Cortney Heimerl

American Made Since 2012

Cortney Heimerl

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I'm a third generation artist and quilter from Wisconsin who designs and makes one-of-a-kind heirloom quality pieces by hand.

Tell us about your business.

My mom taught me how to quilt when I was in high school, but I didn't begin quilting professionally until 2012. I was pregnant with my second baby and I decided I to pursue the creative business I had always dreamed of -quilting. I began by opening up an Etsy store. The quilts sold out and since then I haven't been able to keep up. I'm inspired by the Midwest, folk art, antique textiles, pattern and contemporary art -mostly illustrators. I like creating within the constraint that naturally occurs in geometry, but I am inspired by color juxtaposition as well. I like how colors come forward and recede and how colors can vibrate next to each other. My business is currently small -just me. I am taking steps to expand, but my dream would be to create a cottage industry where all of the quilts are handmade locally and to source my materials locally as well -one of my goals as a maker is to contribute to a strong creative community. I want to pioneer this business model in my city.

What makes your business stand out?

My background is in conceptual art and visual theory and because of this I have a unique to approach quilting. I studied Fine Art and Art Theory in college and moved onto Visual Theory in grad school at NYU. Then I moved back to WI. What I learned informs my process today, but it is juxtaposed against my roots - which are inherently rural. I grew up on a small farm on the outskirts of a town of 8,000 people in central Wisconsin. When I left, my goal was to distance myself from my rural roots and embrace art in the city. I liked the idea of art with a capital A and although I grew up with a mother who was constantly creating- quilts, rugs, preserves, barn quilts, etc. I didn't connect this drive with my own and I didn't see it as a creative outlet as I recognize it today. I finally came around to my personal vision as a maker in the years following grad school. My inspiration now comes from two places - traditional quilting and contemporary art.

What's the best business advice you've received?

When I was deciding what I wanted to study in college, my uncle told me something that has always stuck with me - it was to make small decisions each day that would make me happy because all of the small decisions would eventually pave the way for big decisions and then those life-determining decisions would feel like a natural progression instead of a leap. I have kept that with me all these years and I have found that it has been true. I went to college for Fine Art, I continued on to complete my master's in Visual Theory, I wrote a book called Handmade Nation, I've traveled, I got married, I had children, we bought a house, I created my own business doing something I love to do -- it was really great advice.

Mark Your Calendar

  • Nominations
    June 3–Aug. 29, 2014

    Nominate yourself or other aspiring makers.

  • Judging
    June 23–Sept. 9, 2014

    Judges will select finalists throughout this period.

    Meet the judges
  • Online Voting
    Sept. 15–Oct. 13, 2014

    Vote for your favorite American makers.

    See the finalists
  • Winners Announced
    Oct. 17, 2014

    2014 Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.

    See past Award Winners
  • American Made Event
    Nov. 7–8, 2014

    Join us for our annual event in New York City.

    Buy tickets now

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