When she weaves, Leslie Cohen stirs up a little magic. Baskets and quilts appear under her fingertips. Her husband remarks it’s almost as if she makes them from the air. In fact, she made her first quilt at her husband’s request. It was of a log cabin, and in exchange for the quilt, they bought their first home.
She made another quilt for his birthday featuring squares of orchids, his favorite flower. Cohen wasn’t as intrigued with the repetitive process it took to stitch the squares together. She found herself instead drawn towards art quilts, which allowed for more freedom. As an art quilter and retired educator, Cohen’s perspective on art continues to be largely based in play.
“I want art to be enjoyable and about discovery so that anyone can do it in their own way,” says Cohen.
Cohen is part of the Studio Art Quilt Associates “Perspectives” exhibit at LeMoyne Arts. She joined SAQA a few years ago to get to know other art quilters from around the country. The organization has 3,000 members and 200 venues on six continents. LeMoyne Arts is a new venue added this year for quilters in the Florida Panhandle.
Cohen’s piece in the exhibit, “Bound Together” combines her two favorite forms of visual art — basketry and quilting. The quilt centers on a knot at the bottom of a basket that she wove from passionflower vines.
“I took close up photos of the basket on my phone and got such cool imagery,” says Cohen. “I went to my phone and played with filters so it would still look like wood, but the background is a periwinkle purple and the branches are deep violet.”
In middle school, Cohen took sewing and weaving courses. She recalls a fashion show where she proudly showed off an A-line dress and skirt, solidifying her love for fiber. At George Washington University she took classes in printing and sculpture, but eventually completed her degree at the University of Miami.
When she took her first basketry class Cohen says she felt she had finally found her medium. She made and sold baskets, whipping them up in as little as a few hours. She learned from contemporary weaving masters and worked without an armature, or guiding form.
“They’re called random weaving baskets,” explains Cohen. “You make a globe with clothespins and you go in and out with whatever the reed wants to do. Then, it appears.”
Cohen taught at Lincoln High School for seven years and Chiles High School for 13 years as an art educator. Her classes were in 3D, sculptural and ceramic art. While she taught, Cohen also maintained her own creative practices, often asking students for their critiques and thoughts on her artwork.
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