By Sondie Frus
Today’s quilts are works of art, as appropriate on the wall as on a bed or as a pop of intrigue in the living room. Contemporary fabric artists have embraced the traditions of the past, created new patterns, found new techniques to express themselves in diverse ways, and incorporated a full spectrum of options to yield stunning outcomes.
Quilting is the process of joining a minimum of three layers of fabric together with stitching. Historically, quilts were mostly sewn as necessity for warmth during long cold winters. Patterns like log cabin, flying geese, nine patch, and double wedding ring allowed the quilter to use smaller pieces of fabric to be joined into visually pleasing patterns, a technique still called piecing today. These patterns are also still used, sometimes created with historically accurate fabrics, but more often with contemporary palates and updated fabrics with stunning results.
Times have changed. Many of today’s quilters have stitched past the traditional and reached for the skies. Just like paintings, their quilts can be symbolic, imaginative, or futuristic. They can make a statement or look like a fine realistic or abstract image. Quilters start with fabric, a versatile textural medium encompassing linen, cotton, rayon, velvet, and silk, choosing their color palate among a multitude of unique patterns. They enhance with embellishments like glitter, crystals, paint, inks, and thread to refine their expression. Artists may dye, paint, fold, stitch, and even sculpt fabric to generate their desired effect. Connecting the layers via stitching, the fiber artist thoughtfully chooses thread color, stitching patterns and designs, and specialized thread techniques to affect the final look. Take a look at a few local fabric artists:
Pat Styring shows how her quilt “In the Valley of Xingu” takes traditional techniques and uses applique, embroidery, stamping, acrylic paints, Prismacolor pencils, Tsukineko inks, and 3D appliqué to create a fascinating image of a Brazilian Amazon culture.
Dawn Overbeck began her career with eight-by-10-inch quilted journals, exploring different fabric and stitching techniques. She found inspiration from the music of Bob Dylan. By applying multiple artistic manipulations, she evoked images that express her love of Dylan’s lyrics and melodies.
Fabric books and quilt pieces enchant quilters and the Dylan fan alike. “Tangled Up in Blue Jeans,” an homage to the Bob Dylan song, “Tangled Up in Blue,” is an autobiographical quilt book of dreams, goals, memories, and keepsakes; even jeans that Overbeck embroidered in 1967.
Overbeck was inspired by Bob Dylan’s performance at the St. Augustine Amphitheater in 2015. “Bob Dylan in Show & Concert,” is an interpretation of the nineteen songs from the show. This work uses a variety of quilting techniques including piecing, applique, photo transfer, fabric dyeing, fusing, painting, stenciling, beading, inking, embroidery, and free motion quilting.
Kathryn Metzger throws caution to the wind with a focus on interesting faces she has seen in her travels. Kathryn has tinkered with collage and mixed media but always goes back to painting with pan pastels and Tsukineko inks. Metzger photographs her subject, then creates a drawing on acetate and paper. After being enlarged, the piece is put on an easel covered by white cotton fabric. From there it is painted, then taken to the sewing machine to quilt, using thread to create the emphasis and details which bring the quilt portrait to life.
Nikki Hill says her approach is simple. She creates what she likes, being drawn to cats, humor, art, and literature. She sketches her main design and creates a fabric appliqué on a base fabric. From there she fills in details layering smaller appliqué pieces and fabrics that add depth and texture. Shading can be added with tulle, lace, pigment inks, or thread.