What Was I Afraid Of? I Can Do Anything!

After Karen Schultz of Silver Spring, Maryland spent five hours at the Art Institute of Chicago, she was taken with the sheer breadth of everything she had seen. “What are you afraid of?,” she asked herself. “Look at what people have done,” the answer came back. “You can do anything.”

“I decided then and there to embrace the whole of myself, the poet and the skeptic,” she recalled. 

She created …and the Skeptic, a hand-dyed, machine-pieced, free-motion machine-made quilt made from cotton fabric, thread and yarn. She entered it in the 20th biennial international juried art quilt competition known as Quilt National 2017. And she won the Jurors’ Award for it.

Produced by the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio, Quilt National promotes the contemporary art quilt through visual presenting innovative trends in the medium of layered and stitched fabric. Three of its jurors selected over 30 quilts entered by over 30 artists in the most recent competition for an exhibition at the Riffe Gallery in downtown Columbus.

Artistic expression runs rampant in these striking pieces. Denise L. Roberts of Albright, West Virginia created Finding Connections #8 using just two curvilinear shapes of hand-dyed cotton fabric she joined together.  This is a detail of her work, which won the Quilts Japan Award.

When Al Krueger of Lake Villa, Illinois received an album filled with old family snapshots for his birthday one year, he marveled at how he looked in them. He decided to celebrate the awkward moments the photos captured through quilting. Self Portrait as a Young Dork resulted. He transferred the photos to pima cotton and linen, then embellished them with hand-embroidery using silk ribbon, cotton and silk embroidery floss and thread.

The endless number of colors in the leaves, grasses, tree trunks and mosses of the Brown County, Indiana landscape constantly inspires Daren Redman. Indiana Flowers is an example of the abstract quilted wall hangings she makes from silks and cottons she hand-dyes in her Nashville, Indiana studio.

Several events and programs were planned in conjunction with the exhibition, which runs through April 14. Kate Gorman, a Westerville, Ohio artist, gave a lunchtime talk in February about how her work as an illustrator-for-hire and her love of textiles led her to make contemporary narrative art quilts.

While family photos, travels and birds often provide material for her projects, she was attracted by the oscillating buzz of cicadas, then focused on their visually complex nature, to create A Chorus of Cicadas, the piece on display in the exhibition.

She dyed linen, drew and painted likenesses of actual cicadas on it with thickened dyes, hand-stitched them to suggest the filigree of their exoskeleton and wings, then sewed them onto industrial felt with embroidery thread. Using entomology pins, she mounted each individual piece on wool, pinning them in a cradled wood panel fashioned from plywood, nuts and bolts to reference scientific specimen cases. 

On March 8, Mrs. Gorman led a free two-hour visual storytelling workshop in which almost 20 participants experimented with fabric, paper collage and stitching to create narrative textiles. She encouraged those of us who love textiles, but aren’t talented illustrators, to use geometric shapes as our preferred form of expression. She shared examples of her work, like this, to illustrate what she meant:

Thinking about a sketch Mrs. Gorman shared from her visit to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, I set out to create my version of William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage. Using text from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and a variety of fabrics backed with “Wonder Under” Pellon 805, I cut dozens of geometric shapes and adhered them to a sheet of card stock. Here’s the result:

What was I afraid of? I can do anything!

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