Davina Thomas shares her experiences of Spring in the Autumn exhibition at the International Quilt Festival Houston, October 2005
I saw these quilts as part of a display in Houston in Autumn 2005, but kept them to myself until the Spring when everything was just bursting into life in the UK. This year, Spring seems to have sprung even earlier, and it's time to take another look. In a country the size of America, springtime means many things to different people as shown by the selection here.
A Promise of Springtime by Ruth Powers is a delightful study of a gangly-legged foal. The fractured background creates shafts of light on the foal. The fabrics were not intended to create an exact photo reproduction, there are plaids in the meadow and stripes in the sky but together they add a depth and richness to the image. The quilting overlapped the meadow with petals and leaves reaching into the sky. As Ruth says What could be more evocative of springtime than an inquisitive foal in the Easter lilies. This little mischief maker with a twinkle in his eye is ready for whatever spring brings his way. Spring Fashion by Rosalie Baker was another portrait, this time of a young girl Rosalie saw waiting to cross the street as she drove past a high school. The quilt was full of incredible details like the black quilting on the legs to create the shape of the fishnet tights. The stones were quilted too, creating the perspective just right. I particularly liked the details on her shoe wedges. In fact, I saw a young girl just the other week stumbling along in a similar pair. The flowers and trees are stylized which adds to the dramatic impact of her stance. The face was painted and her jewellery hung freely. She even had a pierced belly button! Truly a portrait of a young girl saying "dont mess with me"! Haiku-Spring by Meta Maclean from Canada was accompanied by a poem
After a long winter,
Of waiting and watching,
At last they return,
Ambassadors of spring
This was one of the most realistic quilts in the display. Given how perfectly the tulips and vases on the tabletop matched you would have been surprised that they were made using different techniques. The flowers were appliquéd and the vases were computer printed fabrics. There were some clever touches in the quilting such as where the table edge meets the border the quilting took on a horizontal movement and then reverted to vertical again. Details such as this add to the quilts impact without the viewer actually realising why. I loved the vivid background of the centre contrasting with the simpler border with the tulips laid out. There was extra quilting here of leaves too that you could only see if you looked really closely. Meta is a keen flower arranger and as soon as spring arrives, she starts bringing flowers into the house. After studying Ikebana, she loves the challenge of trying to show each flowers personality another excuse to spend time looking at them. Time well spent, if this is the end result. Geraniums from Gus by Laura M Wasilowski was a bright quilt using fusible appliqué. The background blue shapes are in fact appliquéd over a black background that you can see peeking round the edges. It was quilted all over and there is no satin stitch on the appliqué, just quilting. It is part of Lauras alphabet quilt series named for her son August. Can you see the capital G? This quilt would really brighten up any space in the cold grey days of winter, looking forward to the spring and flowers on the windowsill.
By contrast, Garden Rainbow by Joanne Raab took a simple image of tulips, her favourite flowers, and overlaid a checkerboard pattern onto the design. The vibrant colours of the flowers offset the strong black and white image but if you look you can see the checkerboard even in the flowers. Quilting adds interest on the plain squares using the same thread on the black and the white with tiny beads to catch your eye occasionally. The quilting on the petals follows the lines of the curves and creates the illusion of shape from plain areas. The petals were appliquéd with blanket stitch in places. Unfortunately for Joanne Every deer, bug and other critter in my yard loves them too. Therefore, these fabric tulips are the only variety I will be able to grow. Perhaps Joannes loss is our gain; if she could grow her own she might not have been inspired to make this quilt.
By contrast, Spines and Thorns by Barbara Edelson uses cacti as a design source. For those of us in the UK cacti are another windowsill plant. But Barbara grew up in Arizona with a respect and love of wild cacti and the desert. This inspired her to create imaginary images of cacti in the spring when they are at their best in colour and design. Again, this quilt shows innovative use of borders, with the border leaves and stems bursting through the borders into the four central panels. The strong quilting used machine patterns such as hemstitch to echo the spikiness of the spines. The borders carried paler versions of the central areas with echo quilting around the shapes. The strength of the colour in the central areas brings those areas to the fore and creates an image exploding with impact.
Springtime in My Garden by Shirley Gisi, by contrast, was a combination of realism and fantasy as it included some flowers that Shirley would love to grow but just cant as she explains here. I celebrate spring by tending my garden. My quilt represents flowers, which grow there and some that I wish grew there. Marigolds, daylilies, pansies and bluebells thrive at our high altitude. Tulips grow around our weekend cottage. The checkered lily really does exist but not in my yard. It, the hellebores and hibiscus are based on garden magazine photos that gardeners dream over.
The flowers were appliquéd in place and once more this quilt showed an incredible use of fabric with a checked batik that I recognise from my own stash used for the nodding heads of the fritillaries. The pansies were also charming with little yellow buttons in their centres. If you look you will see the centre of the quilt has two shades of green for the background. The inner border changes from dark to light to create the contrast. Small touches like this make a quilt really exciting. Shirley could have easily used just one green to create the inner border but it would not have been as polished. I also enjoyed the way the flowers and stems expand out over the borders making the quilt more of a whole; similar to the way real flowers bend and sway and find their own space in your plot.
America is such a large country that spring comes at different times in different areas and even here in the UK the West Country often has a couple of weeks head start. How lovely it would be to have one of these spring hangings to brighten up your winter days. What would you include? Join in the discussions in the forum and tell us what makes you think of Spring.
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