ArtFul Living

St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

Patchwork Art: Pieced, Layered, Stitched & Stuffed

October announces autumn with color. The very hills can be described as Mother Nature’s patchwork quilt. And, with those temperatures drop, a quilt can be the thing to chase a chill.

Everybody has a favorite quilt, right? I do. Recently, while cleaning out a trunk, I came across a beloved quilt I’ve had since childhood. My mother had designed and handmade it just for me: a charming composition of windowpanes, each featuring a delicately embroidered bear. How well I know the expression on each bear’s face! The colors have faded over the years and the fabric has taken on that wonderful softness that commands almost reverential touch. (I admit it: this quilt is OLD!). It connects me to my mother in a very special way.

Years later, I felt compelled to follow my mother’s lead and make a quilt for my own child. My design and embroidery work were true labors of love. My quilting skills were not the best, but I put care into each irregular and crooked stitch to create something that might become an heirloom—or, at least, to be more loved than a commercially-produced blanket.

Fast-forward a few years to when I first visited the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. How to describe it? “Awesome” seems so inadequate. (Visit www.quiltmuseum.org to plan a visit there—just 2 hours and 40 minutes from St. Louis).
Quilts certainly extend far beyond the practical; quilts are recognized works of art. This month, quilts take their rightful place in exhibitions at several venues on the St. Louis art scene. (All with much better stitching than my first attempt!).

The Gallery of University City features the 2017 Quintessential Quilt Show through October 27. Works by members of the Circle in the Square Quilters (www.circleinthesquare.org) present over 70 quilts, traditional and contemporary in the gallery and second floor balcony at 6701 Delmar in the Loop.

Not to be missed is a 7 p.m. lecture on October 17 by quilt-blogger Kevin the Quilter in the library’s auditorium. Kevin will share his life as a man who quilts, sharing examples of his works, including Quilts for Valor, in a program entitled “Making Something from Nothing.” Both the lecture and the exhibition are free and open to the public.

The Quilt National fills Galleries I, II and III at the Foundry Art Centre, 520 N. Main in St. Charles from October 6-December 1. The Foundry Art Centre is the only venue that will host the internationally-juried exhibition of art-quilts in its entirety aside from its original run at The Dairy Barn Arts Center. Begun in Athens, Ohio in the late 1970’s, the Quilt National was originally intended to demonstrate the transformations taking place in the world of quilting. Its purpose was then, and still is, to carry the definition of quilting far beyond its traditional parameters and to promote quiltmaking as a true art form.

Founders Nancy Crow, Françoise Barnes and Virginia Randles, along with other area artists, used fabric to create works that were pieced, layered, stitched and stuffed. These works were defined as “quilts” by virtue of their structure, although they were intended to be viewed on a vertical plane. The original designs and use of innovative techniques and color combinations made them unacceptable to the organizers of traditional quilt shows who were most interested in beautifully crafted bed covers with recognizable historic patterns. The only exhibit opportunities for these artists were in mixed media fiber shows alongside baskets and weavings, likewise incompatible with these art-quilts. Crow and Barnes, with a dedicated corps of volunteers, decided to organize an exhibit devoted entirely to this relatively new breed of contemporary quilt, and the Quilt National was born, intended to demonstrate the transformation taking place in quilting, moving quilts from functional to artform.

The works in a Quilt National exhibit display a reverence for the lessons taught by the makers of the heritage quilts. Many of the works hold fast to the traditional methods of piecing and patching. At the same time, however, Quilt National artists are intrigued by the challenge of expanding the boundaries of traditional quiltmaking by utilizing the newest materials and Sale 35th Annual Weavers’ Guild Sale technologies. These innovative works generate strong emotional responses in the viewer while at the same time fulfilling the creative need of the artist to make a totally individual statement. Details at www.foundryartcentre.org.

And don’t forget the 35th Annual Weavers’ Guild Sale, October 20 (10 a.m.-7 p.m.) and October 21 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.), held at First Congregational Church of Webster Groves, 10 W. Lockwood in Webster Groves.