Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 NW Quilters Show

Pineapple Log Cabin, 2011-2012, by Bob Eldred
The Northwest Quilters Show is on display at the Portland Expo Center this weekend, and it's open for one more day, Saturday March 31 from 10am to 6pm. There are many wonderful works of art, and I'm so impressed! Here are just a few that caught my eye.

Lady Liberty, 2009, by Carol Brown, featured quilter
Featured quilter Carol Brown was greeting visitors at the first display, which was full of wonderful quilts. It was fun visiting with her and hearing the stories about the quilts. I also spent time at Wendy Mamattah's booth. She has some wonderful quilt patterns, pincushions, and original quilts for sale.

Wallowing Dreams, an original design by Wendy Mamattah
Gears 'n' Springs 'n' Things, 2011, by Tony Haas
Stained Glass by Barbara Gundle
Feed Sack Log Cabin, 2011, by Bill Crane 
Jewels, 2012, by Janice Jones
Magic Squares 3, 2008, by Helene Knott
Pathway to Imagination, 2012, by Joan Beck 
He Calms My Raging Sea, 2011-2012, by Maryellen Householder 
145 Cranes, 2011, by Kathleen Swick
Stir Crazy With an Asian Twist, 2011, Nancy Tubbs 
Tree of Life 1, 2012, by Paula Chipman
Purple Leaves Jacket, 2011, by Rita Young Kilstrom
After hanging around chatting with friends for a while, I realized the show would soon close for the day, so I scrambled around taking pictures. Will have to go back and spend more time looking at the quilts tomorrow. For more information about the show, click here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On Display Next Weekend

Wholecloth quilt, pre-1800, New England
If you're in the Portland area this coming weekend and would like to see this great old quilt up-close and in-person, it will be on display in the Northwest Quilters Show at the Portland Expo Center. The show will be open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 29-31, from 10-6 each day. Most of the quilts in the show will be those made by members of the guild, but each year some antique and vintage quilts are included, too. So, go enjoy the show! For more details, click here.

18th Annual "Airing of the Quilts" at Milwaukie Center

Liquid Fire by Marjorie Post
Yesterday I went to see the 18th Annual "Airing of the Quilts" at Milwaukie Center. It had been a while since I'd attended this show, and I was very impressed by how much it had grown. The event had literally spread throughout the whole building and now includes vendors and demonstrations. Some wonderful quilts on display, too.

"We Are Family" by Marjorie Post
One of my favorite local artists is Marjorie Post, who happens to be a member of the Northwest Quilters, the guild I also belong to. I was happy to see several of Marjorie's quilts, as well as a display with quilts made by her students. A pair of quilts by Elizabeth Bamberger caught my eye, but they were all beautiful.

Quilts made by Marjorie Post and her students.
"The Sleeping Hills" by Elizabeth Bamberger
"The Light Before The Storm" by Elizabeth Bamberger
"Landscape" by Susan Albright
There was a wide variety of quilts, which were beautifully displayed throughout the building. Here are just a few of the ones that caught my eye.

"Art Wheel Constellation" by Annette Webb
"9 Patch From a 6" Square" by Susan Burdell
"Stepping Stones" by Bonnie Webb
"Beyond the Block Mystery Quilt" by Kimberly Connelly
"Autumn Seminole" by Catherine Green & friends
Great show, and it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces. The Northwest Quilters were there selling raffle quilt tickets, and there was a small crowd gathered around, all wanting a chance at the gorgeous "Before I-84" 2012 raffle quilt. Worth the trip, and it's the first of three shows included in the Spring Show Hop. Get a passport and get stamped at all three shows to enter a drawing. Next show is next weekend - the Northwest Quilters Show at the Portland Expo Center.

The Milwaukie Center show is open for one more day, today from 9-4. For more information and directions, click here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Welcome to the Family!

Rocky Mountain variation, c. 1870
A new family member arrived today, but it wasn't a baby. It was in fact older than any of our oldest living relatives. This quilt, a variation on the pattern most widely known as New York Beauty, was made around 1870 and came from Cindy Rennels in Oklahoma. She had gotten it from a dealer in Texas many years ago, and recently released it from her personal stash. The reason why I refer to it as a new family member is that it joins almost 50 other "New York Beauty" quilts in my collection. That's a pretty big family, considering there are only about 100 New York Beauty quilts on the Quilt Index.

Today, I decided to test the Julie Silber method of displaying quilts at lectures, which Julie has attributed to her partner, Jean Demeter. They use tables propped up at an angle, wrapped in Hobbs 80/20 black batting. "Easy up, easy down," as she says. While the quilt was up, I took a few pictures and had a usable image in no time. The loft space where I took the picture will soon serve as a home quilt lab, for examining, documenting and photographing quilts. It's not a huge space, but it's workable.

Back to the quilt: if you look at the design, you'll notice the cornerstones are miniature versions of the blocks - spiked quarter-circles wedged in the corners of a parallelogram. I've never seen it done this way before. The arcs of the cornerstones connect to the sashing strips in a way that creates the illusion of blocks with curved corners.

Also worth noting is the tan fabric and the dense, decorative quilting. The tan fabric was originally another color, most likely an over-dyed green. Over time, it appears the blue faded out of it. The color may have changed, but the masterful quilting remains intact. Love it, love it, love it! Welcome to the family!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Beauty Secrets" Lecture in Eugene

New York Beauty, c. 1940, Idaho

Just got home from another lecture with the Emerald Valley Quilters in Eugene. It was my second time speaking to the group, and I'll happily go back any time they want me. What a fun group. They were very interested, asked great questions, and at the end many people came up to say hello. It took a while to get packed up and hit the road, but that was just fine with me. I enjoyed seeing more familiar faces this time around. Guess I'm starting to get to know the quilters here in Oregon, and that's a very good thing.

I brought 12 quilts with me, and have included all of them here in this blog. I presented them in chronological order, from 1850 to present.

c. 1850, Kentucky - the first quilt I ever bought over 22 years ago
c. 1860, Kentucky - recently appeared in "Why Quilts Matter"
MacMillan Family Quilt, 1868, Monroe County, Kentucky
c, 1870, Kentucky
c. 1870, Virginia
c. 1870 by Florence Caldonia Corley Shealy, Saluda County, SC
c. 1880, Kentucky, formerly from the collection of Phyllis George
c. 1910, North Carolina
Mountain Mist New York Beauty, c. 1930
c. 1940, California
Lady Liberty, 2011, Marita Wallace, San Diego, CA
Audience members sat up in their seats to get a better look at each quilt, and I imagine it must have been a spectacle to see such a stellar group of these quilts. Sometimes I forget just how good the quilts are because I'm used to having them around. But when I see how others, especially quiltmakers, react to them, it's a good reminder of just how special the quilts are. Thank you to the Emerald Valley Quilters for another fun, memorable evening!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wholecloth Quilt, c. 1780, France

Wholecloth Indigo Resist Block Print Quilt, c. 1780, France
Here's a rare treat. It's a wholecloth quilt, made in France, most likely Rouen, in the late 18th century. The fabric is a block printed indigo resist with incredible picotage detail. Picotage, also known as pinning, allowed wood carvers to incorporate very fine dots in a block print, which could not be achieved with carving, by studding the block with brass pins.

This detail view shows the incredible early picotage (click to enlarge)
There is another quilt made with the same fabric, on display not long ago at the Museum of Printed Textiles in France. The quilt is smaller, and the block design is not as carefully aligned as it is in my quilt. But it is the exact same fabric. That is why I believe my quilt is also from Rouen. To view the other quilt, click here.

reverse detail with multicolor print and distinctive quilting design
The things that really told me this quilt was French were the reverse fabric and quilting design. It's actually a reversible quilt, with multicolor flower basket print, or panier de fleurs, as my Facebook friend Sandra Starley would say. The quilting design is very much in keeping with the French quilts of the period, and includes parallel line quilting along the borders, winding cable with parallel rows, and double-line diamond grid lattice in the center.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Masterpiece Quilts Lecture in Newport

Diamonds, c. 1890 - all silk!
Today, I was in Newport, Oregon doing a lecture for the Oregon Coastal Quilters Guild. It was my second visit to the guild, and this time I did the Masterpiece Quilts lecture. Couldn't decide what to bring, so I showed ten quilts, and probably sounded like a fast-talking auctioneer at points.

Wholecloth Linsey Woolsey Quilt, pre 1800, New England
Economy Block, c, 1810, New England
I started with two very old wool quilts- the Wholecloth and the Economy Block, both from New England. The Wholecloth served as an example of masterful, decorative quilting, and the Economy Block suitably demonstrated the strong, modern looking graphic design seen in early pieced quilts.

Album with Lyre, c. 1850, Mary Couchman Small, WV
We then jumped ahead to the mid-19th century and I told the story of Mary Couchman Small's Album with Lyre. I also showed two "New York Beauties"from Kentucky. Earlier, during the announcements, I shared some news about another New York Beauty, which I also showed. That quilt will be exhibited and possibly published later this year. More news to follow at a later date.

Pieced and appliqued quilt, c. 1870, Kentucky
MacMillan Family Quilt, 1868, Monroe County, Kentucky
Part of the talk was about the qualities of a masterpiece quilt, such as workmanship, design, provenance, condition, cultural value and dollar value. Toward the beginning of the program, I talked about Shelly Zegart's book "American Quilt Collections: Antique Quilt Masterpieces" and how it helped shape my ideas about having a quilt collection. Shelly is the first person I ever heard call a quilt a masterpiece. Anyone who wants to know more about what makes a quilt a masterpiece should read the book, particularly the essays at the beginning.

Applique Quilt, c. 1870, Pennsylvania
Crossroads, c. 1870, Found in Texas
Moving forward chronologically, I showed the applique quilt seen in The Quilt Digest, and the Crossroads quilt purchased from an eBay seller in Texas. After that, I wrapped it up with two quilts from the Victorian period to the turn-of-the-century. The first was the "OCD" silk Diamonds. Quilters really love that one! And the last was the bold "Frugal Housewife" quilt - people are still shocked when I tell them the quilt was listed as a cutter!

"The Frugal Housewife" c. 1900, Wisconsin
It was a whirlwind tour of American quiltmaking through the 19th century, and I had fun with it. At one point, someone asked if Mary Couchman Small had made other quilts, and another audience member made a funny comment about how the one quilt would've taken her whole life to do. Talk about truth in jest!

When considering what makes a masterpiece quilt, it's important to hold the object to standards similar to that of a masterpiece painting or other fine art object. Is it unusual? Does it grab your attention? Is it a superlative example of fine technique? Does it capture an important historical event or embody a moment? Did it come before its time, and does the object transcend the form? At the end of the day, the most provocative works of art in any medium stir the same questions. That's precisely why I think of quilts as fine art objects, and the best ones, masterpieces.