Joe Mallard:  Threading His Grandmother’s Needles

Opens: July 26, 2024 – November 12, 2024

Sunshine Joe Mallard: Threading His Grandmother’s Needles

Mr. Mallard’s quilts are unique in that they are comprised of tens of thousands of tiny, colorful hand tied knots and stitches. He traces an outline of his design on canvas, stitches neckties and other objects onto the surface, and then fills the surrounding space with a swirl of color and commentary. His quilts bloom slowly over time and, as he watches current events unfold, he stitches the names of places, people, and events into his work. In essence, his stunning quilts are “Artifacts of American culture.”

About the artist: Joseph Mallard
Born in Summit Mississippi, “Sunshine Joe” as he is often called, perfected his art over his entire life.  Mr. Mallard learned needlecraft at the feet of his great great-grandmother Mandy Green, a woman born into slavery in the Deep South. He remembers fondly how he would thread her needles because of her diminishing eyesight.  A child of the “Hippie” generation in the sixties and seventies, Joe covered his clothing with artistic stitches and designs to showcase his free-spirited creativity.

Mr. Mallard was inspired by many individuals, but took a huge burst of inspiration from Rosie Greer, the former Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle who took up needlepoint as a hobby and stress reliever. Joe’s exquisite tapestry-quilts consist of thousands of tiny stitches and hand-tied knots. He began his first large format work the day his youngest son was born, a tapestry quilt that chronicles the first-twenty-one years of his son’s life. It also demonstrates Mr. Mallard’s patience, perseverance, and dedication to his craft. The large format quilts that Joe creates today typically take four to five years to complete.

Joe was given the name “Sunshine Joe” by a fifth-grade student who said, “the sunshine brings light, and you do too.”  Joe deeply enjoys teaching students the craft of quilting while discussing history and culture. He teaches in classrooms, community centers, homeless shelters, libraries, and universities. In 2022, he was artist in residence with the Children’s Defense Fund national youth program at the Freedom School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For more than 50 years, Mr. Mallard has chronicled world events through his vibrant and intricately detailed thread collages. Born of brilliantly colored embroidery floss, fabric, patience and time, his quilts have been showcased in the United States and Europe.  He has been profiled in Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine, Linda LaPinta’s book Kentucky Quilts and Quiltmakers, Three Centuries of Creativity, Community, and Commerce,  inducted in the Mc Comb Mississippi Wall of Fame, and was honored with the ArtsReach “Living the Vision” Award.  Joe’s feature quilts include his Obama Tie Quilt, which chronicles the first four years of the Obama administration and an embroidered denim jacket he presented to former President Jimmy Carter, which highlights key events of his political life.

Although “Sunshine Joe” is passionate about his work, his greatest joy is knowing that God is the source, and he is the vessel.

“This is the only way I know how to live my life,” Joseph said. “It is the only way I want to live my life.”

Kind of Blue by Joe Mallard crop
Sunshine Jo Mallard studio copy
The Other Side of the American Dream by Joe Mallard crop