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Aafke Steenhuis

As a young girl growing up in the Netherlands after World War II, Aafke Steenhuis learned to be compassionate toward men her father’s age who had suffered severe war injuries, including the loss of limbs. When she moved to Madison, Wis., at the height of the Vietnam War, the men she saw with missing limbs were now her own age. These disabilities came full circle when she had to undergo several orthopaedic surgeries to remove a giant cell tumor in her wrist. This experience gave her a new appreciation for advances in orthopaedics. “It certainly came to mind that in the ‘olden days,’ I might have had to lose my right hand,” says Steenhuis, a mother of nine.

The Coalition of the Willing

32 x 40 x .5 in.


Steenhuis, a fabric artist, was inspired to make this quilt by photographs and television images that were broadcast after the invasion of Iraq, many of which showed the loss of homes and family members. “I burned holes in the quilt to show the destruction to the lives of people in Iraq even more vividly,” she says.


Spoils of War

29 x 40 in.


The effects of war had a deep impact on Aafke Steenhuis, a fabric artist. Mass graves continue to be discovered nearly a decade after the early 1990s Bosnia-Herzegovina massacre. She quilted Spoils of War using the leg and arm bone theme as a way to express her feelings towards the horrors of war: shadows of bones are quilted around a pile of broken and unbroken bones.