Thursday, July 19, 2012

I did a double-take...

It's no wonder I did a double-take when I saw Gwen Marston's quilt (right)
Mom and I went to the Friday evening picnic the night before the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show on the spur of the moment. Andrea Balosky said she would be there, and although I'd already told Andrea I wouldn't be there, I changed my mind and thought it would be fun to surprise her. She was very surprised, and we sat together, along with her friend Caroline, who is also a quilter and middle school art teacher. 

I hadn't seen Andrea Balosky since meeting her in Sisters two years earlier
Of course, we were quite a chatty bunch, even when the presentation started. When Gwen Marston, Sue Spargo and Tonye Phillips hit the stage, I started paying closer attention. But I really did a double-take when Gwen pulled out her flower basket quilt from her book, Classic Four Block Applique Quilts

Gwen's quilt
By that point, Andrea and everyone else was probably ready to duct tape my mouth to get me to stop talking. I poked at Andrea and said, "Oh my God! That's a block from my quilt!" I wondered if I should go up to Gwen afterwards, and decided, "Of course I should!" Just two nights earlier I'd watched the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show DVD with Mom, and Gwen appeared in the film. She did her interview sitting in a bathtub.

So, after the lecture I made a beeline over to Gwen, and as soon as there was a brief pause in the autograph signing, I said, "I saw you in a bathtub!" She turned, looked at me, smiled, and gave me a little hug, then I said, "I want to talk to you about that flower pot quilt. I've got a quilt from West Virginia with the same block." Her eyes lit up. There were more autographs to sign, so I waited patiently for my chance to speak with her.

If you haven't met Gwen Marston, the first thing you need to know is she's a great artist with a wonderful sense of humor. She's also an icon in the world of quilts, but she's very down to earth despite all her success. She draws inspiration from old quilts, but doesn't really reproduce them. Everything she does is absolutely her own creation, including the flower pot quilt. 

When we finally got the chance to chat, I told her about the Album quilt - all three, actually - and introduced her to Mom, of course! I didn't ask for an autograph, but I did ask for her e-mail address so we could continue the conversation about the West Virginia quilts. She said she saw a picture of the quilt in the Ladies Circle Patchwork Quilt Magazine, before the West Virginia Quilts book was published. I think it must've been Harriet Small's quilt, but still have to track down the publication.

Gwen was nice enough to let me use some pictures of the quilt in this blog, and I just loved what she had to say about the design of the flower pot. "Actually it has always reminded me of Marge Simpson with her arms up crying help me help me!" What a hoot! And I agree. There's a certain stiffness to the design, very much the same feeling as a stick figure. I could see how it appealed to Gwen's sense of humor and love of old quilts.

She told me people often comment about how far we've come since the early days of quiltmaking in America. "There are so many really excellent examples of antique quilts that are not only great visually, but just dog us in terms of technique...all that wonderful hand quilting has a look that fused quilts don't have and can't get." I agree. It's like comparing apples to oranges. Or lemons to cherries...or pineapples to strawberries. get the drift.

How wonderful that I had a legitimate reason to walk over and strike up a conversation with Gwen. We talked some more the following day under the Teacher's Tent, but I was so enchanted I forgot to take any pictures. The good news is I have a feeling we'll see each other again!


  1. Gwen is the queen of the quilting world in my mind. I've learned so much from her, especially her fun attitude toward it all. Hope to see you in a class with Gwen someday!

    1. I just know she'd get a kick out of the idea of being thought of as royalty. Gwen is one of those rare individuals, and her work shines brightly. These two quilts brought us together for a reason, I think.