Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Playing It" with the American Quilter's Society

It was another delightful experience at the American Quilter's Society Quilt Week in Grand Rapids, MI with 337 quilts from 33 States, and 7 Countries on exhibit, competing for awards and generally exciting the crowd. A Third Place Ribbon in the Wall Quilts-Hand Quilted category was awarded to "Playing It", 37" x 48" and I was the grateful recipient.    
Playing It hanging in the exhibit hall in Grand Rapids, MI
This quilt was a fun challenge. I consider it a composition of small studies joined into harmonious disarray.  The sections, or studies, were the result of exploration and play with color and shape, then joined in an arrangement to please my eye. It is a nonrepresentational image where no obvious scene or theme was intended.  The viewer's imagination is activated to wonder and make meaning of the quilt. Bonnie Browning, AQS Executive Show Director, wondered about the variety in color of quilting thread used. Like most quilters, I like color and I'm not afraid to use it.  I often like the quilted line to blend with the cloth, but sometimes I like the thread to add color as an accent or surprise. A few tiny seed beads were sewn to the surface of the quilt to offer a little surprise. The hand quilting is accomplished by doodling with needle and thread meaning no marking or planning is involved.  

It was a happy surprise to run into friends from the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat.  Here we are "cutting up".
Malisa, Pam, Sharon
Karen Duling is another friend from the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat, and look at her shine with the author's presentation.  Karen recently published Quilting for the Paws, AQS Publishing, 2014 and she gave a trunk show of her charming quilts and talked about her inspiration.  Karen started making quilts about dogs and cats as fund-raising items for her community animal shelter, and her work grew to include thoughtful gifts for those grieving the loss of a pet, and to simply celebrate the joy our pets bring to us.

Congratulations to Joni Morgan, another "Liberated Quilter".  Her quilt "Autumn in Boyle County was juried into the Modern Quilt Challenge on exhibit in Grand Rapids.

My mom was my sidekick and agent at the show.  She enthusiastically offered to introduce me to people standing near my quilt!  Because she is really camera shy, no photos here. Our last activity at Quilt Week was to visit the Quilt of Belonging exhibit, and that was a moving close to our time in Grand Rapids.  I'll have more to share about that at a later date.  Finally, Happy 30th Anniversary American Quilter's Society!   pjb



Friday, August 15, 2014

AQS-Playing It

Playing It, 37" x 48" debuts at the American Quilter's Society show in Grand Rapids, MI August 20-23, 2014. Solids stage free form hand quilting, play with line, and improvisation on familiar forms.  Playing It is orchestrated for harmonious disarray. pjb
Playing It, Pam J. Beal
Cotton, Hand Quilting
 and a few tiny seed beads

Friday, August 1, 2014

Gwen Marston Talks About Textiles from West Africa

Folk Art Textiles from Benin, West Africa.

            Benin is a long thin country sandwiched between Nigeria and Ghana in West Africa that, from the 17th century, recorded their history by hand stitching applique panels.
            I discovered their work when my daughter sent me a gift she had found in her travels. When I unwrapped the package and found the Lion panel (Plate 1) I was speechless, simply speechless. Always having loved folk art and particularly appliqued and pieced work, the Lion was by far the most exciting piece I’d seen. It just looked like it was going to jump off the panel and bite my head off.  It sent me on a search and eventually I accumulated 14 pieces, of which I am happily sharing five with you.
            The panel in Plate 2 tells the whole story. These are the traditional images depicting the names and dates of all the rulers in a section of Benin where the Dahomey people lived. Their capital, and center of power, was Abomey. Apparently they didn’t have an accurate date for the first king, but they began documenting the dates with the second king who ruled from 1620-1645, continuing the record keeping until 1900.
This work, done by men, also depicted images that honored the exploits of each ruler. You see the same images in the loose arrangement in Plate 3.  The Bird (Plate 4) like the Lion is an example of panels that were made using just one image from the original shapes.
Artists were free to create their own variations of the original images as seen in both the Lion and the Bird. This idea of using a body of traditional designs is also part of our own quiltmaking tradition and one that I have always cherished. We also share a common set of both pieced and applique designs, i.e. Whig Rose, Nine-Patch, and it was common for early quilters to make their own versions from the traditional designs.
Sometime in the late 20th century Benin artists began to work with untraditional shapes, drawing on familiar animal and plant images. The spectacular Leopard (Plate 5) is a fine example of this, and by the way, the leopard is not made with a printed fabric; the spots are sewn on individually.
A signature characteristic of this bold work is the use of bright colors coupled with the combination of identifiable and abstract shapes worked in bright colors, mostly against black backgrounds. It’s very appealing to me, and I hope you like it too.
Photo Credit: all photos by Grady Marston

Lion 40" x 28"

Pictorial history of the Kings of Abomey showing dates of their reign. 49" x 35"

A combination of historical images 32" x 23"

Bird 43" x 29"

Leopard Contemporary Design 60" x 45"

Pam & Gwen

I can't recall the details of first learning about Gwen Marston.  Perhaps I read one of her articles in a found copy of Lady's Circle Patchwork Quilting.  When I saw a copy of Mary Schafer American Quilt Maker by Gwen Marston, I knew Gwen was a well known quilter from Michigan.  I eagerly bought the book and became fully engrossed in Mary's story and Gwen's telling of the story.  After a quick consultation with the internet, I discovered that Gwen offered the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat.  Later that evening, I casually mentioned to my husband that maybe I would think about attending a retreat someday.  His response, "There's no time like the present." That was a few years ago.  Gwen and other friends I met at the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat continue to inspire me, and every now and then we get going on a project.  Gwen has offered to write a guest post and you can see it here soon! pjb
Beaver Island Quilt Retreat 2012: Me grinning with the start of a Liberated Medallion

p.s.   Mary Schafer American Quilt Maker was awarded a 2005 Notable Book Award by the Michigan Library Association.  Well done, Gwen!