Catherine Heard holds red work quiltArt professor Catherine Heard invites contributions from the public of embroidered squares for a large-scale installation work.

Quilt combining creative contributions

Red Work: The Emperor of Atlantis is a work-in-progress by Catherine Heard, professor of interdisciplinary practices in the School of Creative Arts, that invites the public to contribute an embroidered motif to a large-scale installation work.

Participants may choose a traditional redwork design or may select from among the categories of patterns created for this work, including: the War on Terror, the Vietnam War, the Iranian Revolution, Abu Ghraib prison, monuments, and others.

Visit the Red Work: The Emperor of Atlantis website to view each embroidered square that’s been mailed in along with the embroiderer’s comments.

“As an artist, I’m often asked ‘Where did the idea come from?’ I can rarely pinpoint a single moment when an idea emerges for any artwork, but one of the starting points for this piece was Ruby Short McKim’s 1930 Colonial Quilt. The imagery is, to say the least, problematic,” says Prof. Heard.

Heard created an information comic about Red Work: The Emperor of Atlantis for HA&L Magazine, vol.15, no.2, “Process” guest edited by Karl Jirgens, that both entertains and enlightens about the history of redwork and this new project.

To date, Heard has received 217 embroidery squares and counting. She and her team of students and alumnae are currently working on assembly of each embroidery square into banners — like a sewing bee. The assembly team includes visual arts undergrads Phoebe Findlay and Krystal Bigsky, master’s student Emma Feliciano, and alumna Emily Roe.

Heard invites members of the UWindsor community who would like to drop in and help with the assembly, no sewing experience required, to email her at

They are working Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Wildeman Centre for Creative Arts on Freedom Way. Assembly will continue until Aug. 17. Then it will be carefully packed and taken to the Niagara Artists Centre for an exhibition opening at the end of September.

Heard will continue to send out embroidery kits and add completed embroidery squares for future exhibitions of this installation. For information on requesting a kit, consult these tutorial videos.

This project has received grant support from Ignite, Brightspace, the Women’s Research Fund, and the Humanities Research Group — where Heard is the 2023-24 HRG Fellow.

—Susan McKee