FRANKFORT — Ann Loveless’ career behind a sewing machine nearly ended 13 years ago when a doctor told her the pain in her hands would only get worse if she didn’t find other work.
Loveless’ hands were battered and arthritic after years of pulling on heavy fabrics. She persisted and adapted, taking up art quilting, which let her continue to work with fabric but didn’t hurt her hands.
And it’s probably a good thing she didn’t abandon her love of textiles then since it’s what won her the people’s choice award at ArtPrize last weekend and $200,000 that comes along with it.
The career seamstress who had run her own business for decades struggled with the thought of leaving behind the only work she’d ever really been passionate about.
“I was ‘like what do you mean, I can’t sew?’” Loveless said Thursday. “My doctor asked me ‘Have you thought about doing something different?’”
Loveless, 53, had sewn since she was a girl. She later graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in clothing and textile production. And after moving to Frankfort, she opened a home shop where she worked as a seamstress.
“It was like cutting my arm off,” she said. “Telling me I can’t do something for the rest of my life.”
After the grim prognosis, she decided to give quilting a try and attended a workshop in Traverse City.
She learned that there’s a whole different kind of quilting out there. One that breaks the mold of the traditional geometric patterns in fabric.
“People are just not aware of art quilts,” she said. “They say ‘did you invent this?’”
Loveless certainly didn’t invent art quilts, but there’s no question she helped the genre get a little more recognition as an art rather than a craft.