A textile artist from Fairfield, Texas, Laverne Brackens represents a long tradition of improvisational quilt making among African-American women. Born in 1927, Brackens learned the art of quilt making as a child by helping her mother tack quilts. However, Brackens did not begin making them herself until 1987 when she retired from her career as a cook following an accident.
Today, Brackens is among four generations of family quilt makers including her mother, Gladys Henry; her daughter, Sherry Byrd; and her grandchildren.
A highly productive quilter, Brackens is known for her improvisational technique that uses bold, bright colors and often features letters and numbers.
“I don’t go by patterns,” says Brackens. “I make it up out of my head. When you pick up the material and start working with it, that’s when you know what [the quilt] will be.”
Brackens’ quilts regularly feature an off-center centerpiece, rotating printed stripes, and both horizontal and vertical stripping, all contributing to art works that are distinct and unexpected.
These distinctive quilts have been featured in numerous exhibitions and documented in many books and publications. Notably, in 1996, her quilts and those of her family members’ were featured in the exhibition Four Generations of African-American Quiltmakers at the High Museum in Atlanta. This exhibition then developed into the show and catalogue Will The Circle Be Unbroken: Four Generations of African-American Quiltmakers for the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco in 2006. Brackens’ quilts have also been included in the 1999 Texas Folklife Resources exhibition Quilts of Color: Three Generations of Quilters in an Afro-Texan Family and Storytelling: One Stitch at a Time, a 2001-2002 exhibition at the Texas Memorial Museum of Science and History.