Shaffner to talk about life, times of Alma Lesch, well-known area artist

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 LOUISVILLE - The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, located at 715 West Main Street, will host a gallery talk titled The Life and Work of Alma Lesch by Alma’s long-time friend and local artist Dennis Shaffner on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m.

The lecture is free for Museum members and $5 for non-members, and is part of the Museum’s Collecting Kentucky exhibition which is on display through March 12, 2011.

During Louisville’s fiber art renaissance, Alma Lesch shared a 30 year open-door friendship with Shaffner until her passing in May of 1999. He will offer insights into the private world of Shepherdsville’s internationally recognized fiber artist.

 “Alma was my mentor, my teacher and my friend, and everyone who knew her has a story to share and many are uniquely hilarious in spirit,” says Shaffner. “Still largely unknown in her Shepherdsville community after a productive 50 years transforming American textile art by hand, Alma Lesch commanded a no-nonsense attitude that provided maximum studio time for production of her hundreds of fabric collages, sculptures and banners. Alma’s signature invention, the Fabric Portrait, evolved out of America’s roots in stitchery and “crafts” or “ladies’ work” once common to every female as a means of home keeping. Fiber has emerged as the popular art of our time, after once being called ‘mending’, which is now obsolete in our throw away lifestyle.”  

For more information, please visit  or call (502) 589-0102.


About Alma Lesch

Alma Lesch, a native of McCracken County, KY, had a lifelong love of fabric, completing her first quilt at age 12. By 1961, after retiring as a third grade teacher, she got a new job teaching textile art at the former Louisville School of Art. In the next decades, Lesch became the undisputed grande dame of Kentucky textiles and a pioneer of the national crafts movement, working from her basement studio and living room “sewing chair” in Shepherdsville.


In 1970 two of her art works were part of the acclaimed national touring exhibition “Objects U.S.A.,” which helped make contemporary crafts part of the fine-arts world. Lesch, whose interests were always broad, published a book on vegetable dyes that same year. It is still a textile artists’ classic. Her innovative art, especially those pieces that pioneered the use of clothing as portraits, were frequently used to illustrate the new wave of contemporary crafts.

Lesch’s works were featured on the covers of American Craft and Craft Horizons magazines. In 1974 she was named a Master Craftsman by the World Crafts Council and was one of five U.S. artists to have fiber work in the First World Crafts Exhibition. In 1987, Lesch received the Kentucky Governor’s Award for Lifetime Contribution to Visual Arts and the Sallie Bingham Award from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Lesch taught from 1961 to 1982 at the Louisville School of Art and at the University of Louisville, finally retiring from teaching a second time in order to concentrate on making art.


She taught art workshops all over the country, including at the Arrowmont School of Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn.; Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine; the Chicago Institute of Art; the Indian School, Santa Fe, N.M.; and the Philadelphia College of Art and Science.