The Cincinnati Quilt Project

Click on a section of the quilt below to read about the
person who helped stitch it. 

Nine Patch

The Nine Patch is often a person’s first quilt block due to its simplicity and ease. The Nine Patch recalls a tic-tac-toe board. Think of childhood and play. This block represents simplicity and learning. It can also be arranged across a whole quilt like pixels to create an image.

Kri Van Sloan

Creator of the Bathtub Project

Kri created an art project about vulnerability called The Bathtub Project. I chose this block for Kri because this was the first interview I did. It seems appropriate to make a simple block during my first interview. Our conversation ended up being about art, substance abuse, and creativity. We talked about how to run a successful community engagement project, our creative goals for the future, and the way humans crave the act of creating. I am incredibly thankful for their honesty and openness. This was a fantastic way to kick off the project.
CW: substance abuse, sobriety, overdose

Why don't we start this off with you saying your name, your pronouns, and why you think I asked you to be here.

My name is Kri Van Sloun and my pronouns are they/them/theirs and probably cause you found me on the internet.

Yeah, I did find you on the internet. My friend and coworker, Mel, actually referred me to your Bathtub Project. She's followed it for a long time and she was like, 'Hey, I think they don't still live in Chicago. I think that you might be able to talk to them now.' And so it was kind of fortuitous timing for me to find you now that you live here.


Very cute. I trust her taste.


What type of vulnerability do you search for in your work?

I just search for people being authentic. One of the parts of the Bathtub Project is I won't interview people that I'm attracted to or that I can tell are attracted to me. Regardless of any known intent, that can skew it. Also it's just weird to be in an intimate space with somebody when that's not the purpose.

Do you find yourself mostly hearing their stories? So in some way you're sort of therapizing this person and if you had some attraction to them that might make it a little weird?

Yeah. At the beginning of the project I interviewed this person that I thought was really attractive. The project started with me taking a bath with the other person. We would do it together and I would wear whatever they wore. This individual decided to wear nothing. At the end of it they stood up and they had an erection. I was like, ‘Oh, this is really weird’. It's chill. It wasn't a big deal. I just excused myself. I was like, ‘you can rinse off, I'm going to go get dressed and head downstairs’. So nothing weird or creepy happened, but it was just like, ‘Oh damn, we were in this space together and that's not the purpose of it’. I actually met my spouse and I'm in an open marriage. I met my primary partner, spouse, whatever, and the only reason I gave him my number was because of this project.

Wow. That's a meetcute for sure.

It's real intense. And he will never be interviewed for the project. This company out in New York City did a small documentary thing about it and he's the person that I was dating in that documentary. We're about to celebrate three years of being married.

That's wonderful.

It's so funny. He's my favorite person. It's really funny cause I've been interviewed a couple of times and each time when I reference him he's still is my favorite.

Yeah, it keeps being true.

It just continues to grow. So he'll never be interviewed for the project. With other people, attraction can happen later, but if that's the first thought going through my head, that's not a good motive. That's a tainted motivation. That's not community building. That's trying to get laid- which can be community building, but that's not part of this project.

That's not the point. That makes a lot of sense. That's a very respectful motive.

Yeah. I'm not going to yuck someone's yum. If they want to do a community project about sex then hell yeah. I would love to see that. That's not the intent for this one.

It's important to maintain that focus and not creep people out when you ask to take a bath with them.

Yeah and my spouse has said that he thinks I'm the only person that can say 'want to take a bath and let me interview you?' And no part of it is creepy. I've gotten really good at asking strangers. This project has almost existed for four years. I'm real comfortable asking strangers, 'Hey, do you want to take a bath?'

And that experience, I'm sure, lends you a lot of legitimacy and as a community project. If anyone had ever felt uncomfortable, if anything like that had ever happened, you wouldn't have people volunteering to do this with you.
Yeah. Also the way that the project is facilitated, the individual chooses the photo. They also can make edits to the transcript. So literally every part is dictated by them. It's not about me, it's not about anything that I'm motivated by. I will tell people if they mentioned something and I think it's a really amazing part of their story ‘I would love if you kept this in here, but if you're not comfortable with it, take it out’.

Have you ever had someone edit after it being published?

People are given seven days to make edits. People have asked multiple months later like, ‘Hey, I don't like what I said’. That sucks.

People have seen it already.

It's not just that people have seen it, it's that this has been going on for a while. I don't want to backtrack on who you were.

Yeah. Because you might be a new person who doesn't feel the same anymore. That makes a lot of sense.

But when it comes to safety, then it's taken down. I interviewed a person whose family is very active in their religious community and this person received death threats. That's not okay.

It's a whole story in itself. That's extenuating circumstances for sure.

Yes. Another person was receiving inappropriate messages and had a couple of situations where they were followed. Again, this isn't worth it to keep you part of the project when your safety is in danger like that.

And the intention of the project to be about community, to be about vulnerability, that would not make sense if you weren't willing to do that.

Once it gets published that's going to be different cause I won't be able to take back from it. The ultimate goal is to get to do 200 interviews and publish it as a book. Honestly I would love to be able to pay everyone that I've interviewed. That would be awesome because they did something really cool. If I could go to Greece and just eat dolmas on a beach naked, that would be so solid. I'm about to go to Nashville for my wedding anniversary. I'm really excited for that because there are friends down there. There's this really awesome interactive artist named Scufflemöss.

That's a great name.

Yeah. He's a troll, like actually is a troll physically. He plays in a metal band and I'm gonna see if I can interview him in a bathtub full of like twigs and dead leaves. I'm kind of obsessed with him. He's amazing.

I love that idea.

Yeah. I also have no idea. He could legitimately be a troll. I'm so excited about it.

That sounds like a wonderful idea. A goal being you in Greece, sitting on your book benefits- that's the dream.

You know, that'd be so chill.

[we begin quilting]

So let's get started. Since you actually know what you're doing do you want any instruction from me or should we just go a little bit crazy?

Will you instruct me? Because what I did was a trash quilt in the best way. I feel like you actually know what you're doing.

This is the pattern we’re doing. It is a little bit like a Tic Tac Toe board. Some people do these, and they'll do 'em in a sort of pixely shape. So in the end you'll have a whole bed sized quilt, but it'll form a picture of whatever. We're doing something a little bit simpler.

Really? That's so cool.

Yeah. Ken Burns actually collects quilts and he has this really amazing nine patch quilt that forms the image of a bird. Oh my gosh. It's so cool. You should look this up.

That's amazing.

People get crazy with these. They look amazing. But essentially the way that we want to do this is with basic sewing techniques. So right sides together you'll sew a little quarter inch seam. And then I have a hair iron so that we can iron it open. And then we are just going to work together to finish this, and sit here and have a little gab and chat a little bit. This is basically just the way that quilts have been made for eternities. It's communities, women in the communities, all sorts of different people getting together, having this space where they're friends, they trust each other, they love each other and they chat and they build their bonds that way. So that's what I'm trying to do here.

I love it. Awesome. Is it by hand?

Yes. So we are going to do it by hand and do not be stressed. If we don't finish it, that's not a big deal. I want to respect your time and if you don't have enough time to finish it, we'll get it done. I'll just finish it at home.

How did you get into quilting?

I got into quilting because everyone in my family does it. I was probably about six when I made my first dolly quilt- a little tiny thing for my baby doll bed. Then they taught me how to do it on the machine and then I just picked it back up recently.

Nice. What's the biggest quilt you've made?

It's always a work in progress, but I’m currently working on a queen size quilt. It is a flower basket pattern. So the way that everything's laid out, it looks like a little triangle that's blue and then a bunch of little triangles that represent flowers. It is kind of in this color scheme, which is pretty nontraditional.

What's a more traditional one?

Not white, because quilts get used. But I'm an asshole artist and I like to use white backgrounds.

Well also look at the era that we're in.


We have washing machines.

Yeah. We have Tide. I'm going to use it.

The first quilt I made is a King size quilt.


Yeah. Again, it's a trash quilt in like the best way. I used all recycled fabrics for it.

Just all scraps.

All scraps. And it's grays, blues, black and yellow.

That's cool.

Yeah. I used a mattress pad for the batting. Again, trash quilt in the best way. I'm very into stitching.

Did you quilt it yourself or did you send it out to get quilted?

Oh no, I quilted it myself. It's not done well.

How did you do the quilting? Just on your little machine.

Yes. Which I understand now they have quilting machines.

Yeah, because it's so hard to do that with the little throat on your machine.

I broke so many needles. Oh yeah. I was kind of shocked at that. I was like, ‘I don't think I've ever broken a needle before and now I just broke all of these’.

Yeah, absolutely.

That's fine, but is it okay?

Yeah. I decided I was going to do mine by hand, so I have it on a big old fashioned quilt rack and I'm just sitting there doing every little stitch of the quilting by hand and that's why it's not done yet.

How does that feel?
It feels like Sisyphus or something. Why did I choose to do this thing when I have modern technology at my fingertips? Is that worth it? Hopefully yes by the end. But in the middle it doesn't feel like it.

The Bathtub Project started because I got sober and now I'm almost four years sober. But the best part of it is in my brain there's a correct way of doing things now. And so I kind of feel like sewing it by hand would be the correct way of doing things.

The old fashioned way.

Yeah. It's just that it feels good to do so. I like the method of this project because- sit, talk, be honest with each other, share stories. It's the correct way.

I like that way. And I just think that especially in Cincinnati, the artists' community can be kind of closed off and kind of like- the college people hang out together and the people who went to this group hang out together. I don't think that's any way to build a community. I think that we should cross those lines and be friends and all learn from each other. Because otherwise, what the hell are you learning every day.

What do you think of art school?


Oh yeah, this is your thesis.
This is my thesis. So my professors will read all this, but... Yeah, I wouldn't do it again.

We have the same opinion.

I'm going to finish because I'm almost finished… but yeah.

I think I have attempted college five times. The first time I dropped out was cause I OD'd. Cause you can't do heroin recreationally. That is not a possibility. If somebody can do it I want to meet them before they become an addict because they're probably very entertaining. But yeah, I quit doing heroin but continued to drink cause 'that can't kill you' was the mentality behind it. That's also not true. I suffered from organ failure at 26. Pretty typical addict behavior. But in all of that I just continued to drop out of college. Luckily I was able to get to a place with education and different trainings that it's going to be really hard for me to be without a job at this point. I do employment services within mental health and substance use. And that kind of ties into all of the different art stuff as well because creating, dancing, seeing- all of that supports mental health.

Absolutely. Expression allows you to get all of that shit out and it makes you feel better.


How can you make money off of it? Yeah.

Fuck that. That's why if I can get the Bathtub Project published and actually make some money, I want it to go back to those that participated in it. Cause that makes sense.

And that was the point in the beginning, right? Is to share and to show everyone that their stories are valued and their vulnerabilities matter to others.

Well not just that. The questions that I asked at the very beginning, I didn't know the answer to. I started using when I was 15. Not heroin luckily. I probably would have been dead at a much quicker rate or my parents would have found out and sent me to rehab. For me it wasn't a broken home thing. Drugs are not just what you do. It was that you go to church and you pray the gay away.

And you know what, it works every time.

Obviously I am no longer a homosexual at all.

You're cured.

Not even a little bit. Yeah, that still makes me laugh. My substance use started young. I didn't know how to be vulnerable or authentic. I used substances to get that way. It was how I connected with other people. My community was built around the whole punk scene of ‘let's get drunk. I'm smaller than you. I can out drink you’.

’Look how bad ass’. Yeah.

Yeah. And now looking back it's so sad. I was such a sad little nugget who just needed support and to hold somebody's hand. That was more of what it was.

Yeah. And I think that in this culture that we live in here, it can be really challenging to ask for help and say, 'Hey, I fucked up. Can someone be here for me?'.

I live in Kentucky, and my agency is part of the chamber of commerce. They have this breakfast and discussion thing once a month and the discussion was about mental illness and substance use for their employees. And I was completely shocked.

That is surprising.

No how horrible. They did a fucking terrible job.

And here I was ready to applaud.

No. They were like, ‘we just need to make sure that they have health benefits’. But you can't go to your supervisor and say, 'Hey, I might need a leave of absence because I'm an alcoholic and I want to utilize my health insurance that allows me to take a month of leave and go to rehab.' If you don't have a work culture where you can do that, you're fucked because you're not going to ask for it.

They're not going to ask for it and they're not going to get the help that they need.

Exactly. Same with depression. I wrote a comic book called “Sober and Depressed’. Thank you for laughing. So many people think it's weird. It makes me so happy. Cause about a year ago I was experiencing some hardcore suicidal ideation in sobriety and I participate in a recovery community. Everybody was like, ‘well you're sober now’. I'm like, ‘that does not affect depression sometimes’.

I mean I think when I get really depressed I'm more likely to be like, ‘it would be cool not being sober, being drunk right now sounds pretty nice’.

Take me out of myself.

Yes. It's so hard when you do exist in those communities. A good friend of mine just OD'd and died in November and if that didn't send me down in a terrible, terrible path… that stuff is really difficult for everyone to participate in and experience.

How did you support yourself and feeling better after that?

I think that I spent a lot of time with people who loved him, and remind me of him, and helped me remember the good part of my friend.

Yeah. That's the really tricky thing. I'm still a fucking addict, I'm going to be a fucking addict for forever. I recently quit smoking because I had bronchitis, the flu and pneumonia.

At one time?

I literally do things until I die. It's pretty funny cause it's so ridiculous. But at the same time it's very serious.

What's the other option than laughing? That doesn't sound like fun.


Being sober means that other people who are struggling can see ‘Hey, you do have a shot in hell. You can do it’. And also most people who are addicts are fucking brilliant. I still have yet to meet somebody that's an artist that's sober that isn't more amazing than the last artist I met who was also sober. In Chicago, I have a lot of friends who don't partake in substances because they used to have issues. One of them is releasing her second album right now. Another one just got onto a new comedy show. We get real weird. If you take the substances out of an addict who's an artist, things get even more absurd than you thought they could get.

Yeah. It's got to go somewhere. All that energy and that focus.

Oh man. Yeah. So spending time with the friends and family helped you?



It's rough. I'm in a bunch of different types of recovery because life is hard and then you die. I'm actually about to have an assessment done because of eating disorder stuff. And it's because I'm sober that I get to address these other problems that are prevalent.

It's kind of a hierarchy. Once you start addressing one thing, it's like, ‘Oh now I should probably take care of this other fucking thing that I do’.

The other thing that's plaguing my life. It's been really rough because as soon as I admitted I had a problem, I had to address it. And now with restricting and bingeing, it's like, okay, I said it and now it won't go away. It's not like whispering off into the ether. But again, being a part of a community of artists who are also fucked up is very beneficial.

And helps. So what other ways do you like to express yourself.

Creatively or in general?


In general, I still like to play. My spouse and I went to San Francisco for his sister's wedding and I spent probably a good hour chasing birds, cooing at them in a park. It was really so much fun. We were being birds. It was really great. Things like that or saying that I'm doing parkour when I'm jumping on the street. I'm also 30, so I'm afraid of breaking stuff now, which is cool. I enjoy getting older but I'll just run up and touch the side of a fire hydrant and yell parkour, and run away. That type of play. I feel like that's self-expression.

It's imagination. It shouldn't go away.

It gets utilized. Then when it comes to art stuff I really enjoy installation art- 3D things. Stuffed animals or plushies. I just went to Otherworld in Columbus for my birthday. I kind of want to write a grant to do that down here.

Tell me about that idea.

The idea is that it would be a black and white theater that you would enter through. I want to get like three strip malls- and once you enter the building and go through the line and pay for your ticket and shit, you'll walk into what looks like a drive-in theater so artists can make what they wish cars look like. Then there will be old school black and white movies playing on the screen as well as the concession stand. Because going through this giant ass art installation can be really overstimulating. So if you want to take a break, you can watch black and white movies is the idea.

That sounds awesome.

But you would enter through- you know how films have those dark spots in the middle? So that would actually be where you walk into the art installation. There would be a giant ass tree in the center that you would climb up. The further you go up to the top, you'll eventually get to the very top of the tree. And then you can look up and there will be a planetarium with all of the different art installation stuff. I want it to be black and white. And if you figure out the code and do the code correctly, everything turns into color.

That's super cool. That is play. That's a search, that's a hunt. It reminds me of- have you ever been to Cosi?


They have something where you run around and you find clues and all that shit is super fun.

I want this for literally everyone accessibility wise. Cause that's one of the things- I have friends that use wheelchairs to get around or crutches. So I think it would be really amazing if they could experience the place as well. Longterm goal is to do that as well as find other artists to build that type of community with. Let's build shit and see what happens.

That sounds like something I would go to. That sounds fantastic.

Is it something that you want to be a part of building?

Hell yeah. It would be a part of building. I love building and fabrication. That's all my shit.

I want it all to be mixed media. If somebody is just like, 'I don't do art, I'm a carpenter.' Let's fucking do this. You got what we need. I like collaboration. I got a tattoo gun for my 30th birthday. My hand tattoos, I did these. I just did a large chest piece of an otter with the sun behind it. I can show you a picture of it. I like just making stuff, building it.

Building is fun.

What is an art form you haven't explored?

I have never explored super traditional drawing or painting because I get super discouraged if I don't immediately catch on to something. I'm like, 'not for me, can't do it', but I should not be that way. I know I should not be that way.

I'm the same way! That's why I'm laughing. I bought a house and we're rehabbing the house and I didn't immediately understand how to sand the floors correctly. I was like, 'fuck this shit. This is dumb’. I polyurethaned them. I understood how to do that part. But I was really aggravated. So drawing and painting is not your thing?

I see people who are better than me and who get it- just get it. And I don't know. I can't draw a face. I don't understand proportions. And so I just have taken it up and given up on it a million times.

What about music?

I'm learning to play the piano and by that I mean I can play Mary Had A Little Lamb and that's it. But I have lessons every week.

Heck yeah.

Do you know any instrument?

Piano. Ukulele. I used to sing in a band.

That's cool.

Thats was cute. We were called Gollum and Goliath. We played ukulele and we’d sing songs. One of them was called ‘Free Bleeding’ about not using tampons on your period. Another was about when my dog ate a marijuana Rice Krispie treat. We thought she was going to die. It was very scary. She was fine. She still is alive. It was actually my band mate Adrian and I. She was over for Friendsgiving. I lived out in a collective house and the dog jumped on the table and then ate the weed Rice Krispie treat. I had such a big crush on Adriana. It was really endearing. So we took her to the vet, who was this real butch lady who's just like, 'did your dog happen to eat marijuana?' And was very kind. We're just like, 'Oh fuck… yeah'. And so about eight months later, once I got sober, her and I started a band and wrote a song about that. Cause that was the first time we ever hung out.

At least you can look back and laugh on it.

Yes. I continued living in that house for another two years. Got married in the backyard.

That's awesome. That's memories.

On April fools.

I dig that.


How do you spend your time outside of art? Is that possible? You're a student.

Yeah. I don't know. I'm a student and I have a job and I'm a senior so I have a lot of stuff to do.

Where do you work?

I work at a Makerspace. I manage a wood shop, metal shop. I like to make shit.

I saw your website cause I looked you up. I was like, 'who the fuck is this that's reaching out to me?' That place is so cool.

It's very cool. I teach classes, which I love. I get to make things. I had been hoping to make all of the furniture in my house and I was getting there. I still have that goal. But the timeline's a little bit different now. That's okay.

It is, because you're the reason that there will be furniture. What's your favorite thing to make?

Mmm, don't make me pick a favorite. I hate favorites!

What do you enjoy making a lot?

I really enjoy making things that I can give to someone. So like a gift where I know I'm making this thing and I'm spending all this time making it nice for them and then they're going to look at it every day or every week or whatever. I just love to do that.

Heck yeah.

What's your favorite thing in your home that you have made?

That I have made? Cause I have a favorite thing that I have not made.

Tell me both.

I have a favorite thing that I have made. I made my kitchen. I rehabbed my kitchen. I also didn't ask my partner for help so it feels even better. Independent project. Our kitchen had piecemeal counters. When we bought the house, we already knew that the counters didn't match. They were piecemeal and that was fine. We redid the whole house. I can show you videos of it cause they make me really happy. I took the cabinets down, spray painted them, painted the entire kitchen, took out the hood over the stove and then painted the lower cabinets and recovered them in laminate. My dad is a carpenter. He actually asked me, he was like, ’can I build you cabinets for fun?’ I'm not going to say no. Yes, you can definitely do this. You're so ridiculous. That's the thing that I like that I made the most. The thing that I like that I didn't make is this felt garland of orange flowers.

That sounds really pretty.

Yeah I do have a photo. I'm going to show you so many photos. It's a good thing. We did skip my question of what do you do for fun in your very limited free time?

For fun. I like to go see live music and see my friends perform cause a bunch of my friends have little jam sessions and bands and that's probably why I'm trying to learn music now. Cause they inspire me to do that.

Yeah. That's why I learned. That's why I started a band. I was like ‘this is fun. I want to have fun’.

So did you mostly teach yourself your instruments?

Piano I was taught just like every white kid in suburbia. I feel like it's a pretty typical experience. And then with ukulele, my band mate gave me a book and that was how I learned. Instruments don't come naturally to me.

I love you for saying that cause nobody ever says that.

Yeah. They're always like, ‘yeah, just picked it up’. Fuck you bro. That takes prep. It's normally a white dude that says it.

So really, why am I taking it seriously? That's probably not the truth.

Yeah, it's whatever, man. It doesn't matter. It took a lot of practice. With a lot of art stuff, even with drawing or creating, I'm pretty good at things the first go around. Even with woodworking stuff. I might need direction, but if I read a book I can pretty much figure it out. But music is not that. [talking about the quilt] Honestly, this has just been a really good experience. I like what you're doing. I want to see it when it's done.

Yes, you will be invited. If you want to come to the senior show and see it in all this glory.

I would love to. I feel like such an adult right now.

Oh yeah. I do not.

I just think this is funny cause I'm not an adult at all. When I think of an adult I actually fit a lot of the boxes. I have a career. I own my own house. I'm married. I have a really tight knit community around me and I'm able to go on vacations. That's what I think of when I think of an adult.

What do you think you don't fit?

A lot of it I think is just heteronormativity.

That's funny how maturity kind of fits into that box of the straight family unit. I feel like most of the queer people that I know who are, you know in their thirties, in their late thirties they would also say, ‘I'm not an adult. I don't fit this picture that I think an adult is’ and they’re probably further along than they think.

A big part of it as well as- this has to do with getting older as well as like having more and more time sober- but I don't know anything and it's great.

How boring would it be otherwise? We'd already know everything.

When I was always getting fucked up I’d be like ‘you don't understand. this is what I know’. That type of ego-driven anger. And now that I don't have it.