-like motif. She richly textures some pieces with stitches and others she leaves plain.
As she creates her work, she starts from the center and works outward, with a form that’s circular until the very end, then adds edge pieces to make the piece into a square or rectangle. Her works are often square and mounted onto wood panel for ease of hanging.
Left/top: “Swimming,” 2019, 35” x 28”, by Liberty Worth. Silk, wool, and cotton. Right/bottom: “Pura Vida,” by Liberty Worth, 2021-detail section is about 6”x8” of a piece which is 25” x 30”. Silk, wool, and cotton.
Securing studio space
Worth’s biggest jumps forward as an artist have come as the result of friends urging her on. Her best friend, for example, told her she needed a studio. Worth remembered a time when she had borrowed studio space and had made 21 pieces in one month and she decided her friend was right. She rented a studio in spite of the high price of rent in L.A.
“It’s an investment in myself that I’ve come to value, that it’s really, truly like a room of one’s own. And I don’t know that I valued it as much until I had it. It took somebody else telling me I needed one.”
Having a studio space outside of her home makes it possible for Worth to work with interns, and that step was equally significant in the development of her creative practice.
When a mentor of hers told her she needed an intern, she initially didn’t feel worthy. But then she searched online and looked at internships in the arts in her area and thought “I could design something better than that” in terms of what the opportunities offered to student interns so she decided to develop a program and give it a try.
Interns in front of Distorted Reflections,” Liberty Worth’s studio, 2021. Distorted Reflections is 30” x 30”, cotton.
She asked her very first intern why she was applying for this unpaid internship, “She said, I’ve had other internships, I’ve worked on all sorts of aspects, but I’ve never been able to sit down with an artist and understand the artist process before they get to the museum or the gallery.” That helped Worth to see the value of what she had to offer. She works to design as fulfilling an opportunity as she can for the students who come into her studio, and to respond to the skills and interests they bring.
While the first internship was scheduled to be for three months, at the three month mark the student wanted to continue.
Worth and her interns periodically review how things are going and she helps the students update their resumes, translating what they learn into resume-friendly language. Her interns have learned how to handle customer interactions, sewing, photography, and more.
Once the internship program was established, Worth actually found that her business was growing because of the work her interns were doing and this allowed her to pay them. Currently Worth has an intern in her studio about two hours each week. Their presence requires prep work which makes her more productive.
“I learn from them, too. It definitely makes work for me sometimes to prepare things for them to do, but if I plan well, so much extra work gets done, sometimes things that were sitting on my list to do for months.”
Liberty Worth, working in the studio, 2022; piece includes silk, wool and cotton.
Life of a working artist
Today, Worth teaches art at a private school first thing in the morning, and then heads over to her studio where she spends about four hours creating her own work each afternoon.
Her commissions include memorial quilts as well as work for interiors and she currently has a five month waiting list for new commissions. One of her quilts appeared on a TV show and another will be in a forthcoming commercial. Living in LA, Worth has made connections through meeting people in professional associations and at galleries where entertainment industry staff rent art for use on television sets.
Worth is now expanding her practice by renting the studio space next door. She’ll use that space to teach classes, as well as rent work space to fellow textile artists.
“I am trying to encapsulate a moment that I love with my kids or anger or to process the death of a loved one,” Worth says. “Art is the only container I’ve found that’s big enough to hold all that.
What I want from it is to help me keep wonder alive. And I think that that’s the way I define an artist, someone who’s able to do that.”
Your article regarding Liberty was very interesting, Elaine. I never thought about using interns….perfect for a quilt maker, eh?
What a wonderful profile of Liberty! Seeing her grow as an artist and the success she has achieved over the years since we first met in the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild makes my heart full.
I love Liberty’s style! She’s not only an amazing artist but an awesome person! It’s always great to learn more about her.
Great article and Liberty’s work is really inspiring. The texture and pattern combinations are amazing.