My Double Wedding Ring, all finished!
So far I’ve only posted about museum exhibits and the work of a very accomplished artist, so I’m a little hesitant to share some of my own craft creations on here, but I’m very excited about my current project (and, it had to happen sometime!). I’m a member of the NYC Metro Mod Quilters guild, and they’re leading a Double Wedding Ring Challenge this fall (deadline is Dec. 1—hurry!).
I wasn’t planning to do the challenge initially, because I don’t really care for Double Wedding Ring quilts; they always look super traditional to me. But I do like the challenge of sewing curves. So, I decided to try to come up with something wild, crazy and very modern. The pink fabric is a “dusty” pink version of Roman Glass, by Kaffe Fassett (whom I’m pretty obsessed with—more to come on him). The fabric for the inside panels and the squares is from an old skirt that was my mom’s—it’s Gene Ewing BIS. From what I’ve found on Google, he made a lot of crazy-printed, elastic-waisted fashion in the ’80s (rock on!). I will be sad to have used up that fabric, but then again, there’s always more gorgeous fabric to be had for this shopaholic!
This is the last weekend to see the quilt exhibit “’Workt by Hand’: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts” at the Brooklyn Museum, and I highly recommend it. I particularly loved the quirky, personal details (initials, a silhouette, a horse, and most importantly, a cat!) in this “Pictorial Quilt” from 1840. Each block was contributed by a different woman, in support of the Freemason fraternal organization. Women couldn’t join, but they supported the organization through auxiliaries. You can tell the women must have been collaborating closely, because the symbols (including the square-and-compass Freemason symbol) are so evenly spaced. Clearly I have to learn appliqué.
Also, nobody does minimalism like the Amish.
More about the exhibit is here.
Late last year, I wrote an article for Martha Stewart Living about Sarah Nishiura, who taught me how to quilt. Her work is really what led me to start this blog, and it propelled my love of quilting.
Sarah is a fine artist in Chicago who found her calling in crafting intricate, handmade quilts about 10 years ago, after struggling for years trying fit into the traditional art world, which is so focused on conceptual art. (She recalls that a gallerist once called her quilts “decorative” with an air of disdain.) “I don’t want to articulate concepts,” she told me. “When I switched from painting and drawing to making things with my hands, in an established tradition, it was a relief. It’s where my heart is.”
I find Sarah’s quilts stunning and quite unlike any quilts I’ve ever seen. There’s some debate right now over what makes a quilt “modern,” but I’m absolutely certain her abstract pieces qualify.
I’m also fascinated by Sarah’s story and her materials. She makes her quilts out of ordinary, everyday fabric—men’s shirts she finds in thrift stores—hearkening back to age-old quilting traditions, such as the quilts of Gee’s Bend (which inspired me to start quilting in the first place). Her grandmother quilted with similar materials during the Great Depression.
“Craft is a way to make something out of nothing, and a way to reinvent the humble as something important, sustaining and beautiful,” she writes in her artist statement.
Sarah particularly enjoys how her quilting connects her to her family: She learned to quilt from her mother, and she learned to love geometry from her father, a mathematician. Her ancestors on father’s side were builders who worked on the Buddhist Temple in San Jose, California, and created small devotional altars with scrap materials in a Japanese-American Internment Camp during World War II. She draws inspiration from the textile traditions of many cultures, including West African strip weaving, Japanese kimono fabrics, Navajo weaving and American quilt traditions. Sarah’s quilts are available at studiokotokoto.com and ashtonroad.com. To see more of her work, visit her website, sarahnishiura.com. The Martha Stewart Living article is below.