Billi Rakov is an artist and designer, based in West Los Angeles California. Growing up in an Amish town in Ohio where sewing was prevalent, the West L.A.-based artist was drawn to the craft from a young age, joining a 4/H sewing group and then stitching her own garments. “When I was in elementary, my next door neighbor frequently held quilting bees in her home,” says Rakov. “I would go over and play under the quilt frame as the neighborhood ladies quilted and socialized.”
Then college, career and kids happened, putting her passion on hiatus while she dedicated herself to raising a family and creating innovative package designs for companies such as Anthem Worldwide and Leon Richman Design.
When breathing room returned, so did Rakov’s passion for painting with fabric. “I put quilting off for a long time, and then started going to a sewing store in my neighborhood. I found a beautiful sense of community there,” says Rakov, who went on to join the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild and soon found herself stitching a new chapter in her creative life.
Rakov’s work has resulted in a series of stunning, handcrafted quilts that rely heavily on recycled materials: She uses everything from her children's outgrown clothes to second-generation sheepskin, “fish leather” from Iceland and even pieces of plastic. “A lot of times it’s a piece of recycled cloth that will start the inspiration for a new piece,” she says of her non-symmetrical creations.
Inspired by The Quilts of Gee’s Bend — the improvisational, recycled creations from a small community of women in Alabama dating back to the 19th century — Rakov’s pieces are a study in abstract, geometric simplicity. “These women didn’t have the resources to buy a whole bolt of fabric,” says Rakov. “They were piecing together old clothes or flour sacks and out of that came these pieces that are so unique. They were also incredibly pragmatic: They made these quilts to warm their homes.”
Each quilt takes Rakov up to 150 hours to make, working mostly from her home studio in Rancho Park. “When I’m working on a piece, I’m not following a specific pattern, but I do have a story in my mind. You set out to make a quilt and the pieces of fabric take a journey of their own.”
See more of Rakov’s work in Instagram: @billirakov