Jude Stuecker knows a thing or two about putting together an outfit, and for her it involves a lot more than opening a closet door or a bureau drawer.
The quilter, textile designer, and garment maker thinks about her clothes from the first drop of dye to the finishing stitch. Whoever wears a Jude Stuecker shirt, skirt, dress, or other piece of apparel is donning something wholly personal.
Her process is time consuming, but she says she still finds each step rewarding. “I get inspired by the colors,” she says, “then work intuitively to decide which prints and colors to use on each piece of fabric. There are lots of opportunities to experiment. It’s like a blank slate every time I start.”
The Louisville, Kentucky native starting making her clothes when she was still a kid — knitting, sewing, and creating art quilts throughout high school and college. She came to Asheville to attend Warren Wilson College and found an encouraging community of fellow artists and craftspeople. After living in New Mexico for a few years, she returned to Asheville in 2000 to start her business.
The original plan was to focus on quilts, but about 15 years ago, she transitioned into clothing.
“It seemed like a good way to make a decent living with my feet firmly planted in the world of textiles,” says Stuecker. “I still love making art quilts, but it’s also been interesting to learn so much about silkscreening, garment construction, and dyeing.”
Stuecker begins with a dye bath, then burns silkscreens of her original drawings — often inspired by old field guides and flora she spots on runs in the woods —and prints the fabric with the designs. She then cut and sews the fabric, typically organic cotton and bamboo, into garments.
It’s not dissimilar from the way she makes her quilts. “I start each piece with a rich palette of colors to choose from,” she says. “Sometimes I have an idea in mind. Sometimes I just make a bunch of different colors — whatever I’m feeling that day — and go from there. There are so many things to learn and explore.”
In spring, Stuecker, who also teaches locally, will lead a long-delayed textile tour of Belgium. But there’s no chance she’ll run out of inspiration at home.
“We’re so lucky to live in a place [that’s] abundant with resources for artists,” says Stuecker, a long-time member of the prestigious Southern Highland Craft Guild.
“For me, the root of [my] sense of [artistic] community is through the Guild. … Since I spend most of my days alone in the studio, it’s important to feel connected to peers and colleagues.”
Jude Stuecker, West Asheville. Stuecker’s work can be found at three local venues of the Southern Highland Craft Guild: The Folk Art Center, 382 Blue Ridge Pkwy.; 26 Lodge St. in Biltmore Village; and 930 Tunnel Road, East Asheville (southernhighlandguild.org). She’s also represented by Flow (14 South Main St., Marshall, flowmarshall.com). The artist will exhibit at the upcoming Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, running Thursday, Oct. 14 through Sunday, Oct. 17 at Harrah’s Cherokee Center (87 Haywood St, Asheville). For more information, see judestuecker.com.